AI

Meeting Minutes vs Notes - How Are They Different?

Published
December 5, 2023
Read time
4
Min Read
Updated
December 5, 2023
Jenna Pitkälä
Meeting Minutes vs Notes - How Are They Different?
Table of contents
Share article:

We all know how important it is to not keep all information from meetings in our head. But the question then becomes: what kind of notes should I be taking?

Aren't minutes and notes the same thing?

Not really.

Let's see what we mean by this and which type of documentation is better for your needs.

We'll break down the question about meeting minutes vs notes in the following way:

  • What Are Meeting Minutes?
  • What Are Meeting Notes?
  • The Key Differences
  • Best Practices for Meeting Documentation

What Are Meeting Minutes?

There's some debate about the correct pronunciation of meeting minutes (whether it's minn-it or my-newt). But let's not get into that now.

Rather, let's look at what's typical for minutes:

  • Official Record: Meeting minutes detail the topics discussed, decisions made, and actions agreed upon, serving as a legal document in many contexts.
  • Compliance and Accountability: Minutes are essential for maintaining compliance with organizational or legal standards, holding meeting participants accountable for the commitments made.
  • Preparation and Format: A specific template often guides the creation of minutes, requiring a designated note taker to capture the meeting's essence in a clear, concise manner.
  • Dissemination: Once finalized, these formal documents are shared with attendees and other stakeholders, ensuring everyone is on the same page and aware of the outcomes.

There's no one right type of structure or template for meeting minutes, because there's a spectrum:

1. Informal Team Meeting Minutes: More commonly used in regular team meetings or informal gatherings where the focus is on capturing the essential outcomes.

The structure includes:

  • date
  • list of attendees
  • meeting agenda items with key discussions and decisions
  • next steps or action items.

2. Formal Board Meeting Minutes: These are more detailed and follow a strict format. This format is generally used in formal settings like board meetings or official committee meetings, where legal compliance and detailed record-keeping are crucial.

The structure includes:

  • attendees (present and absent)
  • call to order
  • approval of previous minutes
  • meeting agenda items with detailed discussions and motions
  • adjournment.

In essence, while meeting minutes are typically more formal than meeting notes, there is a range in the level of formality of the minutes themselves, depending on the meeting's purpose and the organization's requirements.

What Are Meeting Notes?

Meeting notes, on the other hand, offer a more flexible approach.

Here's what makes them unique:

  • Informal Records: Meeting notes are less about capturing every word and more about noting down the essence of the discussion. They are informal records that reflect the note taker's perspective.
  • Personal Reference: Primarily used for personal reference, these notes help the note taker remember the key takeaways and action items from the meeting.
  • Flexibility: There's no specific template to follow, offering freedom to the note taker to choose the style and format that best suits their note-taking skills.
  • Quick Reference: Meeting notes are often used for quick reference to recall important details or decisions made during the meeting.
  • Capturing Key Points: The focus is on jotting down key decisions, important discussions, and due dates, rather than providing a comprehensive record of the meeting.

Meeting notes shine in their ability to provide a quick, accessible overview of what transpired during a meeting. They are especially useful in less formal settings or in meetings where the main objective is brainstorming or collaborative agendas.

While they may not serve as official documentation like minutes, meeting notes play a crucial role in ensuring that key topics and talking points are not forgotten in the hustle of everyday work.

If you'd also like to learn more about meeting summaries, which are a bit more structured than notes but less formal than minutes, check out this blog below.

The Key Differences

Formality

Meeting minutes are formal documents, often following a specific template and used in official settings. They serve as a legal record of the meeting. In contrast, meeting notes are informal, capturing the essence of the meeting in a more personal and flexible manner.

Content and Structure

Minutes are detailed and structured, covering all aspects of the meeting, including attendees, agenda items, decisions, and action items. Meeting notes, however, focus on the key points and decisions, without adhering to a structured format.

Purpose and Usage

Meeting minutes are used for official record-keeping, compliance, and future reference in formal meetings, like board meetings. Meeting notes, on the other hand, serve as a personal reference, aiding in quick recall of the meeting's key outcomes.

