1. Minutes are not a description of what happened at a meeting – they are the official record of decisions that were taken. So keep them brief and accurate.
2. Minutes usually cover the following:
Apologies for Absence (read out by the Chairman on behalf of anyone who cannot attend).
Minutes of the Last Meeting. If everyone agrees that they are accurate a copy will be signed and kept for future reference.
Matters Arising. This is a report of action taken or progress made since the last meeting.
New Business. Here items of new business are dealt with – this is usually the longest part of the meeting.
Any Other Business. This item gives members an opportunity to raise matters of minor importance that have not been included in the agenda.
Date/Time/Place of Next Meeting.
3. Minutes should include:
The purpose of the meeting (ie its title).
The date and place of the meeting.
The names of those present and those who sent apologies for absence.
The business transacted and the decisions taken.
Any resolutions passed, or motions defeated.
4. When taking notes of a meeting don’t try to write everything down. Concentrate only on what is relevant and what decisions are taken.
5. Write up the minutes from your notes as soon as possible after the meeting while it is still fresh in your mind. If you can’t do this straightaway then at least read through your notes so that you make sure you understand them and can fill in any gaps.
6. When writing the minutes from your notes use plenty of numbered points and sub- headings so that everything is clear.
7. Always use the past tense and it is often better to choose the passive rather than the active voice. (It was agreed … It was decided …) These two examples also demonstrate the empty ‘it’ construction. This is useful in minutes because they should be impersonal; so avoid the use of ‘we’ and ‘us’.
8. When you have finished the minutes and had them typed-up, always check them carefully for accuracy of content and also for correct spelling and punctuation.
9. When complete, minutes should be circulated to everyone who attended. They can then be signed at the start of the next meeting if everyone agrees that they are a correct record of proceedings
10. And, a very important point to remember: the format for minutes varies from organisation to organisation. There is no right or wrong way – so be guided by what’s usual in your company.