Taking Minutes at Meetings

a short guide

Minutes are a written account of the meeting, covering the main points of discussion, the decisions reached and actions to be taken. This guide explains how to take minutes, and why taking minutes can be a good idea.

Keeping and reading minutes is helpful in several ways:

How to write minutes

Top Tips

  • Clearly mark decisions and action points so that they are easy to spot.
  • If the minutes are long, provide a brief summary of key decisions and action points at the top of the minutes.
  • You could even sort the action points per person so that everyone can see at a glance what they need to do.

Traditionally minutes are a blow by blow account of the meeting, covering the major points that were made, the flow of the argument, and the decisions reached. However for most meetings a much shorter version is adequate, covering decisions made and action points to be carried out.

Check with everyone how detailed they want the minutes to be. Sometimes a more detailed account can help those absent from the meeting understand why particular decisions were made, avoiding having to explain all over again in the next meeting.

At the beginning of each meeting go through the minutes from the previous one. Record any corrections or additions and ask for the group's approval.

Minutes usually include the following:

Distributing minutes

Once you've written the miutes up, make sure they get distributed to everyone who needs a copy as soon as possible. Not only does this encourage a culture of getting things done, but also many people will wait until they see the minutes before they take action. If for some reason you are unable to send out the minutes on time, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Decide during the meeting how the minutes will be distributed. Who needs a copy? How widely do you want to circulate them? Will it be on paper, via email or on the group's website or wiki?

You also need to work out a way of storing them in the long-term that is safe and easily accessible - this could be a folder of paper copies or on a web-based archive.

Privacy and security

Minutes provide lots of info about your group, and individual members. Some of this info may well be sensitive and should stay within the group (e.g. if you're a campaigning group you may not wish to reveal your plans to the developer you're fighting.) Corporations and newspapers have all been known to get hold of internal documents and use them to their advantage.

As a group work out how secure you need to be and what levels of privacy members expect. Agree how openly accessible the minutes will be: internal on paper only, on e-list or published on Indymedia for all to see? Think about what details really need to be written down. Should all action points have names written next to them? You could also prepare a set of detailed internal minutes and a briefer version for the public with sensitive info removed.

An ABC of minute taking

Good minutes are:

Download PDF
Download PDF

This PDF is in booklet format - print both sides of the paper and fold over to make a booklet.