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How to write effective meeting minutes (expert tips with free templates included)

How to write effective meeting minutes (expert tips with free templates included)

Statistics show that UK workers spend a year of their lives in “unproductive” meetings, about 4 hours per week. For organizations - including small businesses and startups, this is considered a significant loss of time and resources. 

One key way to make meetings more efficient and productive is by ensuring clear and concise meeting minutes are taken. 

Effective meeting minutes not only serve as a record of what was discussed and decided upon but also help keep attendees accountable and informed.

In this guide, I'll provide expert tips on how to write meeting minutes that are both comprehensive and actionable, along with free templates to help streamline the process.

Download our meetings minutes template.webp

What are meeting minutes?

Put simply, minutes are the recording or written documentation of a meeting. Meeting minutes are used to inform attendees and non-attendees of what was discussed and decided in a meeting. 

For example, here at Charlie, we frequently hold meetings, both in small groups and larger conferences, and often require documentation of the discussions. To achieve this, someone is usually assigned to take meeting notes, commonly referred to as minutes. 

Depending on the type of meeting held, writing minutes may serve the following purposes:

  • Recording discussions
  • Recording actions and enabling follow-up 
  • Legal and/or audit purposes 
  • Giving structure and staying accountable  

Who usually takes these minutes at meetings?

  • The minute-taker could be a professional notetaker, who has only been hired to take minutes, or a secretarial support staff or a meeting participant who has volunteered/picked to do the job. 
  • In small companies, it’s more common to have rotating roles for taking minutes to ensure everyone shares the responsibility. 
  • Some organisations also use software or apps specifically designed for minute-taking to streamline the process and ensure accuracy.

What should be included in a meeting minute?

To write meeting minutes appropriately, these elements should always be included in your meeting notes. 

  1. Type of meeting: this just means what kind of meeting it is, like setting business objective examples or OKRs for example. 
  2. Meeting location: where the meeting took place, unless the organisation meets in the same area every time. 
  3. Date and time of the meeting: when the meeting happened, including the start and end times.
  4. Name of the attendees: list of people who participated in the meeting, including their roles or titles. 
  5. Topics discussed: Summary of what was talked about during the meeting, like agenda items or important discussions.
  6. Voting outcomes: if any decisions were made by voting, note what those decisions were and the results.
  7. Next meeting date and place: when and where the next meeting will be held, if it's already been decided. 

Additional points to be added can also include:

  • Key points discussed during the meeting.
  • Any actions and agreements they came to.
  • When actions will be completed - timescales and deadlines.
  • The person(s) responsible for carrying out these actions.

Why should meeting notes be taken during meetings?

Meeting notes are essential for several reasons:

  • Accurate record keeping: they provide a reliable record of what happened during the meeting, which is helpful if there are disagreements later on.
  • Driving action: they outline decisions made during the meeting, making it clear who needs to do what and by when.
  • Decision-making: meeting notes help in making future decisions by showing what was agreed upon previously.
  • Legal Protection: they serve as official documents that can protect the organisation legally. 
  • Structure and Continuity: Meeting notes provide a framework for the meeting and help new members understand what has been discussed previously. They also ensure that discussions move forward rather than repeating topics.

7 tips for effective minute taking meetings

1.Prepare a meeting agenda

Before the meeting, review the agenda and ensure it's comprehensive and well-structured. The agenda is the goal of the meeting broken down into smaller, easy-to-digest pieces. 

A good meeting agenda should have: 

  • Date
  • Time
  • Meeting venue
  • Objectives and sub-topics

2.Use a meeting minute template

When you have a meeting minute template, it acts like a ready-made framework for jotting down all the crucial details during a meeting. 

This means you don't waste precious time deciding what to include or how to organise it. Instead, you can focus on actively participating in the discussion. 

Plus, after the meeting, it's much quicker to review and find specific information because everything is neatly laid out.

3.Record attendance 

Before the meeting starts, keep track of members who can't attend and let the Chair know. 

During the meeting, update the list with any additional absences. Use an attendance sheet to mark who's present. 

You can either have members sign in or tick their names. Make sure to include everyone accurately to avoid any misunderstandings.

