14 minutesBy Canva Team

Writing meeting minutes: How-tos, templates, and tips

Taking effective meeting minutes can improve the way you run your meetings — and your teams. Learn why, discover what goes into writing minutes, and find editable meeting minutes templates from Canva.
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What are meeting minutes?

Minutes of the meeting (MoM), or simply “minutes,” are a document organizations use to track decisions, action points, and deliverables agreed upon during a meeting. In other words, minutes stand as a meeting recap participants can return to for guidance on to-do’s, timelines, and the like. Minutes also serve as a handy reference for those unable to attend the meeting.

Example of a meeting minutes doc with a purple theme.

Example of a meeting minutes doc with a purple theme.

To better understand meeting minutes and how they work, it’s helpful to think about what minutes are not. Meeting minutes aren’t:

  • A word-for-word transcription of every discussion held in the meeting: Think of minutes as a summary of critical points rather than a verbatim transcript.
  • A chronological record of the meeting proper: Minutes are typically organized into sections like issues, action items, and recommendations to make it easier for readers to find what they need.
  • A list of personal observations or judgments: Minute-takers are discouraged from inserting their opinions, as minutes are often used as a reference for the whole team, not just one person.

Where did the term “minutes of the meeting” come from?

Contrary to popular belief, the term “minutes of the meeting” has nothing to do with time. Some sources(opens in a new tab or window) say the phrase could have derived from the Latin “minuta scriptura”, which means “rough notes” (or literally “small writing”).

But make no mistake, there’s nothing small or inconsequential about meeting minutes. When done right, minutes can significantly improve communication and maximize efficiency in your organization.

Use Canva Docs to tag teammates in comments and make writing, approving, and sharing minutes a seamless experience.

Use Canva Docs to tag teammates in comments and make writing, approving, and sharing minutes a seamless experience.

Meeting minutes vs. meeting agenda

Sometimes, people use the terms meeting “minutes” and “agenda” interchangeably. However, the two hold very different functions in a meeting.

Meeting minutes document the proceedings of a meeting and are written during and after each session. Conversely, an agenda is prepared beforehand to set attendees’ expectations, help participants prepare for the meeting, and guide the meeting flow. Typically, meeting agendas are written chronologically, while meeting minutes are written as bite-sized notes organized by relevance and importance.

In short, an agenda is an outline of topics to be discussed in a meeting, while meeting minutes document key points discussed during a meeting.

Although they serve different purposes, meeting minutes and agendas go hand-in-hand in making meetings more productive. Meeting hosts can refer to previous minutes to set their agendas for upcoming team huddles. At the same time, this allows them to identify any pertinent questions or issues raised in the last meeting and address them in the next one. Meeting agendas, on the other hand, can serve as a guide for the minute-taker, particularly when preparing a template before a meeting. In doing so, the minute-taker can take more detailed notes more quickly.

Meeting minutes vs meeting notes

The main difference between meeting minutes and notes is how detailed they are. Whereas minutes are concise and organized — detailing only the essential and often actionable points discussed in a meeting – meeting notes are more of an informal collection of ideas for the note-taker’s personal use. Meeting notes are rarely shared with others, while meeting minutes are meant to be distributed.

Why meeting minutes are important

Here are three reasons why teams should take on the practice of taking minutes at every meeting:

Meeting minutes encourage accountability

With a clear record of tasks, point persons, and timelines, teams can use minutes to pinpoint who’s in charge of what. This helps avoid any miscommunications and blame games and fosters accountability in the workplace.

Effective minutes also capture vital discussions for solving big issues and record the names of those who pitched in valuable solutions. This allows team heads to recognize and reward key contributions, giving credit where credit is due.

Minutes can help boost trust and morale

A 2023 report conducted by the Harris Poll showed that 60% of business leaders believed that effective communication(opens in a new tab or window) resulted in higher employee confidence and work satisfaction.

Taking meeting minutes can contribute to that in many ways. For example, sharing the minutes of a crucial, time-sensitive meeting can help keep everyone in the loop and on the same page — creating a greater sense of inclusion and minimizing friction among team members.

