This article shows how to produce your formal minutes as well as how to maintain copies.
Turning to production
- Gather your materials
Begin by pulling together the agenda, your notes, your copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, any reports or documents that were distributed at the meeting, and verbatim copies of motions and resolutions.
- Create a draft within 24 hours, while the information is fresh in your mind
If you used your laptop to take notes, it won’t take a lot of time to type your draft. Drafts are like dress rehearsals—everything is in place, except the audience. So if you make a mistake, you can correct it before the audience sees it; they will never be the wiser for it.
- Double-space your minutes
That way, handwritten corrections can be easily and clearly inserted.
- Number pages consecutively
Tip: When it comes to headings and subheadings, make sure they always remain with the first two lines of the text that follows. If a heading or subheading falls at the bottom of a page, create a page break to bump it to the next page.
- Make sure attachments are included
- Send a draft to the meeting leader
Ask that person to review the minutes before you send them out to attendees. This gives them a chance to clarify anything, or to add an important point or word.
Putting on the finishing touches
- Check spacing and margins
If the minutes are brief, double-space the body and triple-space between paragraphs. If the minutes are long, they should be single-spaced for the text and double-spaced between headings.
- Decide on style for titles, subheadings and symbols
It’s recommended that titles be capitalized and centered. How to style subheadings is up to you. Refrain from using distracting symbols or excessive heavy lines to mark different topics. You can use symbols, but you don’t want to overdo it.
- Make sure significant points are easily identifiable
- Keep visual presentation simple
A straightforward style is going to be much more attractive than pages marked with repetitive asterisks and underscores. It’s the information that people are interested in.
- Consider the writing style
Most minutes are written in a narrative style. It’s especially important that your summaries of each discussion distinctly express the scope of the conversation.
- For formal meetings, make minutes more detailed
Below are some ideas, but you may need to look also into some other resources. Formal minutes would include:
- The name of the group, place, date, time of the meeting and a list of all those present. You would also identify officers or any other officials.
- The call to order
- Approval of minutes from the previous meeting as is, or with corrections and/or amendments
- Reports of officers and committees
- Unfinished business, discussion and motions
- New business and any action to be taken
- Motions, including the names of those involved in motions amended and the name of seconders.
- These would be indented like a blocked quotation, and you would use all capitals for the words “WHEREAS” and “RESOLVE.”
- Date and location of the next meeting
- Adjournment and time of adjournment
- Signature of the recorder and, if required, the chairperson
Correcting, filing and indexing
At each meeting, the group will hear a reading of the minutes of the previous meeting. Sometimes, corrections are pointed out, so you will need to revise the minutes. Follow the legal requirements of your organization in correcting the minutes.
If no special requirements are indicated, follow this procedure:
- Draw a red- or black-ink line through the incorrect wording
Write the correction in ink above the line, and specify in the margin at which meeting the correction was made. Include the initials of the person making the correction, as well as the meeting date, in the margin.
- For large corrections, use a separate page
If attaching a separate sheet, write that information in ink in the margin of the minutes. Then, make sure the corrections are signed by the secretary, chair or meeting leader.
- Store them in a master book
Keep minutes in chronological order, and store them in a place accessible by others. Or, if the minutes need to be locked, make sure stakeholders know where the key is.
- Keep an index
Keep an index of everything in one place. When you are filing the minutes, make sure to include all handouts and the agenda.