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Why good minute-taking at board & committee meetings makes business sense

Why good minute-taking at board & committee meetings makes business sense

01 February, 2024

Good minute-taking isn’t easy and requires so much more than simply turning up on the day with pen and paper in hand. For minute-taking to be effective, it’s important to recognise that the preparation starts long before the meeting takes place and continues to drive value all the way through until the next scheduled meeting comes around. Along the way, key stages can turn notes into an accurate, impartial, and balanced record of events that transpired whilst also being a catalyst for boards and committees to make effective decisions. 

In this article, Chris Mayfield, Head of Business Development – UK & EMEA, delves into the significance of proficient minute-taking, offering valuable insights and practical tips for adeptly preparing and capturing minutes effectively.

Key takeaways

  • Board meeting minutes are not just about documenting what was said and done verbatim; they are about capturing the essence of the meeting, the key decisions made, and the rationale behind them.
  • Board meeting minutes are essential for documentation, providing a clear record and ensuring transparency, accountability and compliance with corporate governance.
  • Preparation is fundamental for good minute-taking, involving reviewing past minutes, understanding the agenda, and organising meeting materials to capture crucial points accurately.

What is the importance of accurate minute-taking?

Companies need clear and comprehensible records of significant meeting topics, thereby promoting transparency and accountability. Minutes help form the cornerstone of corporate governance. They ensure accurate documentation of proceedings, including motions, decisions, and key discussions. It’s not a small task, but with the right approach and tools, it’s one that can be managed efficiently and effectively.

Who is responsible for minute-taking?

It is usually the company secretary, as per the chairman’s direction, who takes ownership of preparing and taking the minutes. In many cases, the company secretary is then supported by a suitably skilled minute taker.

What are the best practices for minute-taking?

A careful blend of preparation, attentiveness, and objectivity. It’s about capturing the essence of the meeting, the key decisions made, and the rationale behind them. It’s a skill that requires a meticulous approach and a keen eye for detail.

How to take accurate minutes for a meeting – the key steps

1. Preparation

Review – Familiarity with past discussions, decisions, and actions to help set the scene and get a sense of continuity and context for the upcoming meeting. Neglecting to review previous board minutes could lead to missing important matters, potential legal implications, and delay in approving meeting minutes.

Understand the agenda –Prioritise and organise the discussion topics to document vital information regarding company strategy, business decisions, and project plans. This information is essential for future board members to understand the company’s history and decision-making processes and helps maintain strategic focus.

Organise materials – Using templates and note-taking tools are key for board secretaries to better prepare and streamline the process for upcoming meetings. This helps the tracking of attendee presence, conducting introductions or circulating attendance lists, and maintaining any notes.

2. Frame of mind

Beyond preparation, which forms the groundwork, certain best practices contribute to a comprehensive and useful meeting record.

  1. Be attentive and focused – staying alert during the board meeting is critical for the accurate capture of important information, enabling the minute taker to navigate the agenda proficiently and refine the final version.
  2. Maintain objectivity – this is necessary when providing a factual and impartial meeting record, thus avoiding the inclusion of personal biases and judgments.
  3. Provide a 360 view - record any breaks or interruptions as well as dissent and conflicts of interest. It’s advisable to separate out any legally privileged discussion and mark it as private and confidential.

3. Record the essentials

  • Company name in full
  • Date, time and venue
  • Method – in-person or online
  • Names of directors and other attendees present, identifying the chairman and secretary
  • Apologies from those unable to attend
  • Confirmation that notice of the meeting has been given
  • Declarations of interest
  • Approval of minutes of the previous meeting

4. Do’s & don’ts

  • Avoid adjectives and adverbs
  • Check spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Only use acronyms or jargon when necessary
  • Write in plain, easy-to-understand sentences
  • Use past tense
  • Be consistent with tone, style and emphasis

5. Reviewing, approving & distributing

There needs to be a clear process in place to ensure accuracy, transparency, and timely follow-up on action items.

How can Ocorian support your board & committee meetings?

A corporate services provider like Ocorian can offer a seasoned company secretarial resource who has experience of working across a wide variety of organisation types, sizes and industries.

Board minuting is just one step in the board meeting support cycle – from the initial arrangement, through the creation of board packs and minuting taking, to final dissemination and follow-up. Each part of the process is designed to capture business-critical information and enable effective and rational decision-making.

Our experience enables us to drive best governance principles throughout this process, ensuring the minuting drives real value in the meeting process rather than just ticking a box.