Taking minutes at a board meeting is not just busywork. Meeting minutes serve as official records of what happened at the meeting, what decisions were made, and what next steps need to be taken. They can even be used to support legal cases or decisions. It is important, therefore, to take minutes correctly. There is no exact form, but there are important principles to keep in mind.
Familiarise yourself with the board members and agenda items. Get a list of names of the board members who will be in attendance and a copy of the agenda. Meetings often move quickly and you will not have time to guess at who said what or about which item. You will need to be up to speed before the meeting starts.
Note in the minutes which board members are present, which members are absent, and whether the number of board members present constitutes a quorum. This will become part of the official record and ensures that the minutes can be delivered to the members who were not able to be present. Also note anyone else who is present besides board members, such as assistants, attorneys, or members of the public addressing a certain topic.
Make sure your computer or pen is working. Do not let a low battery, malfunctioning software, or an almost-empty pen cause you to miss important information. Bring extra pens, and make sure they are working. You should have everything you need in place and ensure that it is all in working order before the meeting begins.
Also, bring a small digital recorder to ensure that you have a way to go back and get anything that you missed.
Write down the times important items occur. Write down the time when the meeting started and ended. Also record the times that key topics came up, when people entered or left the meeting, and when decisions were made. Writing down the exact time will help you find those moments on your recording later.
Take clear notes during the meeting. Your recording is a great backup, but the recorder may malfunction, so do not rely solely on it.
Listen for and record actual decisions and motions. You do not need to create a transcript of every single thing that was said. You want to get the main points down and avoid filling up the minutes with too many unnecessary details.
Make sure your notes are thorough enough so that they make sense to you. Your recorder may malfunction during the meeting, so you want to have as much information as possible just in case.
Type the minutes as soon as possible. When the meeting is over, review what you have written and make any notes that can help clarify or explain any of the points. This way, you lessen the chance that you will forget something and you will be able to get the minutes to those who need them quickly.
Type and format the minutes for distribution. The official minutes should be typed and concise. From your notes, make a list of what happened. Keep sentences short and to the point. Bullet points can help you avoid writing long paragraphs and ensure that your minutes are easy to read.
Check spelling of words and names. Make sure that you have spelt the names of board members and projects correctly.
Distribute as necessary. Find out who is meant to receive a copy of the minutes and e-mail or deliver a hard copy to each person. You should also keep a copy of the minutes on file, as it is possible that they will be used to set the agenda for other meetings.
Some things to make sure you include: what time the meeting started and ended, decisions that were made, concerns that were raised, projects that were started or ended.