Minutes serve as legal protection for an organization

If an organization must undergo an audit or an investigation, minutes can serve as official records of proceedings and decisions made by teams and provide authenticity to any claims. Meeting minutes can help clear up any discrepancies and show whether an organization took the appropriate measures to resolve an issue.

The bottom line: With clear, concise, and shareable minutes, team members can quickly gain clarity on decisions and responsibilities, collaborate with less confusion and friction, and have an official record of all meeting proceedings for future use.

What are the different styles of meeting minutes?

There are three styles of meeting minutes — action minutes, discussion minutes, and verbatim minutes. Learn more about them below:

Browse our templates library to find the right layout for your preferred minutes style and format.

Browse our templates library to find the right layout for your preferred minutes style and format.

Action minutes

Action minutes only include the actions or decisions made in a meeting. These kinds of minutes typically exclude discussions leading up to the decisions.

Action minutes will also include a list of tasks or actions completed since the last meeting, along with next steps and the names of those responsible for completing the tasks.

Action minutes are the most common type of meeting minutes and are often taken in board meetings and council meetings.

Discussion minutes

Discussion minutes are more comprehensive than action minutes and usually include a brief overview of discussions relevant to key decisions or actions. These types of notes may be helpful when you want to analyze your team’s process of deliberation, as well as when you want to credit members for their ideas and solutions.

When recording discussion-type meeting minutes, minute-takers shouldn’t include personal opinions in their notes.

Verbatim minutes

Though we’ve mentioned that meeting minutes are usually not word-for-word transcripts, some meetings call for verbatim minutes. These are often used for public hearings and legal proceedings and are typically taken by a designated transcriptionist who’s familiar with writing in shorthand.

What should be included in meeting minutes?

What to include in your minutes will depend on the type of meeting you’re attending. However, a few key components that should always be present are:

  • The meeting date, time, and location
  • The names of the attendees and absentees
  • The name of the meeting host or organizer
  • The purpose of the meeting
  • The meeting agenda
  • Minutes of the last meeting
  • General and individual updates from team members
  • Action items
  • Discussions
  • Other business or talking points not covered in the agenda
  • Links to documents shared during the meeting
  • The schedule of the next meeting
  • The name of the minute-taker and team lead who approved the minutes
Use colored boxes to differentiate discussions from action items.

Use colored boxes to differentiate discussions from action items.

Popular minutes of meeting formats and what they include

As mentioned, the structure of your meeting minutes will be shaped by the type of meeting you’re covering. For example, if you’re attending a board of directors’ meeting, you’re expected to follow a formal format that covers all the steps of a board meeting, from the call to order to adjournment.

While we can’t cover all the different types of meetings, we’ve listed some of the most common meeting formats and what you can include when taking minutes for these types of forums.

Add visual flair to boring old minutes with design elements from Canva.

Add visual flair to boring old minutes with design elements from Canva.

A board of directors meeting is a formal meeting regarding strategies, policies, issues, and opportunities for an organization. The board chairperson typically presides over meetings, while the board secretary writes and distributes the minutes.

While there are many ways to format board of directors meeting minutes, they usually include the basic components listed above, plus any of the following items:

  • A record of approval and amendments made to the previous meeting minutes
  • Observations, discussions, and action points from officers’ reports
  • All motions taken or rejected
  • Voting results
  • Appeals made
  • Next steps
  • New business
  • Announcements
  • The time of adjournment

During voting, minute-takers can choose to record votes in the following ways:

  • Pass or fail only, e.g., “Motion was passed”, “Motion failed”, “Motion was passed unanimously”
  • Pass or fail with numbers, e.g., “Motion passed with 8 votes in favor, 3 against”
  • Pass or fail with the names of those who voted and abstained, e.g., “Motion was passed. A. Hui voted in favor, C. Zhao voted against, L. Diaz voted in favor, A. Farhadi abstained.”

“Sprint planning” is an element of Scrum(opens in a new tab or window) — a lightweight project management framework that uses an “iterative, incremental approach” to control risks and bring more predictability to how teams function. It’s often used in software development but has been adapted by various organizations across different industries.

