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Meeting minutes are all about seeing the forest through the trees.


Forest through the trees

Meeting minutes can be a pain.  If you’re the lucky one that ends up having to take minutes, it usually feels like you drew the short straw.  But the pain can be lessened when you do it right and when you get the proper results.  Here is the complete guide to putting together meeting minutes.


It goes without saying that everything’s pointless without a purpose.  Meeting minutes are no different.  Why are you keeping track of what’s going on in the meeting?  Ask yourself the following to figure it out:

– Who organized the meeting and what do they want to get out of it?

This can help you figure out how to pull the relevant content out of a meeting for your minutes. If the meeting organizer wants to talk about budgeting, make sure you get the key points related to budgeting out of the conversation.

– Who is the audience?  To whom will the minutes be distributed?

This will help you format your minutes. If you have an outside guest coming to your meeting, but the minutes are intended for your internal team, structure them for your organization the way everybody is used to them. Don’t worry about the guest if they aren’t the recipient of the minutes.

– What decisions ​have​ to be made?

This ties in nicely with the first question, but it’s good to know ahead of time exactly what the goals of the meeting are. You’ll have a better idea of just what to emphasize with your minutes and what to pay close attention to if you know the highest priorities of the meeting.

What and When to Record

Key items to record (the what):

  1. The meeting title and organizer: Keep it clear and concise (e.g. October Promotional Campaign Meeting, Marketing Department)
  2. The time and date of the meeting: Again, brevity is our friend here.
  3. Who is in attendance and who couldn’t come: This is very important, since you’ll need to pay careful attention to anybody who couldn’t make it so you can answer any of their questions.
  4. What materials were distributed: If anything digital was shared, make sure to attach it to your minutes when you send them out.
  5. Actions taken or action items assigned: This is crucial. When you follow up with anybody, the minutes can be used as a reference or be kept as a record of what is or must be accomplished.
  6. Who will be accountable for the actions: Names accompanying tasks always have more gravity to them. Readers will know who to contact regarding the action item, and the accountable party will have a clear idea of what is expected of them.
  7. Summaries of discussions: Avoid the nitty-gritty details and focus on the big picture (the forest!) of the conversation. Any hotly-debated topics or light-bulb moments that took up a bulk of the conversation, for instance, should be included in your minutes.
  8. Answers to questions asked: Clear and concise answers here will help clarify any ambiguity so meeting participants are all on the same page after the meeting.

When to record:
If you can find the answers, try to record items 1-4 beforehand.  Usually the title, organizer, date, time, attendees, and materials can be accessed before a meeting starts, which will make your job a lot easier come meeting time.

Try to record items 5-9 as soon as you can during the meeting.  Sometimes you may not be able to get everything about a discussion right away.  When that happens, make some quick, abbreviated notes to jog your memory when you have more time to write.


There are many meeting minutes templates and meeting minutes examples out there.  A trusted format is to organize things under the meeting agenda.  Here’s an example:


​- Discussion topic

  • ​ Action item – person assigned
  •  ​Action item – person assigned

​- Discussion topic


– Discussion topic

  • Action item – person assigned

– Discussion topic

  • Action item – person assigned

. . . . . . . . . . .

​4 Common pitfalls

Avoid the following if you can:
1. Writing down ​everything​. Remember, it’s about “seeing the forest through the trees.”
2. Recording an action item, but not who is responsible for completing it. An action item with no one attached is just an item with no action.
3. Forgetting to send the minutes out to those weren’t able to attend. Why limit the meeting’s benefits only to those who were physically there? Make sure you maximize the impact of your meeting by sending your minutes out.
4. Failing to prepare for the minutes beforehand. Being prepared means that you’ll have less work to do in the meeting, and you’ll be able to keep up with what’s going on more effectively.


With good meeting minutes, your meetings will be more effective!  You may even help to keep the organizer on track. It’s true, there a lot of things to keep your eye on. But once you get into a habit of doing the above, things become a little simpler.

What meeting minutes hacks have worked well for you? Let us know in the comments below.


Additional Resources:


Categories: Best Practices Meetings


  1. entrepreneurship

    04-27-2015 Reply

    The size of your post was perfect.

  2. Ox

    07-28-2015 Reply

    Thanks, you are so helpful as a blogger and leader in the field.

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