4.Listen actively

When it comes to taking minutes, the ability to listen, absorb and record what is being said is critical. If you encounter any points of confusion during the meeting, ask for clarification from the participants. 

Asking for clarification helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding the meeting outcomes.

5.Write down action items

During the meeting, it's essential to record all assigned tasks, noting who is responsible for each task and setting clear deadlines for completion. This ensures accountability and facilitates follow-up actions after the meeting. 

Additionally, summarising the key points discussed by each speaker is crucial. This summary provides a concise overview of the meeting's discussions, helping participants retain important information and ensuring everyone is aligned on the outcomes and action items.

6. Note Decisions and Resolutions

Make sure to record any decisions made during the meeting, along with the reasoning behind them. This helps provide context for future reference.

7.Review and distribute 

After the meeting, review your notes for accuracy before distributing them to participants. This ensures everyone has a clear understanding of what was discussed and what needs to be done next.

5 meeting minutes templates and examples

A best practice for writing effective meeting notes would be to use a structure that helps you organise and capture all the important points discussed during the meeting. 

This is how we save time and run effective meetings at Charlie. Below, I've included minute templates that you can use. 

Download our meetings minutes template.webp

Agenda-based minutes template

What's it for: Writing down what was discussed and decided during formal meetings with a planned agenda.

Best for: Board meetings, project updates, or any meeting with a set plan.

  • Meeting Title: [Title]
  • Attendees: [List of Attendees]
  • Apologies: [List of Absentees with Apology]
  • Approval of Previous Meetings: [Brief summary of previous meeting approval]
  • Agenda Items Discussed: [Summary of agenda items discussed]
  • Discussions and Decisions: [Detailed discussion points and decisions]
  • Confidentiality: [Any confidential matters discussed]
  • Date of Next Meeting: [Next meeting date]
  • Chairperson's Signature: [Signature]

Informal meeting minutes template

What's it for: Jotting down key points from casual, unplanned meetings.

Best for: Quick team catch-ups, brainstorming sessions, or informal discussions.

  • Meeting Title: [Title]
  • Attendees: [List of Attendees]
  • Apologies: [List of Absentees with Apology]
  • Key Decisions: [Summary of key decisions made]
  • Action Steps: [Steps identified for follow-up]
  • Date of Next Meeting: [Next meeting date]
  • Signature: [Optional]

Narrative minutes template 

What's it for: Recording detailed discussions, decisions, and different opinions.

Best for: Important strategy talks, negotiations, or complex planning sessions.

  • Meeting Title: [Title]
  • Attendees: [List of Attendees]
  • Apologies: [List of Absentees with Apology]
  • Detailed Meeting Narrative: [Narrative detailing discussions, decisions, and viewpoints]
  • External References: [Links to external documents or resources discussed]
  • Date of Next Meeting: [Next meeting date]
  • Chairperson's Signature: [Signature]

Resolution minutes template

What's it for: Documenting final decisions without going into the details of how they were made.

Best for: Resolving conflicts, approving decisions, or urgent meetings where speed matters.

  • Meeting Title: [Title]
  • Attendees: [List of Attendees]
  • Apologies: [List of Absentees with Apology]
  • Decisions Made: [Record of decisions made]
  • Date of Next Meeting: [Next meeting date]
  • Chairperson's Signature: [Signature]

5. Action minutes template 

What's it for: Listing who needs to do what, by when, after a meeting.

Best for: Project planning, assigning tasks, or keeping track of action items. 

  • Meeting Title: [Title]Attendees: [List of Attendees]
  • Apologies: [List of Absentees with Apology]
  • Action Items: [List of tasks, responsible parties, and deadlines]
  • Follow-up Mechanism: [Confirmation process for completed actions]
  • Date of Next Meeting: [Next meeting date]
  • Chairperson's Signature: [Signature]

So there, you have it! Feel free to use these minute templates whenever you need to document meetings or discussions.

Remember that you can also store HR templates within CharlieHR – didn’t know? Maybe it’s time to take a free trial with Charlie. 7 days, no credit card required. 

Click here to start a free trial

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