“Without reinforcement, the average human will forget roughly half of what they’ve learned within three weeks, and then things continue to decline from there. Subsequent research has found the forgetting curve can be even steeper than that, with 90% of knowledge lost after a week.”

Jim Ninivaggi

We’ve all been victims of the forgetting curve; We’re in a meeting, decisions and next steps are made, and next thing you know it’s a week later and you cannot remember anything that was decided upon! 

This happens to the best of us, and one way that we can prevent this from happening is by taking meeting minutes and meeting notes. 

So, without further ado, allow me to explain the differences between meeting minutes and meeting notes and how to write each of them…

What are meeting minutes?

Meeting minutes are detailed, formal transcripts of the meeting. These transcripts include action items discussed, decisions made, and what the next steps taken will be. These meeting minutes are then shared with everyone after the meeting ends so that they can be referenced at a later date.

Meeting minutes are also useful for team members who are unable to attend the meeting as they provide a summary of the meeting. According to Paul Axtell, Harvard Business Review writer, 

“They help inform people who weren’t there about what happened and remind those who were there about what agreements they made. You can use them to keep everyone on the same page and focused on what you all need to get done before you meet next.”

What are meeting notes?

Unlike meeting minutes, which are formal transcripts, meeting notes are simple, brief notes about important things discussed during the meeting. This includes things such as quick jot-notes of decisions and deadlines. 

Meeting notes are also great because they allow you to take notes in your own words without worrying about following a specific template or format that everyone can follow. For example, in my meeting notes, I like to put “D.L.” for “deadline” to keep it concise. 

The main difference between meeting minutes and meeting notes

So now that we’ve discussed what meeting minutes and meeting notes are, let’s discuss the key differences between them:

Meeting MinutesMeeting Notes
Formally written Informally written
Includes transcript of the meetingOnly includes key details of the meeting
Follows a templateDoesn’t follow a template
Requires approvalDoesn’t require approval
Shared with team members post-meetingKept for personal reference 

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to record and assign action items with due dates so nothing gets forgotten after a meeting!

How to write meeting minutes

Knowing the difference between meeting minutes and meeting notes is great, but you also need to learn how to write them. Here are 8 steps for writing meeting minutes:

1 Date and time of the meeting

Including the date and time of the meeting may seem obvious, but because it’s so simple we sometimes forget this important step. It is important to include this because oftentimes people will go back to reference the meeting minutes, therefore they will need to know which meeting minutes correspond with which meeting. 

Pro tip: Fellow puts the date and time of the meeting directly onto the meeting minutes for you, saving you the hassle of doing it yourself!

2 Names of attendees

Including the names of all invited attendees (present and not present) is the next step. This step is important because it ensures that when you go back and look at the meeting minutes, you can see who was included in this meeting. For example, if you have a question on a decision made, you can look at who was in the meeting and ask one of those team members. 

For recurring meetings, you can go back to previous meeting minutes and copy the list of attendees, editing any changes. 

Pro tip: Fellow will put the names (with their profile picture) directly on the meeting minutes, making it one less thing for you to worry about!

3 Meetings purpose

Whether the purpose of the meeting is to check in on the team or to discuss a new product launch, it is important to include this in the meeting minutes. This will ensure that when you are looking back at old meeting minutes or sharing them with people who weren’t at the meeting, the clear purpose is illustrated. 

To write the purpose, it is important to be as specific as possible. Steven G. Rogelberg, Harvard Business Review contributor, suggests writing the purpose of your meeting as questions,

“In its simplest form, the meeting exists to answer a set of compelling questions in an allotted time. Instead of a topic titled ‘Budget Problems,’ consider a question such as, ‘How will we reduce our spending by 100K by the end of the fiscal year?’” 

4 Agenda items and topics discussed

The next step is to include all of the agenda items and topics discussed in the meeting. To have effective agenda items, it is important to share the meeting agenda with your attendees before the meeting begins. This will allow everyone to contribute to the discussion.

When writing the agenda items in the meeting minutes, it is useful to follow a template. Using a template, you can keep organized and ensure that everything is included. It is also important to include whose agenda item/topic it was on the meeting minutes.

Pro tip: Fellow allows you to assign items and topics to the meeting agenda so that you can keep track of who contributed each idea. Fellow also provides templates for users. 

5 Action items

Action items are one of the most important things to include in the meeting minutes because they are the next steps that need to be taken. Think back to the beginning when we talked about the forgetting curve… 

If you forget what your assigned tasks are, then you will not be able to do your job. And, you don’t want to look irresponsible by asking your bosses “wait, what was I supposed to do again?”. Therefore, it is important to include action items in the meeting minutes so that you can go back and see what it was you were supposed to do.

6 Next meetings date and time

For recurring meetings, near the end of the meeting minutes, you should add when the next meeting will be. Adding the date and time of the meeting will save you the hassle of having to email everyone an invite. This is also helpful to those who were not present in the meeting as they can see when the next meeting will be. 

Pro tip: Fellow allows you to create recurring meetings using the same templates.

7 Roles assigned for next meeting

In each meeting, there are many roles which are typically (and should be) rotated. Some of these roles include the organizer, host, time-keeper, and note-taker. Therefore, it is important to put the assigned roles for the next recurring meetings in the meeting minutes to give team members enough time to prepare for their new responsibilities.

8 Supporting documents discussed in the meeting

The final thing that you should include in the meeting minutes is the supporting documents discussed during the meeting. This is important because if one of the action items or talking points reference document X, you will have that document right there.

Pro tip: Fellow allows users to insert images/documents into the agenda, which are also shown at the bottom of the agenda in a gallery. 

Get a head start preparing your next set of meeting minutes with this template.

How to write great meeting notes

Here are 5 tips to write great meeting notes:

1 Date and time of the meeting

As with the meeting minutes, it is also important to include the date and time of the meeting. And again, this is for the same reasons – when you go back and look at your notes, you’ll be able to see which notes correspond with which meetings. 

2 Name of attendees 

Also as with the meeting minutes, it is important to include the name of attendees, even in your personal meeting notes. This is important because if you need to see what somebody is working on or reach out to somebody for help, you will be able to access this on your notes. 

3 Key decisions and action items

Including key decisions in your meeting notes is important because you will need to reference these notes to see what decisions were made. Further, recording your action items is important so that you can look back and see what you need to do.

4 Questions asked and answers given

Nobody likes having to reanswer the same questions over and over again. Therefore, recording questions that were asked and answered given during the meeting is important so that you can look back at your notes and see if somebody has already asked this question. And if they haven’t, make sure to ask! 

5 Meeting recap

The last thing to include in your meeting notes is a brief meeting recap. This, unlike the meeting minutes, is written concisely and quickly, in any personal way that works for you.

For example, you can write this summary using shortcuts or bullet points. Just make sure that you understand what it says!

Using a tool to track meeting minutes and notes

Trying to remember to include all of the above steps when writing your meeting minutes and meeting notes can feel a little bit overwhelming. So, having a tool like Fellow to track your meeting minutes and notes is very beneficial. 

Fellow allows you to create collaborative meeting agendas which are shared with the attendees prior to the meeting. Fellow then also allows you to create meeting minutes and meeting notes, simplifying the task by including templates, attendees’ names, and the date and time of the meeting.

Parting advice

Whether you’re trying to take meeting minutes or meeting notes, if you follow the above tips you will be taking them like an expert.

And, by taking advantage of tools like Fellow, you can ensure that your meeting minutes and meeting notes capture your delightful meetings in the most productive way possible!