How to take minutes at a board meeting: full guide | Aprio
July 2, 2021
Karen Peacey

How to take minutes at a board meeting: practical tips and template

One sure way to improve the efficiency of your board is to take better minutes. What makes minutes good? We hear from directors that good minutes are short, easy to scan and refer back to.

Taking clear and concise meeting notes is crucial for compliance purposes and also for your board members’ future reference. After all, board meeting minutes don’t just summarize meetings – they are a written record that 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. Learn how to produce clear, concise and valuable meeting minutes with our complete guide that includes:

10 simple steps on how to take minutes at 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. It can make meeting notes much easier and will help you save time by knowing what sections and information will need to be completed. Using a consistent format also allows a stand-in to follow the same effective template for familiar minutes every 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.

Need a template to start? Download the Aprio board meeting minute template here.

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

Board meeting minute template

Ensure these essentials are included in your meeting minute template:

  • Date, time, location
  • Type of board meeting — regular, special or annual 
  • Attendance of board chair, board members, secretary and other guests 
  • If quorum requirements are satisfied
  • Approval of previous meeting minutes
  • Reports and presentations including names and titles of presenter
  • Action steps required
  • Attachments of presentations or documents circulated 
  • Closing summary that includes a timestamp of adjournment, the next meeting date and time, and approval signature from president 

Need a  template to start? Download the Aprio board meeting minute template here.

Sample board meeting minutes

Raynor Inc.
Board Meeting Minutes: June 2021
1:00 p.m. PST, By Zoom, Vancouver, BC

Board Attendees:

Present: Carol Devoe, Ryan Santos, Nicholas Paulino, Keith Lewis, Diann Wilson, Matthew Lowell, Dean Stephens, Tammy Burke

Regrets: Cara Johnson

Guests: Exec. Director Sheila Swanson, Charles Stallworth, Consulting Accountant

Quorum present? Yes

Call to order

  • 1:00 p.m. by Chair, Carol Devoe

Orders of Business

REPORTS

Chief Executive’s Report provided by Executive Director, Sheila Swanson

  • Swanson presented to the Board a summary of the company’s various objectives including updates on marketing initiatives, sales, new hires, and product developments. Directors asked several questions, which were answered to their satisfaction, and discussion ensued.

Finance Committee report provided by Chair, Carol Devoe

  • Devoe introduced Charles Stallworth, who reviewed the organization’s bookkeeping procedures and found them to be satisfactory, in preparation for the upcoming annual financial audit. Stallworth recommends that our company ensure the auditor provides a management letter along with the audit financial report.
  • The next quarterly financial report will be ready to share for next month’s board meeting.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS 

  • Minutes from May 14, 2021 were amended and approved

NEW BUSINESS

  • Devoe announced that she had recently hired a new secretary, Karla Porter.
  • Lewis confirmed that Diann Wilson is resigning from the Board for personal reasons, leaving a gap on the Finance Committee. In addition, Lewis advised the Board that the Search Committee was receiving weekly updates from the Search Consultant and that queries from the Board were welcome.

Future action steps

Devoe responsible for preparing next quarterly financial by July 15, 2021 in advance of next meeting.

Closing

  • Meeting adjourned at 2:30 p.m.
  • Next meeting date: July 26, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.

Minutes submitted by: Tammy Burke

________________
President’s signature

Now that you have the basics and have seen examples of board meeting minutes, here are 6 additional tips to make note taking more effective.

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. Avoid acronyms and jargon – all directors may not be familiar with your industry terms, legalese and insider speak. 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.

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.

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. 

With Aprio, 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. 

Let us show you how Aprio can help you take minutes at a board meeting even faster. Get a personalized demo.

Curious? Find out more.

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