Sprint planning sessions are essentially meetings that set off sprints, or fixed periods of time wherein all work is accomplished.

When taking minutes for sprint planning, be sure to include the necessary items covered in the basic meeting minutes format mentioned above, plus:

  • The sprint goal: This is what you want your team to achieve in the current sprint.
  • The sprint backlog: This is a list of items to be completed during the sprint.
  • Stories and epics to be delivered: Stories and epics are requirements that bring value to users. Stories are smaller requirements that are part of larger epics.
  • Risks, concerns, and potential roadblocks: These are obstacles that could slow or impede individuals’ ability to complete their work in time. When discussing this part, teams will often offer solutions for mitigating these risks.
  • Takeaways and next steps: This section details the final decisions made for the sprint, including individual responsibilities, deadlines, etc.

Often shortened to 1:1 meetings, these are regular meetings between two individuals — usually a manager or coach and their employee. Team heads have 1:1 meetings with their members to get progress reports on their current projects, provide feedback and coaching, discuss career growth, help them tackle obstacles, and better understand where they are in terms of motivation and overall job satisfaction.

Again, what to include in your minutes will depend on the purpose and contents of your meeting. Here are some things you can include in your 1:1 meeting minutes:

  • A quick mood assessment: This can be in the form of numbers on a scale, emojis, or photos/videos/GIFs to represent how you’re feeling.
  • A list of agenda topics: These are all the points you want to discuss in your meeting.
  • A list of goals and status updates for each one: You can include status checkboxes or space for notes beside each goal.
  • Mentee/coachee’s challenges: This is a list of challenges the coachee may face.
  • Ways to support the mentee: This is a list of concrete steps the coach can take to support their mentee.
  • Next steps: This is a list of what needs to be accomplished after the meeting, any relevant resources to visit, and due dates that need to be taken into consideration.

How to write meeting minutes effectively

Follow this minute-taking guide to learn how to take meeting minutes in an organized and professional manner:

How to write meeting minutes effectively

Preparing a template beforehand keeps your minutes neat and organized, allows you to focus on important details during the discussion, and saves you from hours of revising later on.

When creating a template, consider using visual elements to categorize blocks of information. This can help readers process information faster and makes going through minutes more enjoyable.

With Canva, you can create a template from scratch or browse our library with hundreds of ready-made meeting minutes templates. Use Canva Docs(opens in a new tab or window) to turn plain minutes into visually stunning and engaging documents that you can easily share with your team.

Don’t know where to start?
When you don’t know what to include in your meeting minutes, revisit previous minutes or use the meeting agenda as a springboard for ideas.

Once the meeting is called to order, make sure you’ve got your template or document ready. Before the meeting kicks off, jot down the meeting’s date, time, and location, and list the names of attendees and absentees. If you decide to record your meeting, place your recording device as close to the speakers as possible, and don’t forget to hit record.

Remember that taking minutes isn’t about transcribing every word spoken during a meeting. At the very least, you should note all actions taken during the meeting, such as motions passed, votes made, and projects assigned. Don’t forget to include relevant information, such as the names of project managers and task deadlines. And if you deem it necessary, you can also note insights from the discussions that led to key decisions.

When someone presents any report or document during the meeting, make a note to yourself to request a copy (or a link to a document online) after the meeting. Later as you polish your notes, attach these materials to your minutes so that all concerned parties have a complete picture of what was discussed in the meeting. Including these materials in your minutes also saves everyone the trouble of emailing each other back and forth to request files.

This is the part where you review all your notes and organize them into a more presentable document. Make it a habit to revise your notes immediately after the meeting so that the discussions are still fresh in your mind. You may forget essential details if you wait too long to revise your notes.

Organize all your data and cut out unimportant or redundant notes and personal insights you may have jotted down for yourself. Provide a brief description or summary next to each action/decision — giving context to how the decision came about, why it matters, who made it happen, who’s in charge of the next steps, what the timelines are, etc. Write in the present tense and keep your notes as objective as possible.

