How to Take Minutes at a Board Meeting: 10 Simple Steps
June 4, 2020
Aimee Happ

How to take minutes at a board meeting: 10 simple steps

Taking clear and concise board meeting minutes is crucial for compliance purposes and also for your board members’ future reference. After all, board meeting minutes don’t just summarize meetings – they also provide attendees with an understanding of actions to be taken as a result.

But if you’re new to your role as minutes taker or you want to improve the effectiveness of your meeting minutes, it can be hard to know where to begin. Read on for our 10 simple steps on how to take minutes at a board meeting. 

Before the board meeting

1. Understand your role & your board’s policies

Before beginning, you should have a clear understanding of the expectations of your role as meeting minute taker. Review Robert’s Rules of Order and your board’s specific policies, then clarify anything that you’re unsure about with your board chair or manager.  

2. Prepare your minutes template in advance 

Preparing a template in advance can help you to stay organized while taking minutes during a board meeting. To prepare your template, obtain the board meeting agenda, if possible. Then, start to build out the following sections with the information you have:

  1. Type of meeting, such as regular or special 
  2. Date, time, and location of the meeting
  3. Name of the board chair and secretary
  4. Names of expected attendees, including speakers and guests
  5. Overview of the previous board meeting minutes and outcomes
  6. All agenda items
  7. Planned hour of adjournment
  8. Any planned executive/in camera sessions

If there are any supplemental materials, such as reports or handouts included with the agenda, note them in the appropriate sections.

3. Bring the materials you need to the board meeting

Some board secretaries prefer to use a laptop to take meeting minutes, while others prefer old-fashioned pen and paper. Whatever your preference, ensure that you pack and prepare the necessities you’ll need, including notebook, power cord, pen, etc. You might also want to ensure that you have a backup method for taking minutes in case your first option fails.

How to take minutes at a board meeting

During the board meeting

4. Note board meeting attendance

Depending on your board’s preference, take attendance immediately before the board meeting begins or at the very beginning. Some common methods for taking attendance include crossing off names on your board meeting minutes template or circulating a sign-in sheet.

Make sure to note any directors who arrive late. It’s important to have an accurate count of who was and wasn’t present for each motion.

5. Fill in your template as the board meeting progresses

As the board meeting progresses, fill in your board meeting minutes template. You may choose to organize your notes by writing down the number of the agenda item that each minute corresponds to. This will make it easier for you to prepare your finalized meeting minutes document after the meeting.

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

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

Be sure to also record whether the previous meetings’ minutes were approved, the points of order and appeals, any new business, and any executive sessions. Note that meeting minutes are not taken during executive sessions, but it’s important to have a record of their occurrence. 

Let your template guide your minutes, and as you write, try to focus on the critical points while being as objective and clear as possible. It’s helpful to focus on themes and outcomes rather than trying to record discussions verbatim. Know that it’s perfectly acceptable to write “a discussion of the options ensued.” If you need clarification on anything, be sure to ask. 

6. Record the time the meeting was adjourned

Once the meeting finishes, be sure to capture the hour of adjournment. If the date and time of the next meeting has been decided, note that too.

7. Obtain copies of all reports

If there were new reports presented during the meeting or if you are missing any reports, talk to the person who presented them to ensure you receive a copy before the meeting ends. 

How to take minutes at a board meeting

After the board meeting

8. Transcribe board meeting minutes 

Try to write the “good” copy of your board meeting minutes as soon as you can after the meeting finishes, when the details are still fresh in your mind. Take the time to carefully review the minutes you’ve recorded, and if needed, add additional notes for clarity. Ensure that each action taken by the board includes a brief explanation and rationale for the decision, and if you’re unsure of anything, ask the board chair. 

It’s important to help enforce organizational and director accountability. At the bottom of the meeting minutes, make note of the commitments to actions made by the leadership team and directors so that the board chair can hold them accountable. 

Finally, be sure to attach any additional documents or reports with the minutes as an appendix, or at least explain where they can be found.

9. Distribute meeting minutes

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. Board portals also allow you to securely link to supplemental documents from within your minutes and board members can directly add their comments for discussion if needed.

10. Store minutes for future reference 

Board meeting minutes should always be stored somewhere secure and accessible for future reference. Many boards choose to store their meeting minutes online, but just be sure that the method you choose is secure, password protected, and only available to board members. Many board portal software options allow you to do just that.

In addition, be sure to store any additional documents with your finalized minutes for your board’s future reference and for board members unable to attend the meeting.

How to take minutes at a board meeting & security

Improve board meeting minute efficiency with Aprio

Now that you know how to take minutes at a board meeting, improve your minute-taking efficiency with the tools provided in board management software like Aprio.

Did you know that Aprio includes a minute builder tool? This feature provides you with a starter board meeting minutes template that pre-populates items such as the list of attendees, meeting date and location, and the items in your board meeting agenda. There’s also the option to include handy hyperlinks for quick reference on individual agenda items, making each document within your package easily accessible and shareable from within your secure board portal. 

Taking board meeting minutes and preparing efficiently for board meetings doesn’t have to be a hassle. Check out our board portal buying guide to explore 10 other things to assess when you’re evaluating board technology today.

In this unprecedented time, Aprio is offering our board management software for free until July 31st for new customers looking to transition to remote board meetings during the COVID-10 outbreak. For our current customers, we’re also offering discounts on secondary portals and additional user licenses. Book a demo to learn more.

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