Writing minutes: patterns, templates& tips

In many companies it is common that meetings are minuted. This is mostly done by the participants in turn, or volunteers are needed. Many workers are reluctant to take on this task – after all, it means more work and requires concentrated listening over the entire course of the meeting.

If you are going to be the protocolist, it is important to know what is important in the protocol. What information must be included in a protocol? How to write discussion and results correctly? You’ll learn about that and more in this post. With our free template, you’ll also be armed – and have points to guide you as you create the log.

The advantages of a protocol

Must be? This question is usually asked mainly by those who have been tasked with writing a protocol. In fact, in some companies, taking minutes of meetings is more of a formality than a real benefit. Done correctly, however, a protocol has some distinct advantages.

Allow each participant to read what was discussed in the meeting at any time. This is also handy for colleagues who were absent. You will still learn the most important aspects and results thanks to the protocol. In the minutes, everyone can also read about the results of the meeting, what further tasks are planned, and who is responsible for their timely implementation. Minutes are also very useful for preparing for the next meeting. This way, you are right back up to date and can jump right into the topic.

What is written in a protocol?

When you hear the word "minutes", many people might think of pages and pages of transcripts, like the ones used by the police or the court. But that’s not what minutes are usually about at a meeting. Here are only the most important points.

Questions that the protocol clarifies include:

  • What decisions were made?
  • What procedure the participants have agreed upon?
  • What are the next steps?
  • Who is responsible for which tasks?
  • When to reconvene to discuss the issue again?
  • If necessary, also: What discussions took place, how did the decision come about??

Different variants of the protocol: result protocol and progress protocol

If you have to take minutes, it is important to know what kind of minutes they should be. In most cases it is probably about a so-called results protocol. As the name suggests, this is where you document what decisions have been made and what the next steps are.

On the other hand, there is the minutes of the meeting. This variant is more detailed, depending on the duration of the meeting it can exceed the length of a result protocol significantly. Here you are not only interested in what came out of the meeting, but also how it was reached. That’s why discussions and various proposals are also documented here – even if they don’t find a majority in the end. The minutes of the meeting are written chronologically, while the minutes of the results focus on the resolutions.

The correct procedure for writing minutes

How good – and useful – your protocol becomes depends on the right procedure. Thorough preparation is important. Familiarize yourself with the agenda. Which points should be discussed? What seems particularly important? If you are not familiar with the details of these topics, you can bring yourself up to speed before the meeting. In addition, such preparation makes it easier for you to filter out the most important information in the meeting and then write it down. Clarify in advance what kind of protocol is desired.

In the actual meeting you should take notes of the most important things. Key points are sufficient – you can write them out later. Many people make the mistake of writing down too much. This makes it harder for them to listen. However, only the most relevant information is important.

After the meeting, the work is not yet done. Write your minutes in detail and check all notes. Cross out what seems unnecessary in retrospect, or add more information if needed. After digitizing the minutes, you send them to the participants or all relevant persons.

Tips for taking minutes

There are some tips that will make it easier for you to take minutes. For example, it is important that you listen carefully. If necessary, ask directly if something has escaped your attention or is unclear. After all, all the information in your minutes should be correct. So that you don’t forget the core of the meeting, it is important that you only filter out what is necessary. Long discussions are not relevant in most cases – at least not in full length.

Whether you use a pen and paper or a laptop is up to your preference. If you choose a paper, leave enough space for each agenda item. Often the discussion will come back to a specific point later, which you can then easily add to it. Many people can take notes faster on a PC. In addition, the protocol is then already digital – the subsequent digitization is therefore unnecessary. You can also integrate changes or new results more easily. Especially for the more detailed progress reports, a laptop is usually more practical. It is best to use a protocol template for this purpose, as you will find below. A piece of paper and a pencil are usually sufficient for a protocol of the results.

Are there certain names or terms that are frequently mentioned?? Think about appropriate abbreviations beforehand. This is how you save time when taking notes.

The structure of a protocol

A protocol can differ in its headings. The basic structure is always similar. At the top of the document there is a so-called protocol header. This contains all the information worth knowing about the meeting, the topic and the participants. Date, place, beginning, end, the name of the moderator and your name as a minute taker also belong here.

Then the individual agenda items are listed, often abbreviated as TOP together with the corresponding number. The most important aspects of the agenda item are recorded – from the results to further tasks and responsibilities. If the further procedure still hangs in the balance, this is also noted down. It is always about the status quo.

How to proceed with a topic? Typically, the minutes also reference next steps and the next meeting where the topic will be discussed further.

Your signature is required at the end of the minutes. Also the signature of the moderator is important. The facilitator confirms that the information you have given is true. So there are no discussions later, if you should have misunderstood something.

Result minutes are usually rather short. The most important points – namely the results – can be found in a prominent place. In contrast, minutes of proceedings can also be more detailed. Here you write down the course of the discussion up to the results chronologically.

Free template for a protocol

Here you will find a free template that shows you how to write a protocol. Of course, you can add any points to this template that are important in your case. Just download them and adapt them to the specific circumstances of the situation.

Minutes of working group XY

Date: 10. March 2019
Location: Meeting room 11
Start: 09:30
End: 10:15 a.m
Topic: XY
Participants: Monica Mustermann, Max Muster, Monica Muster, Max Mustermann
Absent: Maximilian Muster
Moderator: Max Muster
Minute-taker: Max Mustermann

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