How to Write Minutes for an Effective Board Meeting
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
This is a guest blog post and is being posted with permission from Passageways.
How do you condense a meeting that may last several hours into a few pages of concise, understandable minutes? Meeting minutes are the official record of what decisions were made, who was in attendance and all other consequential events that occurred during the board meeting. As a matter of law, minutes must be taken to legally prove that a meeting was held.
While it might seem like a challenging task, there are certain strategies and tips to keep in mind if you’re assigned as the note taker or secretary of the board for an organization.
For a complete in-depth discussion at what meeting minutes are, why are they important, how to write effective minutes to drive good governance: Download our Comprehensive White Paper: Everything You Need to Know About Meeting Minutes.
Here’s a closer look at how to write effective board meeting minutes:
Create a Note-Taking Outline
A few days before the meeting, get your hands on a copy of the meeting agenda. This will help you get an idea of what issues are going to be covered and help you organize a note-taking outline. Creating a note-taking outline will enable you to be a better listener and note-taker. You will not need to worry about notating each change in topic because you already know what topics will be discussed and when. Instead, you can focus on what is being said.
If you use a cloud based board portal like OnBoard, you can export the agenda and use it as a template for note-taking. OnBoard saves any notes you take in the cloud which allows you to access your notes anytime and anywhere.
It is not advisable that minutes be taken in significant detail. Taking notes on the entire meeting will result in disorganized, messy minutes, so – rather than typing furiously – listen carefully to the topics being discussed and document the significant points of the discussion.
Meeting minutes should be specific enough to prove the board was focused on the business at hand, but not so detailed as to pose a liability to the company. But keep in mind that, while you want your them to be “short and sweet,” they should not be so minimal that suspicions are raised in an audit over the lack of discussion over a major decision.
To achieve this balancing act, it is important to paraphrase each topic that’s being discussed before identifying the action that was taken.
If you are having trouble distilling your meeting, use the example below of how an easy but sufficiently detailed set of meeting minutes may look like:
MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
[Name of CEO] [Name of director 1][Name of director 2][Name of director 3][Name of director 4]
[Name of director 5] [Name of director 6]
[Name of legal counsel]
Call to Order
[Name of the The CEO or chairman of the board] called the meeting to order and presided. [Name of secretary or legal counsel] recorded the minutes. A quorum of directors being present, the meeting proceeded with business
Approval of Minutes
[Name] presented the board the minutes of [date of meeting]. A motion was made by [Name] to accept the minutes as presented and was seconded and unanimously approved as presented.
[Name of CEO] discussed the agenda and reported on progress since last meeting. A discussion began after several board members asked questions.
Sales & Business Development Update
[name] displayed a brief presentation displaying an update of the sales. He discussed about plans for the future quarter and answered questions.
[Name] provided an update on the financial status of the company and presented a forecast. Questions were raised about certain metrics. Discussion ensued.
The Board turned to the issue of [year] operating plan. [Name] suggested further information would be provided for the next meeting.
The Board turned to the discussion of strategic initiatives. A discussion ensued where questions were asked and answered.
Business was concluded, the meeting adjourned at [time].
[name of secretary,] [title]
As you can see, the minutes provide sufficient information to demonstrate that the board was focused on pertinent business. Always be sure you’re writing notes objectively, summarizing any debate on issues, and using names when motions are presented and seconded.
The final step is distribution to all parties in preparation of the next board meeting. There are many ways to do this, including sending them through email, mail, or using board portal software like OnBoard.
The most sophisticated method developed to instantly submit and review minutes is through the board portal, OnBoard. By leveraging Microsoft Office, OnBoard instantly connects to the board portal, seamlessly uploading the notes when they are finished. The advanced plugin, OnBoard Connect for Office, creates an OnBoard tab within your Word environment. Once securely logged in, you can draft minutes in Word and they will instantly sync with every directors board book.
After the minutes have been approved and shared with the board members, they need to be safely stored for future reference and potential audits. While physical storage of notes seems logical, depending on the sensitivity of the information, saving your notes on an encrypted external hard drive and with a backup within a secure cloud environment is the most secure option. Any minutes created and saved in board portals like OnBoard can be saved and protected for reference with little hassle.
While creating meeting minutes may often seems tedious, they are critical for maintaining a company backlog of all important decisions made and ensuring you are sufficiently meeting legal requirements. Quality minutes will be worth the time and effort you put into them – and may save you time and money dealing with legal issues down the line.