Meeting minutes provide an official record of the decisions taken at a meeting and includes any meaningful discussion leading to those decisions.
Although taking meeting minutes constitute a vital activity that must be undertaken, the task is often dreaded. While taking precise/reliable meeting minutes is an extremely specialised skill, with enough practice and the application of some general guidelines, this skill can be perfected by anyone. Most organisations provide templates for the preparation of meeting minutes. If the organisation does not provide a specific template, the following are some general guidelines that will assist any novice in taking meeting minutes like a professional.
Date, Time and Location/Venue of the meeting – these details must be clearly stated at the beginning of the meeting minutes. The name of the group, unit or committee that is meeting, must also be stated.
Meeting Attendees – Individuals present, absent and excused including any specially invited guests in attendance must be specifically recorded. The organisation and job titles/capacity in which meeting attendees are attending the meeting must also be included next to their names.
Absenteeism and Voting/Decision Making – If meeting attendees arrive late (after the official commencement of the meeting) or leave the meeting early (prior to the adjournment of the meeting), individual arrival and or departure times must be recorded in order to account for votes/decisions taken and the legal liability associated with same.
Action items are the product/output of decisions made at meetings. As the name suggests, they are the actions that meeting attendees agree to take in order to move the work of the unit, department, committee, team or organisation forward. Accordingly, whatever the format, meeting minutes must provide a mechanism for tracking and monitoring action items. Meeting minutes taken in tabular form should be formatted with a status column to specifically detail the progress of the action item whether completed, in progress, outstanding or to give meeting attendees any other update as necessary. For ease of reference and convenience, as well as to monitor and track the progress of action items, meeting discussions should be grouped, itemised and numbered appropriately such that reference to the item or discussion can be made in accordance with the assigned numbers for example:
2.0 Matters arising from the minutes of the last meeting (February 3, 2018)
2.1 Implementation of the Relationship Policy
2.2 Procedure for accessing the Employee Assistance Programme
3.0 Company Events for the Month of March 2019
3.1 Sports and Family Day
3.2 Empowering Women Within the Workplace Seminar
3.3 Lung Cancer Awareness 5K Walk & Run
3.4 Staff Recognition and Award Ceremony Gala
Meeting minutes should be dispatched as soon as possible after the conclusion of the meeting. While, in times past, the standard timeframe for the dispatch of meeting minutes was inside a week (seven days), upgrades in word processing technology have decreased that timeframe to no more than three (3) days.
In order to ensure accuracy and that the speaker’s ideas, points and contributions are correctly reflected in the meeting minutes, the minute taker should attempt to understand the point being made by the speaker and then summarise same into a concise statement for inclusion in the meeting minutes. If the minute taker is unsure of the point, then he/she is obligated to seek clarification for inclusion within the minutes.
Instances in which the speaker uses colloquial language or slang, the language should be rephrased without changing the meaning/intent of the speaker’s contribution.
Minute takers should read and re-read meeting minutes prior to dispatch in order to ensure that the document is accurate, well formatted and error-free.
Instead of writing the minutes during the meeting and having to re-type them later, it is more efficient to type meeting minutes during the meeting itself. This will minimise dispatch time as only formatting, proofreading and minimal edits will be required prior to dispatching the minutes of the meeting.
In order to perfect the skill of taking meeting minutes, the minute taker should always be focused during meetings as well as when preparing the meeting minutes.
Patience and practice are paramount to mastering meeting minute preparation.