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Writing Minutes Effectively at Board Meetings

As we highlighted in our previous article about the failures of HBOS, writing minutes effectively is a crucial part of any business. They are useful for detailing future plans, noting progress and most importantly, they are a legal record of board meetings.

Writing Minutes

Minutes should be comprehensive, so it’s essential to be aware of the four main stages of writing minutes to ensure they are done properly:

  • Planning before the meeting
  • Taking notes during the meeting
  • Writing up after the meeting
  • Sign off and distribution

Planning

It’s important to plan well before a meeting, to ensure the minutes are written in the correct format. There is no official standard and every organisation records minutes slightly differently, but whichever template you use, it should be consistent from meeting to meeting.

Before any board meeting, you should ensure you have a copy of the agenda so you know what will be discussed. It will be a useful guide during the meeting and after, to ensure all points are written up and match with the order in which they were discussed. Additionally, you’ll need to ensure you have the names of all attendees.

During the meeting

Although there is no standard template for writing minutes, there are some essential points that need to be included:

  1. Date and time
  2. Names of attendees and absentees
  3. Amendments to previous meeting
  4. Decisions made about each discussion point including:
    1. actions
    2. next steps
    3. voting outcomes
    4. motions taken
    5. items to be carried over
  5. Date of next meeting

Since minutes are an official, legal record of board meetings, information is assumed correct. It’s therefore important to be as clear as possible, objective and without inflammatory language or personal opinions. Using the agenda as a guide, write a short paragraph outlining the decisions made. If there are arguments or lengthy objections, be sure to summarise them. Make sure to accurately reflect decisions and intentions of board members because the minutes could be relied upon at a later date. Boards have liability, so be wary of anything that could cause legal problems in future.

After the meeting

It’s best to type up minutes as soon as possible after a meeting when everything is fresh in your mind. Use the meeting agenda to ensure all points are covered, and to clarify anything you’ve missed out. Only include names for motions and seconds and summarise the main arguments if there were lengthy discussions. Write in the same tense throughout, using objective language. Be sure to only include the most important points so the minutes are clear and concise. Use an existing template or create your own, which can be used consistently for every meeting.

Distribution

Finally the Board Secretary will need to sign the minutes to make them official and the Chair will need to review and approve them before distributing using your organisation’s usual method. The minutes will need to be stored with a backup copy in case the original minutes are lost or destroyed.

As minutes are an official and legal record of board meetings and require a breadth of detail, it can pay to have someone present, whose only focus is that of taking minutes. We are able to attend meetings and our minutes are version-controlled, quality checked and presented for your approval within five working days.  We also include an action list to keep track of any action items arising from the meeting and can provide updates to ensure a comprehensive action list is ready for your next meeting.

For more information about writing minutes or on our board and committee meeting services email us at info@bhcsecretaries.co.uk