Board meetings are the supreme governing body of a company and the key decision-making forum for company strategy and policy. They provide a platform for directors to exercise their fiduciary duties, receive information about the company, and give direction to management.
Productive board meetings require more than an organized agenda. In fact, several separate components need to work in synchronized harmony to keep the meeting running smoothly.
Meeting minutes are a vital component that carries productivity from one meeting to the next. In this article, we’ve broken down the steps necessary to take concise and accurate meeting minutes.
What Are Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes are a written record of what was discussed and decided at a meeting. They are concise and include a list of attendees, a summary of the topics discussed, and any decisions made. At the beginning of each meeting, attendees examine key minutes from previous meetings to ensure accuracy and rehash any vital information.
Customarily, a designated member attending the meeting is the minute taker. Each board of directors is different, though, and your company may have a single person for each session or rotate the responsibilities among all board members or an admin.
Effective board meeting minutes ensure proper documentation of all board actions and the company's progress. Keeping diligent track of each member’s responsibilities in action-based decisions drives accountability. Meeting minutes are official records that hold validity in court cases if needed.
A Step By Step Guide For Taking Board Meeting Minutes
As a founder, you probably don’t have much experience writing board meeting minutes. Or, if you do, you may want to improve organization and clarity. After all, meeting minutes are part of a company’s records.
We spoke to our board member expert to get all the nitty gritty details to enhance your board meeting minute skills.
1. Understand Your Responsibilities And Board Management
Company boards operate on their own standards. Depending on the investors you’ve partnered with and your preferences, all members will need to agree on specific expectations mutually. Whoever members decide is responsible for taking minutes must understand the meeting expectations and be confident enough to ask clarifying questions.
2. Use A Pre-Prepped Template
Organization begins with preparation. Using a board meeting minute template is an easy way to ensure a smooth and thorough note-taking process. Create a reusable template for consistency, then build out sections as you take down information during the meeting.
Sections to include:
- Meeting type (regularly scheduled, emergency, unique, etc.)
- Location, time, and date
- Names of attendees (board members, guests, speakers)
- Prior board meeting minutes (if applicable, the outcome of a vote to review previous meeting minutes)
- Every meeting agenda item
- Meeting end time
If your board sends out an agenda ahead of time, organize your template in the order each agenda item will appear.
3. Bring Needed Materials
You can use the old-school pen and paper method or a device to take meeting minutes; just make sure you have them in the meeting. Every necessity should be habitually kept together and taken to the meeting location. Make a checklist on your phone, or somewhere you’ll be able to access it. If you’re dependent on technology, pack a notepad in case something goes wrong with your typical method of meeting minute-taking.
4. Double-Check Attendance
There are a few different ways you can take attendance without having to rely on your own headcount. Cross-off or sign-in sheets are two typical attendance formats used in board meetings that are hands-off and time-efficient.
If a member arrives late, note the time next to their name. This is an important detail that gets overlooked. If that board member missed a critical discussion or action item, you could relay missing information to them after the meeting.
5. Take Notes In Your Template
When you finalize the meeting minutes, you want to have every detail down correctly in the corresponding section. This is where a pre-meeting agenda is a handy tool. Suppose that’s not a habit of your board; that’s fine. You can put the corresponding item number in the final draft.
Be sure to include the following information for each item:
- Time of action
- Actions taken
- Conflicts of interest and the resolution
6. Adjournment Time
You need to record the time the meeting ended to represent the meeting as a whole accurately. Once you’ve written down the time, sign the minutes, even if it's a draft. Accountability is essential for all board members.
7. Collect All Reports Used In The Meeting
All meeting minutes need to include any reports passed around in the meeting. If you had a guest speaker, speak to them before they leave so you can collect any documents or reports associated with their presentation. Be sure to share these with all attendees afterward when you circulate the minutes.
8. Finalize Your Meeting Minutes
As soon as the meeting finishes, try to finalize your meeting minutes. You will use the final copy as the official record of the board meeting. Due to the legality of meeting minutes, you should check and double-check your notes for accuracy before finalizing and having all board members sign off.
3 Common Mistakes Made When Taking Meeting Minutes
The business world is full of learning curves. Taking notes may seem easy, but because of their importance, you want to prevent notable details from slipping through the cracks.
1. Missing Documents
As we stated before, meeting minutes are official company documents. All company information on financial or miscellaneous reports must be accounted for and attached to the corresponding meeting minutes.
2. Ambiguous Descriptions
Record action items meticulously, along with who is responsible for the next phase of the plan. You may need to go back over action items in future meetings. If your descriptions of an action or an item is too ambiguous, board members may be unable to decipher what action item coincides with a specific problem or decision. Always write your notes so that anyone not in attendance can understand everything that took place in the meeting without having to ask questions.
3. Failing To Get Signatures
It’s best practice to have all board members sign the meeting minutes. That way, everyone knows what edits were made and what the final draft includes.
Prepping For Board Meetings
You have a lot of organization and planning when you’re gearing up for a board meeting. For founders without board experience, all of this preparation can wear on your nerves. At Zeni, we offer our clients CFO board preparation services along with AI-powered bookkeeping services. We work specifically with startups and know from experience how important board meetings are for first-time business owners.
Our bookkeeping software will update your needed financial information daily so you can give your board new numbers from the previous day if necessary. All your company’s financial reports are kept on a single, customizable dashboard for easy access—print, download, or email any reports you need before your big meeting.