Creation and Sharing

The process of writing meeting minutes is more meticulous, often requiring approval before being shared with all meeting participants and other stakeholders. Meeting notes are typically for the note taker's use and are not necessarily shared with others.

Effectiveness in Different Settings

Minutes are essential in formal documentation, especially in business meetings where legal documentation is required. Notes are better suited for informal records, like team meetings or brainstorming sessions, where the focus is more on capturing the creative flow and key decisions.

In essence, the choice between meeting minutes and notes depends largely on the nature of the meeting and the required level of documentation. Both have their place in the corporate world, each serving a unique purpose in ensuring effective communication and documentation of meetings.

Best Practices for Meeting Documentation

Let AI Take Notes for You

What if you could just completely focus on the discussion and delegate note-taking to a reliable tool?

If that sounds tempting, you might want to try Wudpecker, whose AI-note-taking tool...

  • Automatically joins and records your meetings once you've signed up, so there's no repeated setup
  • Works for both online (Google Meet, Zoom or Teams) and in-person meetings
  • Summarizes the whole online meeting's discussions and action items for you
  • Takes max 10 minutes after the meeting to give you the summary
  • Lets you share the notes to other people
  • Lets you change the structure of the notes
  • Answers questions you might have about the discussion you had in the meeting

Use Templates

Using a pre-defined template for your meeting documentation can streamline the process significantly. Templates help maintain consistency, especially if you have recurring meetings with a similar format.

They also make it easier for everyone to follow and understand the notes or minutes later. Whether you're documenting board meetings, team updates, or project discussions, a well-structured template ensures that all key elements, such as action items, decisions made, and important discussion points, are consistently captured.

Post-Meeting Review

After the meeting, take some time to review your notes or minutes. This step is crucial to ensure that you've captured all the essential information and that the document accurately reflects what was discussed. If any points are unclear, this is the time to clarify them.

Finally, share the meeting documentation with all participants. This not only keeps everyone aligned but also provides an opportunity for attendees to provide feedback or corrections, ensuring the record is both accurate and comprehensive. Regular sharing of minutes and notes also helps to keep team members who couldn't attend in the loop, fostering transparency and collaboration within the team.

Conclusion

Meeting minutes provide a detailed, formal record essential for legal compliance and official record-keeping, while meeting notes offer a more personal, quick-reference account of the key decisions and discussions.

The ability to document effectively remains a key skill for successful collaboration and communication. Different types of documentation are suitable for different situations. With our tips, you should hopefully feel more clear about how to document insights from your next meeting!

FAQs

What is taking notes in a meeting called?

Writing meeting notes is commonly referred to as "note-taking." This process involves summarizing key points, decisions, and action items discussed during a meeting. The meeting notes serve as a personal reference or a quick reminder of the meeting's content.

How do you take meeting minutes and notes?

Meeting Minutes: Follow a structured format to document all aspects of the meeting, including the date, time, attendees, agenda items, key discussions, decisions, and action items. Ensure accuracy and seek approval before sharing with participants.

Meeting Notes: Focus on capturing the essential points and decisions in a personalized style. Note down key takeaways and action items for quick reference and personal follow-up.

Should you take notes during meetings?

Yes, writing meeting notes is highly recommended. It helps in capturing important details, decisions, and action items, ensuring that key information is not lost or forgotten. Effective meeting notes also aid in follow-up and accountability post-meeting.

Why are board meeting notes called minutes?

The term "minutes" in the context of meetings originates from the Latin phrase 'minuta scriptura,' meaning 'small notes' or 'rough notes.' It refers to the practice of writing brief, concise notes of the proceedings of a meeting. Over time, 'minutes' has become the standard term for the formal, detailed record of a meeting, particularly in formal or board meetings.

Automatic quality online meeting notes
Try Wudpecker for free
Dashboard
Meeting Minutes vs Notes - How Are They Different?
How to Write a Meeting Summary: Guide with Examples and Templates
7
Min Read
Meeting Minutes vs Notes - How Are They Different?
Min Read
Meeting Minutes vs Notes - How Are They Different?
Min Read