Taking meeting minutes is fundamental for ensuring qualitative communication.
When you’re sitting down for hours, it’s easy to lose track of what’s being discussed and cover different topics, assume responsibility or go into consultant mode.
It’s important to overcome this.
Especially when we’re talking about board meetings. The course of a business can be decided here, so it’s important to be able to record the discussion well.
Not to mention, it’s important to be covered legally. Some countries mandate companies to keep track of their board meetings.
That’s why you need to learn how to take board meeting minutes.
And we’re here to help.
What Are Board Meeting Minutes?
Like any meeting minute, it’s a record of what was discussed when you sat down with board members.
Of course, you won’t be able to cover everything.
But for any meeting minute, it’s important to have an overview of the main points discussed.
And a board meeting minute could look similar to this:
But it can vary greatly based on your location, company size, industry, business plan, and board size.
If you’re not legally bound to take notes, you may feel inclined to just drop it.
But you’d be missing out on a lot of benefits.
What Are The Benefits of Meeting Minutes?
To start it off, even if you’re not required to hold them legally, you may need them at some point in the future.
For example, let’s say you’re planning an exit strategy and the big tech guy wants to make its due diligence on your board’s performance.
What are they going to look at?
If you’re being bought by a company in the US, they’ll need to take a look at your board meeting minutes.
But it goes far beyond just being covered in case something (great) happens.
For starters, you get improved communication.
When you’ve been sitting down for hours, it’s impossible to remember what everyone said.
Sure, you can just leave it be and take some notes down…
But even then, if you don’t have strict procedures and rules about your minutes, you may lose track of something.
Or write down stuff that isn’t all that relevant.
On top, meeting minutes can act as a valuable reference point for absent board members or prospecting partners.
But there’s more to it.
Having a written, clear, structured record of your board meeting is important to streamline following board meetings.
It’s easy to pick up where you left off and do a follow-up on agreed-upon actions.
On top, you can ensure better transparency for your employees, if that’s important to you. Just release the minutes and let them have a grasp on your business’ trajectory.
Lastly, meeting minutes are a great indicator for serious business processes consultants when examining your performance. It just helps them do their job better.
So you can see it’s a pretty good idea to take this seriously.
But where to start?
How To Take Board Meeting Minutes
Prepping is as important as actually taking the notes during the meeting.
You need a clear structure, an overview of what’s about to happen, and there are other things you can ask for in advance to make minutes taking easier.
Official records and meeting minutes are only valuable if they’re easy to navigate, so it’s important to keep a detailed and clear structure.
In some countries, you must include certain details, like whether or not you had a quorum.
Some companies have strict rules on the structure of meeting minutes.
So a rule of thumb should be checking everything out there. Chances are, there are some procedures in place that you need to follow.
If not, here’s a template you can use:
1. Date and Time
Just make sure you follow the same format and make sure to note the exact time the meeting was called to order.
2. Participants and Absentees
Yup, it’s important to cover absentees as well. This is one of the things you can find out in advance and fill out before the meeting, so you’ll have more time to focus on what’s important.
3. Corrections to previous meeting minutes
This might not be extremely common among newer companies, or startups with few board members, but it’s important to cover. It’s also one of the things you can fill out beforehand and just get a confirmation at the beginning of the meeting.
You should definitely have access to this one beforehand since it’s important to communicate the agenda of a meeting to all participants.
But that doesn’t mean your job is done.
Agendas can change, participants can propose to add an item on the list, so it’s important to note modifications to the agenda as well.
This is one of the most often forgotten steps in board meeting minutes, but it’s important to note whether or not there is a quorum.
The meeting loses its executive function if there is no quorum.
Not to mention, it can be used (together with the participants’ list) to justify dead equity to possible investors or buyers.
6. Motions and Voting
This is perhaps one of the most important parts. Make sure you write down each motion, whether or not it was taken, and the outcome of the vote.
This is where you’ll want to avoid passive voice at all costs. This is also where you want to put the most effort in because it’s important to be specific - both in describing the actions agreed upon, and noting who took responsibility for each one.
Write down the next steps agreed by the board members, as well as items to be held over for the next meeting and new business opportunities. This is where it can get a bit more vague, especially since it will never follow a clear structure. The human mind is not as structured as this template, so do your best to write down the most important aspects.
9. Open discussions
If follow-up was vague, wait till you open the discussion up to the public.
Even if you don’t, and just let board members chat…
Open discussions are an important aspect of board meetings, so you’ll need to keep a record of those as well. I’ve seen board meeting minutes where the open discussion was a few bullet points with the topics that were mentioned, but nothing too specific.
