What Are Meeting Minutes and Who Records Them at a Meeting?

Meeting minutes are written by the meeting recorder.
••• Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images

Meeting minutes are the written or recorded documentation that is used to inform attendees and non attendees about what was discussed or what happened during a meeting. Meeting minutes or notes are generally taken by a designated meeting minutes recorder during the proceedings so that an accurate record exists of what transpired during the meeting.

Minutes usually include:

  • Names of participants
  • Agenda items covered
  • Decisions made by participants
  • Follow-up actions committed to by participants
  • Due dates for the completion of commitments
  • Any other events or discussions worth documenting for future review or history

Meeting Minutes as a Historical Document

As a historical document, minutes are useful for documenting the key ideas or discussion points that led to a decision. For example, effective meeting minutes may specify the five alternatives the team discussed and the key reason that one was selected over the others. 

Minutes for the typical business meeting don't need to record every discussion or state in detail who said what. Of course, this rule is different for other types of meetings such as court hearings and situations where legal action is being discussed. These types of meetings do require an exact record of the conversation and statements. But, unless human resources is discussing a lawsuit, the typical workplace meeting does not document every iota.

When and How to Share Meeting Minutes 

Ideally, meeting minutes are recorded on an electronic device, such as a laptop or iPad, and following a quick review of spelling, grammar, and clarity, disseminated to meeting participants electronically at the end of the meeting. This way, the participants have immediate notice of their commitments and deadlines and can raise questions or seek clarification. If this is not possible because the recorder wants to transcribe the minutes or check them for errors, he should disseminate them within 24 hours following the meeting.

Minutes also serve as a reminder of the commitments team members made during the meeting and help participants transfer these items to their calendars and daily task lists. 

The recorder should always review the prior meeting's minutes at the start of the next meeting so that people can check them for accuracy and next steps.

How Organizations Handle Taking Meeting Minutes

Critical to a meeting’s success, minutes provide a recorded history of the meeting for participants and for employees who were not able to attend. Without full meeting minutes, the meeting’s prospects for success are diminished because people, on balance, cannot absorb and retain a wealth of information at one time.

The employee who takes the meeting minutes is usually a member of the team and takes notes while participating in the meeting. In meetings that involve legal- or government-related proceedings or in corporate board meetings, a nonparticipating individual takes the official minutes and often records the proceedings.

To record key information accurately, the meeting minutes recorder must have an ear for detail and the ability to stay focused. This employee must also multitask effectively to be able to participate in the meeting while recording the minutes.

In some organizations, the same employee takes the minutes at every meeting. Or the responsibility may pass from employee to employee. The role of minutes taker builds effective leadership and communication skills and can be a coveted job.

Requirements for a Meeting Minutes Recorder

The requirements for the recorder include the ability to:

  • Record accurately the decisions, commitments, and major discussion points made at a meeting
  • Record the action items and due dates that meeting members committed to (action items have names attached, but the minutes don't state who said what in informal workplace meetings)
  • Review the major decisions and assignments or voluntary commitments and action items at the end of the meeting so participants can agree on them before leaving
  • Be a team player and be flexible because attendees can add or correct anything they disagree with in the minutes
  • Work expediently to distribute copies of the meeting minutes within 24 hours following the meeting