In business we are in and out of meetings, during which we make many decisions. At the end of a meeting, meeting minutes capture decisions to ensure that all attendees take further action. Meeting minutes cover all aspect of a meeting, from attendee list and agenda to actions to take and decisions to make for further meetings. Using specific steps to set out meeting minutes will ensure your team, peers and managers know the discussion topics and expectations for further action.
Use the meeting agenda as the guideline to write your meeting minutes. The meeting agenda is the meeting's guideline. It updates the attendees and it lets them know the objectives, their roles in achieving them and what specific items are assigned to them. Since the meeting is based on an agenda, the agenda becomes the guide to writing the minutes.
Briefly describe the attendees' roles at the meeting or projects up for discussion. Explain each attendee's role to help the non-attendees know who attended for which department and for what specific purpose. Outlining the attendees' roles ensures each person attends the meeting purposefully. The attendees' roles are important for the meeting facilitator and attendees, so meeting discussions go forward without being bogged down with previously discussed topics.
Highlight the objectives of the meeting by clearly stating them. For example: to make decisions, to gather ideas or to update the team on progress. Listing objectives helps readers of the minutes clearly understand the meeting's purpose. The objective or objectives portion is what many senior managers read; if they do not need to be involved in the objectives, no further reading is needed. If a manager has a vested interest in the objectives, he may choose to attend the next meeting.
Write the decisions taken in the meeting. Note all decisions made and discussed to determine the next meeting's agenda. Writing out the decisions enables attendees and non-attendees to review if any follow-up activities are required of them, for which they then can prepare. Decisions highlighted in the meeting will be acted upon unless further discussion is needed in another meeting, which would be a decision in itself. Capturing and sharing the decisions taken in a meeting are critical to accurate, useful minutes.
Write "Next Step" tasks with an accountable individual's name next to them. These steps enable the meeting facilitator to prepare for the next meeting as well as for attendees and non-attendees to be aware of what they are responsible for post-meeting. This ensures that individuals prepare for the next meeting, either by completing their tasks or delegating them to someone else who can complete them and attend the next meeting.
Send out a draft of the meeting minutes to the attendees. The draft will enable attendees to edit the minutes by updating notes, next steps and decisions. A draft review ensures that all information was captured properly and that individuals manage tasks being assigned to them or department. As part of the draft review process, provide a deadline to all attendees on comments. If no edits are received, the minutes are considered to be accepted by all parties.
Send out the meeting minutes. Once all feedback has been gathered, send out the meeting minutes to all individuals who were invited to the meeting. Copy others employees or attendees who need to be informed. The minutes should be sent within 24 hours from the end of the meeting or 12 hours prior to the next meeting, whichever comes first.
Not all information needs to be captured in the meeting minutes, highlights are enough. Meeting minutes are effective when they summarise the meeting with decisions and responsibilities. If you are facilitating the meeting, ask someone to take notes for the team.