Finally, proofread your document. Check for grammar and spelling errors and make sure your minutes are straightforward and easy to understand, especially for those who couldn’t make it to the meeting.

Depending on how your team is structured, you may need to send your draft to your team head or supervisor for approval. If you’re working on a platform like Canva Docs, you can invite users and non-users to view, edit, and add comments to your Doc in real-time.

When you get final approval, share your meeting minutes online via email or send out a link to all participants (including absentees). If non-participants request access to your minutes, you can easily change who can view, comment on, or edit your document on Canva Docs.

Get inspired with meeting minutes templates

Looking for simple meeting minutes templates? Need help taking minutes for your regular one-on-one coaching meetings? Or maybe you require more formal templates for things like corporate meeting minutes or board meeting minutes? Canva has hundreds of editable meeting minutes templates for virtually any kind of meeting.

All you need in a meeting minutes maker

Create impactful minutes of the meeting with Canva Docs. Use our drag-and-drop tools to design your layout, add visual elements like tables, charts, check boxes, sticky notes, etc., and share your Doc for quick and seamless collaboration.

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Meeting minutes best practices

Want to up your minute-taking game? Here are four tips for taking better meeting minutes:

Assign a designated minute-taker

Ideally, you want to assign minute-taking to someone who isn’t hosting or presenting during the meeting. In some settings, like executive or board meetings, having a secretary or executive assistant take charge of the minutes is the best approach. It allows for more cohesive minutes and lets all the other participants put all their focus into the meeting. On the other hand, smaller groups may benefit from rotating the role of minute-taker. Finally, make sure to assign the role days before the meeting so the minute-taker can prepare.

Create a style guide

You want all your minutes to be neat and orderly so people can easily find what they’re looking for. Creating a style guide with rules for formatting, grammar, abbreviations, etc. makes it easier for all future note-takers to maintain a uniform look throughout all meeting minutes.

Make design decisions on the spot or set up a Brand Kit ahead of time — this’ll contain logos, brand colors, fonts, photos, and other pre-approved design elements.

Make design decisions on the spot or set up a Brand Kit ahead of time — this’ll contain logos, brand colors, fonts, photos, and other pre-approved design elements.

Hand out attendance sheets before meetings

Before each meeting, pass around an attendance sheet with boxes for participants’ names, contact numbers, and email addresses. This will help you track participants down for clarification on certain items and give you all the information you need to send out minutes, shared documents, presentations, etc.

Record your meetings

Can’t keep up with how fast-paced your meetings are? Consider bringing a recording device (or simply using your phone or laptop) to record your sessions. Before pressing “record”, make sure to get the consent of all participants. During the meeting, note timestamps when crucial discussions are taking place. That way, you don’t have to spend hours replaying the entire recording — just the most important bits.

Printable attendance sheets
Browse our templates for printable attendance sheets you can customize. Add as many columns as needed and use fonts, colors, and graphic elements from your minutes for a cohesive design.
When presenting Presentations on Canva, you have the option to record yourself and send out a video link to colleagues.

When presenting Presentations on Canva, you have the option to record yourself and send out a video link to colleagues.

Meeting minutes FAQs

The purpose of minute-taking is to get a clear and concise snapshot of what happened during a meeting. Meeting minutes are a practical document that participants and attendees can return to for reference later. Minutes also serve as official records that can be used to corroborate or refute claims and provide proof that actions were made/decided on, tasks were assigned, and issues were resolved.

The role of minute-taker can be assigned to a secretary, administrative assistant, or team member who is capable of keeping up with discussions throughout a meeting and filtering the most important points for record-keeping.

Some qualities that can help minute-takers in their role are:

  • Organization
  • Critical thinking
  • Active listening
  • Excellent corporate or technical writing skills
  • Fast typing skills
  • Good grammar, spelling, and punctuation

Most people take down meeting minutes by typing them in a document. You can create or edit a template on Canva to organize discussion and action points. It’s also reasonably common for minute-takers to record meetings on a device such as an audio recorder, phone, or laptop and revisit the recording afterward. If you plan on recording a meeting, ensure that you have the consent of all participants.

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