Here's your thorough primer on board meeting minutes best practices.

Here's your thorough primer on board meeting minutes best practices.

By: answerout




A board meeting minutes is an important document. One that takes a lot of time and effort to produce, so it's important that all parties involved are as diligent as possible in its creation. If you're the one writing these documents and conveying them, or you're reading them from the perspective of someone else on your team. In that case, it can be crucial to know how to properly format this documentation for maximum clarity and accessibility.


That said, it can all seem a bit daunting and difficult to get right. So, let's start with the basics.


Grammar and Spelling

The document should be in correct grammar and spellings; as far as grammar goes, unless too much of a departure from the norm is called for (for example, if your board is composed entirely of French speakers), then it's best not to get too carried away with using an uncommon verb form or possessive pronoun construction. 


Don't use contractions.

Similarly, don't use contractions (e.g., "I can", "We can") in anything that's being sent out to a wide audience—unless your board members are incredibly particular about the English language, that is. For example, if there are people on your board who value their computers, they may not be terribly satisfied with you referring to "saving" emails as you create them; choose an alternative such as "saving for later review. 


Other issues to note when crafting board meeting minutes


  • It's a good idea to be as concise as possible when reporting on the meeting. If a non-minutes related issue is being discussed in your board meeting and you want to know if it was mentioned, then it will save time (and reveal potential red flags) if you can just ask that question directly of the person who discussed the item. If you put it into minutes instead of asking, and someone says yes, then you've wasted time.

  • The meeting should be reported on in chronological order (or as close to it as possible). If you find that a particular subject is recurring or relevant to several items, then you may choose to break the item into multiple parts and report on each part. You'll have more work, but it's better than leaving people guessing about what was discussed at what point.

  • Use bulleted lists for the main points of discussion and to delineate issues or items that need covering in separate state if necessary.

  • Be specific and detailed when discussing issues, especially if they are controversial. For example, if you were to talk about the "need for an associate athletics director" in your meeting. In that case, you could include a discussion of why the position is needed (increased sports programs) and what exactly the duties of that position would involve.

  • It would be best if you also were as comprehensive and detailed as necessary when discussing individual items in the meeting. Everything that was mentioned needs to be included in the minutes themselves. A single line with a subject but no discussion goes against the rule of being "thorough," which is generally good advice to have when writing minutes.


The amount of detail needed in board meeting minutes varies from situation to situation. A small board might only need a few sentences about main items or discussions; if the issue is directly related to a major decision that was made in the meeting, then it's probably a good idea to include a little more detail. A larger board may find that the entire action item needs to be included in its entirety, explaining how it was decided and what issues were discussed alongside it.


If you find that it's hard to make minutes on the fly during a meeting, then it's a good idea to take notes. You may lose some pertinent details in the process if you don't do this, but if you do at least some of your notes will probably be viable somewhere in your minutes.

That said, don't let me give the wrong idea. Doing a good job with minutes isn't necessarily time-intensive, and it doesn't need to be complicated. It just can feel like that if it's your first time doing it or if you're trying to do a good job at it.


What makes for good board meeting minutes?


Clear and easy to understand

The board meeting minutes should be clear and easy to understand. If the minutes are unreadable, then they're probably not going to be a great help to those reading them. It's important that the minutes don't leave any major questions unanswered. The document should answer any questions that readers might have about what was being done and why in a clear and comprehensive way.

Accurately represent the meeting

The minutes should also accurately represent what was done during the meeting. If there were any major decisions or discussions that weren't covered in the minutes, then make sure to note those in the document.

Error-free

The document should be error-free. It's a good idea to proofread it before e-mailing it or sending it over to your board members so you don't have to worry about anyone getting an inaccurate impression of what happened at the meeting by reading a document where they can't understand what was being said.

Complete and accurate

The minutes should be as complete and accurate as possible, given the circumstances. If there was a major disruption during the meeting, then you may wish to refrain from mentioning that in the document. Not only will some people be unhappy about how disruptive it was, but also it does not represent an accurate picture of what happened in the meeting.

Summary of the minutes

If possible, you should consider including a summary of the minutes at the end of your document. Many boards like to digest the meeting notes into a final document of some kind. If you've included that kind of summary in your minutes, then you'll have much less work to do than if you had done nothing at all.


Conclusion


In case this wasn't clear before, here it is again: the accuracy of your minutes can mean the difference between getting sued and paying off your debts. You need to be thorough, specific, and detailed when you're writing minutes. Not only will you save yourself trouble when you need a quick report for something else, but you'll also be able to avoid misunderstandings and confusion about what exactly was discussed in the meeting itself if there are people who weren't there.


Agree with it or not, make your best attempt at taking minutes that are easily understandable by everyone. In short, make sure that the details of your meeting are clearly conveyed to everyone who happens to be involved and will be reporting on them later on.


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