Board meeting minutes best practices guide | Aprio
board meeting minutes best practice guide and template
May 19, 2021
Karen Peacey

Board meeting minutes: best practices guide and template

Board meeting minutes hold incredible value. They not only provide a legal document representing strong corporate governance, but are used to summarize the topics and tasks and serve as a key reference for future meetings and decisions. 

In practice, taking board meeting minutes can seem complicated. But it doesn’t have to be.  Whether you’re a newly appointed note taker or are seasoned in the task, learn how to produce clear, concise and valuable meeting minutes with our free template and best practices guide.

Board meeting minute basics 

If taking board meeting minutes is fairly new to you, it can be hard to know where to start. But there are specific steps you can take before, during, and after the meeting. 

Below is a quick summary of the basics but if you need further guidance, see our detailed step-by-step guide to how to take minutes at a board meeting

Before the meeting

Take the time to understand your role and the board policies to get an idea of what’s expected of you. Review Robert’s Rules of Order and ask if there is a meeting template to use. Gather all the supplies you’ll need prior to the meeting including the meeting agenda and your laptop or pen and paper – so you aren’t scrambling.

During the board meeting

Start by recording the attendees and absentees including any guests. Use the meeting agenda as a guide for the information you’ll need to record. 

For each agenda item requiring a decision, be sure to note: 

  • The actions taken and at what time 
  • The exact wording of the motions taken, the outcome, and the person who made the motion and who seconded the motion
  • The directors who voted for, against, or abstained on each of the motions
  • Any conflicts of interest and how they were handled

Before participants disperse, ensure you’ve retrieved copies of any reports presented, or know who to follow up with to obtain them.

After the board meeting

Transcribe your notes and review all documents to write the good copy of your meeting minutes. Then you’ll need to circulate them. Some boards choose to distribute their finalized board meeting minutes via email or hard copy. However, it’s most secure to use board portal software. Be sure to back-up and store the meeting minutes in adherence with your board bylaws.  

Board meeting minutes template

A board meeting minute template can make note taking much easier and will help you save time by knowing what sections and information will need to be completed. 

For example, a template can help you check off attendee status (in person, on phone, or absent), fill in dates and fill in meeting location. You can also add in key topics from the agenda to ensure minutes are organized, clear and well-scribed. 

Don’t have a template? Download the Aprio board meeting minute template here.

Now that you know the basics, here are our tips to take more effective board meeting minutes.

6 practical tips for more effective board meeting minutes

1. Preparation is everything.

Prepare yourself for the specific board meeting you’ll be taking notes for. This will guide you to know what will be pertinent to summarize and make the task much easier. Give yourself ample time to review previous board meeting minutes as well as the upcoming agenda. Be sure to know the upcoming meeting purpose – is it a regular or special meeting, who’s expected to attend, what will be discussed and any documents that will be reviewed or circulated. 

2. Aim for concise and precise.

Good minutes are a summary of what happened and was agreed upon, not a record of everything that was said. So, skip the lengthy description and keep minutes a short and succinct summary of facts and actions. For example, “we appointed [this person], to [this role title], for [this term], on [this date]”. 

Notice the lack of adjectives, adverbs, emotion or colourful language. It takes practice and diligent editing for those new to note-taking. Make sure to double-check for:

  • use of simple language that’s easy to interpret 
  • proper grammar and punctuation
  • correct spelling 

3. Use an objective voice.

Meeting minutes need to be brief, fact-based and unbiased. Follow these guidelines to make sure your minutes are objective: 

  • Strictly stick to reporting facts and decisions while remaining neutral in tone. 
  • Keep critiques, personal arguments or disagreements, and politics off the record.
  • Leave idle chat, jokes, current events recaps, or personal anecdotes out of your minutes. While chats can help to improve board engagement, if they hold no value in governance, do not document.
  • Remove anything that would cause undue liability

4. Keep board members accountable.

Board meeting minutes serve as a record for actions and resolutions. One of the most important tasks for minute taking is to make it clear what assignments, delegations, and deadlines have come out of the meeting to hold board members accountable. 

It can be useful to specially format resolutions or follow up actions in a table with bolding or underlining. Each resolution should be easily understood without explanation or context from the rest of the minutes. Take it a step further and summarize the meeting resolutions at the end of the document for easy recall later.

board meeting minutes tips

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. 

Meetings move fast and cover a lot of ground. If you miss something or things are unclear to you, immediately seek clarification so you can record accurately what was decided or what the next step is. Sometimes legal or industry language may be unfamiliar, so be sure to stop and ask if you aren’t sure.    

6. Timing is key.

Writing and editing the minutes as soon as you can while the topics are still fresh in your mind will make note-taking easier. It also ensures the meeting minutes are circulated to board members for approval in a timely manner when their memories are also fresh and assignments and deadlines are most relevant.

Board meeting minutes checklist: ensure these essentials are included

  • Date, time, location, type of meeting, and quorum requirements
  • Name of board chair and secretary and attendees 
  • Previous meeting minutes summary, outcomes, or amendments
  • Agenda items list
  • Attachments of presentations or documents circulated 
  • Closing summary that includes a timestamp of adjournment, the next meeting date and time, and approval signatures from the secretary and president 

Now that your minutes are finalized, the task of preparing minutes for circulation – including obtaining signatures from the board secretary and president will take you to the finish line. Company bylaws will dictate how minutes are backed-up and filed and the expectation in which minutes should be circulated to directors. Consider using board portal software for the secure and convenient distribution of notes and supporting documents. 

Save time and effort with Aprio’s board meeting software

With so much value contained in meeting minutes, it’s expected that a fair amount of time and effort goes into creating them. But Aprio’s board portal software can help streamline your board administration effort.  

Meeting minutes are stored in a central library that’s easily searchable, making the task of gaining approvals secure and easy. And with a convenient cloning feature, admins can easily duplicate meeting folders and documents to save time and ensure consistency with board packs. See how Aprio can save you time and effort by contacting us today for a custom demo

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About the Author

Karen Peacey

Karen Peacy, Director of Customer Relations 

Karen has over 20 years of board administration experience in various industries including credit unions, forestry, software, and the sports sector. She takes real pleasure in supporting and training our clients to make their jobs easier and more efficient.

Curious? Find out more.

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