How to take meeting minutes: A step-by-step guide
Taking meeting minutes sounds simple. You just write…right?
Our meeting agenda app makes it simple and easy for managers to have one single place to keep all their meeting notes. But if those notes aren’t clear and concise, what was the point?
We can help: here’s how to take meeting minutes like a pro.
Follow our 10 steps to take your meeting note-taking to the next level.
1. Document the basics
“Hmm…what was it that Kathleen said last week about the marketing plan?”
If you’ve clearly labelled your notes with the right details, it will be quick and easy to answer this question! In every meeting, make sure to cover off the very basics of your meeting, including the date, who attended and the name of the meeting.
⏱ Time-saver tip: if you’re using a note-taking or meeting agenda app (like SoapBox!), these details will likely be documented for you.
2. Designate a meeting notes taker
We’re huge proponents of assigning roles for meetings: notes taker, leader, decision maker.
But the meeting notes taker is especially key. Elect someone who isn’t running the meeting to take clear, concise notes throughout the meeting. That way, everyone else can focus on making decisions and assigning next steps. Consider rotating the notes taker each meeting.
3. Take meeting minutes during the meeting
Once you’ve assigned a meeting notes taker, make sure they’re taking meeting minutes throughout the meeting – not making rough scribbles they’ll turn into proper meeting minutes afterward.
The trick here is to find the right tool. Choose a device that will make note-taking easy (like a laptop or iPad), and then move at a pace that allows for the note-taker to easily follow along.
Taking meeting minutes during the meeting also ensure you get everyone’s buy-in on key decisions and next steps. After each agenda item, the note-taker can say, “OK, here’s what I’ve written for the summary. Did I miss anything?” This way, everyone is consistently engaged in the conversation.
4. Take meeting minutes right in the agenda
Simple, right? But still, how many times do you find yourself matching agenda docs to meeting notes?
Reduce your document overload by taking meeting minutes right in the agenda. It will help keep all of your information in one place, and also make it easier to take clear notes on each thing discussed. Bonus: if your team likes to put your agenda up on a shared screen, that also means that meeting notes will be up on the shared screen as well, so everyone can follow along!
(Pssst…SoapBox makes this part easy, too! 😉 Our online meeting agendas have a built-in note-taking tool!)
5. Don’t write verbatim
We’ve all been there: you’re trying to write down absolutely everything that everyone says – and then all of a sudden, you’re 10 steps behind the conversation. Instead, focus on the essentials: for each agenda item, include a summary of what you discussed, any decisions made, and what the next steps are.
Interesting fact: the phrase “meeting minutes” actually doesn’t have anything to do with 60 seconds. Rather, the phrase dates back to the early 18th century to the Latin words “minuta scriptura,” which means small notes. A great thing to keep in mind next time your meeting minutes start to get a little too long! 😉
But how do you take meeting minutes that are as short as possible? Create your own shortcuts that the whole team can easily understand! Shorten names to initials, for example, or cut down commonly-used words down to their short form. It all saves time in the long run.
6. Need clarification? Ask!
Here’s the one time it’s OK to interrupt during a meeting: if you’re the meeting notes taker, and you miss something. The notes taker should always feel comfortable (and encouraged!) to ask for clarification or repeating when needed. Trying to remember what was discussed later can result in misinformation or missing pieces.
If you’re leading the meeting, don’t hesitate to reiterate key points or crucial decisions. Not only will it help ensure accurate notes – it repeats key information for the whole team to hear (win-win!).
7. Assign next steps (to individuals)
You went through everything on the agenda? Great! You summarized all your decisions? Great!
…but, who is doing what? 😮
For a meeting to be truly effective, you need to break down your decisions into action items. And don’t leave actions to nameless people, either – they won’t get done! Encourage ownership and responsibility by assigning the actions to individuals in the meeting – ideally with deadlines attached to them.
8. Summarize the meeting
Sure, you’re taking meeting minutes on each topic discussed. But it’s also important to summarize the big picture for your meeting. The TLDR. The one-liner you’d say if you walked out of the meeting and someone asked, “what was that about?”
For example, if you’re having a meeting to discuss hiring more team members, your meeting summary should be “We’re going to hire two new senior engineers” or “We decided not to hire senior engineers and outsource Q3 work.” Keep it short and sweet with the biggest accomplishments and outcomes from the meeting.
⏱ Time-saver tip: One way to make summarizing easier is to ensure you always go into the meeting with a goal. That way, it’s easier to nail down that meeting outcome!
9. Include links to other relevant docs
Did the meeting include a presentation? Were you discussing a brief? Be sure to include links to all of these in your meeting minutes – that way they’re easy to access later on.
Always imagine that someone who missed the meeting is trying to catch up by going through your notes – what documents and resources will they need to see exactly what they missed?
10. Make your meeting minutes easy to access
Possibly the most important part of note taking is actually making sure everyone in the meeting has access to the notes.
Whether you’re sharing a Google doc, or you’re using meeting minute software that everyone can access (we prefer the latter! 😏), it’s crucial that everyone can refer back to notes and next steps whenever they need. It helps to foster a culture of accountability, and encourages follow-through across the team.
Why is taking meeting minutes so darn important, anyway?
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, if a meeting happened but there are no notes, did it really happen? 🤔
The entire purpose of a meeting is to get the right people in a room to collectively solve a problem. Documenting the solution (and what was discussed along the way!) will ensure that what happens in your meeting gets turned into action.
Beyond that, taking meeting minutes holds your attendees accountable for their next steps, and will even keep your team aligned on goals.
Pretty important, right? 🙌
Meeting minutes happen like ✨ with SoapBox