You can go for that, and only mention something more specifically if it stands out.
10. Final remarks
Make sure you write down the time and date of the next board meeting, as well as noting the exact time of adjournment of this meeting.
Feel free to copy-paste this template into your note-taking software of choice and use it to take better board meeting minutes
That doesn’t mean we’re done yet.
The structure of meeting minutes is complex, and it will differ based on your location, company size, and many other things.
You shouldn’t blindly grab this template and run with it.
Do your best to adapt it to your company’s needs.
And for that, you’ll need to do some prepping.
It may sound like a lot, but everything you’re reading today can become automated.
So to prep, here’s what you have to do.
Write down what information you can get - the name of the participants, date and time, amended minutes, and the like.
But don’t rush to fill in the details of this template.
If you just switched to a structure allowing board meetings, you’re free to set templates, so you can use this one.
If you’re joining an already functional company with a history of board meetings, look over previous minutes.
Adapt the style and structure of those if they work better.
More importantly, try and improve upon them if you see they lack the details outlined above.
The second step is to get up to speed with the topics being discussed.
This goes beyond board meetings. You need to know what will be discussed in order to participate with valuable insights.
Make sure you check up on reports and documentation on the talking points.
However, beyond participating in the discussion, this will allow you to better take notes.
You don’t want to derail a conversation by asking what an acronym means.
It’s unprofessional and it can lead to bad board meeting minutes.
At least if that information was available beforehand.
Third, get a copy of the agenda. You can even work with your partners to create a template document that can be used as an agenda, outlining what the board meeting is about, and then filled in with details from the meeting to morph into minutes.
Regardless, you need that agenda for proper minutes.
Other than that, stay proactive.
Make sure you have a clear overview, both on paper and in your mind, about what will be discussed.
Keep that a priority and you’ll have no problems taking board meeting minutes.
During The Meeting
If you’ve done the right prepping, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about during the meeting.
But that doesn’t mean you should be lazy.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is not be afraid to ask for clarifications.
Meeting minutes are based on clarity and specificity.
If your notes aren’t clear and specific, you’re better off not taking them.
That’s why you should always speak out and ask anyone to clarify what they’re saying.
Ok great, but what do you write down?
First, you don’t need to edit the minutes directly.
It’s better if you take down notes and fill in the template later.
But of course, do it however you want. This is supposed to be about how you take notes better.
That applies to the content of your notes too.
We can’t tell you the best way to write down something to create meeting minutes.
Just make sure you develop a note-taking system that allows you to morph them.
A good meeting minute is:
- Specific. Don’t just mention a project idea, follow it with a short description.
- Clear. Don’t use vague words or undefined terms.
- Objective. If need be, try to mention the sentiment expressed by a majority of board members, but don’t spin a discussion on either side. That’s what votes are for.
- Clean. Don’t clutter the document with short descriptions of other documents, or long-winded definitions. Reference other pieces if needed.
- Actionable. Yes, meeting minutes are observational in nature, but never forget the main purpose. They should help board members, partners and even lawmakers understand your company’s trajectory and decision-making process.
So if you can morph your notes into that, nobody will care how you take them.
But, it’s not always easy.
The meeting may be hectic at times.
And it doesn’t even have to get heated for that to happen. People can just lose track of the proposed agenda.
If you want to avoid this type of issue, you need the right toolkit.
Using The Right Tools
When it comes to meeting minutes, there’s no objective set of tools you should use.
If you love Microsoft Word and Sticky Notes, use that by all means.
If you’re a pen and paper nostalgic, write everything down and then type for hours.
However, technology’s come a long way since the board meetings of the ‘80s. Today you can make use of a lot of tools that enhance your note-taking capabilities.
It’s not just about making your notes more visually pleasing (although documentation and note-taking tools can do that).
It’s also about making your minutes easier to edit, easier to share and easier to access or categorize.
If you’re tech-savvy in the slightest, you can use tools like Archbee to create awesome meeting minutes.
You can get better meeting minutes with a collaborative editor, chat on docs, a code editor and it’s easier to access them with a semantic search engine.
Whether you work with a distributed team, or have a fancy office, this toolset helps you improve your workflow.
Archbee helps you bring every important piece of documentation in one place.
And it lets everyone contribute to making them better.
This means clarity, which will power-up your business processes. When everyone’s on the same page, the numbers will keep rolling in.
How important is clarity in your company?
Do you take board meeting minutes?