Meeting reports are important documentation for following up on tasks, assembling status reports, for legal reasons, and many other instances. The thing about meeting reports, though, is that there’s no one specific, set way to write them. To get you started, this article prepares you to start or revise this important documentation with meeting report best practices.
- What is a meeting report?
- Meeting report vs. meeting minutes
- What is included in a meeting report?
- Meeting report sample
- How to write a meeting report
What is a meeting report?
A meeting report is a document that details all key developments and decisions discussed at a meeting. They tell your team what happened at a meeting and are just as useful for employees and other stakeholders who couldn’t attend the call, for example.
Meeting reports go deeper than the surface-level overviews often found in meeting notes or meeting summaries. They’re also public-facing documents with legal ramifications. They document your company’s due diligence, so they may be entered into the record as proof that an action occurred in the event of legal action, insurance claims, or other actions. In these cases, your meeting reports can show that your meeting progressed ethically and fairly, potentially minimizing your liability.
Meeting report vs. meeting minutes
As you read more about meeting reports, you might often see them conflated with meeting minutes. This conflation, though technically incorrect, is understandable: Meeting minutes comprise a large portion of meeting reports, but meeting reports involve much more than just the notes taken at the meeting. Think of meeting minutes as the meat on the sandwich: It’s the center of what’s being presented, but the bread, toppings, and condiments give it structure and context.
What is included in a meeting report?
A meeting report will include the following:
- The people present. Write all attendees’ full names, positions, and relation to the organization, whether they are an employee, board member, guest, contractor, or something else.
- The location. You’ll need to state that your meeting took place in your board room, not just at your office. If your venue took place off-site, state that as well and document the address.
- The companies present. If your meeting was internal, list your company’s name. If people from other companies were present, name these companies as well.
- The time and date. Include the month, day, and year. You should also include what time the meeting began and the time the meeting ended.
- Your meeting minutes. Here, you’ll name the meeting facilitator, detail your roll call, and indicate that your previous meeting’s minutes were read. You’ll then state any open issues and new business. Each of these items will precede a summary of the discussion and resolution for the item. Finally, you’ll state who adjourned the meeting, the time of adjournment, who filed the meeting minutes, and who approved them.
Every meeting report should have all the above items, but different companies, industries, and occasions may require additional info. For example, scientific research teams may require that their meeting reports include abstracts, consent and ethics approval, funding acknowledgments, and other points related to their research. Another example: Many construction companies include a section about the environmental impacts of their work in their meeting reports.
Additionally, if an executive transaction with a board member comes up for a vote, each attendee’s vote should be included in your board meeting report. So too should all information presented to attendees and the ultimate outcome of the vote. This documentation matters if the IRS requests documentation regarding corporate finances.
Meeting report sample
Below is a meeting report sample that you can see how all these elements come together. For this report, we’ve named the company behind the report Meeting Innovations, Inc. and the other company in the room Brilliant Meetings LLC.
Start: August 2, 2021, 1 p.m. ET
End: August 2, 2021, 2 p.m. ET
Location: Meeting Innovations Inc. conference room, 3rd floor
Companies present: Meeting Innovations, Inc., Brilliant Genius Meetings LLC
[list of attendees, positions, and company name]
[list of people invited but absent]
1. Call to order
[Meeting facilitator] called to order this meeting between Meeting Innovations, Inc. and Brilliant Meetings LLC at 1 p.m. ET on August 2, 2021.
2. Roll call
[Notetaker] took a roll call and determined that the below people were in attendance:
[list of attendees]
3. Previous minutes
[Facilitator] read the previous meeting’s minutes. All attendees approved these minutes.
4. Open issues
The following issues from the previous meeting were discussed:
- Idea 1. What was discussed, what outcomes were reached, and what action items were assigned to whom.
- Idea 2. Same details as above, for as many ideas as you need to include.
5. New issues
The following issues were raised and discussed for the first time:
- Idea 1. Same summary information as above, for as many ideas as emerge during the meeting.
[Facilitator] adjourned the meeting at 2 p.m. ET on August 2, 2021.
[signature and name of Meeting Innovations Inc. employee approving the meeting report]
How to write a meeting report
To write a meeting report, take the following steps:
- List key information
- Write down every detail
- Include your meeting agenda
- Use reader-friendly language
- Write objectively
- Detail all action items
- Keep your reports and minutes
1 List the names, positions, and companies of all attendees.
A full roll call provides transparency and accountability, which come in handy for all kinds of reasons, both internally and if you need to provide documentation to insurance claims adjusters, the IRS, or in legal proceedings. Your roll call can also help you retrace your steps if your team hasn’t provided you with certain deliverables.
You should also note who was supposed to attend your meeting but didn’t make it. A theoretical example might best show why absences matter: If your meeting report becomes necessary for legal protection, you don’t want an absentee wrapped up in the struggle. Noting their absence gives them some much-needed distance.
2 Pay attention and write down every detail
Meeting reports center on your meeting minutes, the name of which indicates that you need to account for every instance of your meeting. Record everything said during the meeting, and do your best to write the exact words spoken. However, don’t credit exact quotes to attendees, but feel free to mention who partook in which parts of the conversation.
3 Include your meeting agenda and record any deviations
Your meeting agenda outlines everything that needs to be addressed during your meeting. Clearly outlining your agenda in your meeting report can help outsiders reading your report understand what happened and why it happened when it did.
Meeting agendas are designed to provide relatively inflexible structures to meetings, but sometimes, you’ll find yourself deviating from them. In this case, you’re best off not stating exactly what happened during these deviations. Instead, simply state, “For this period, participants discussed items not included in the agenda.” You should keep your language this plain and direct throughout the report; don’t leave any room for guesses.
Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to create a collaborative agenda that will help your team stay on topic and used to easily reference back in the meeting report.
4 Use reader-friendly language and structures
People who didn’t attend your meeting might eventually see your report, so clogging your report with jargon or confusing language is ill-advised. So is anything that makes the report hard to seamlessly move through. Stick to basic outline structures – no need to get complicated. Couple this flow with straightforward descriptions of everything that happened in the meeting to keep all readers on the same page, even as they turn the page.
The straightforward descriptions needed for a meeting report can comprise a short summary of each open issue or discussion of new business. As mentioned before, don’t write direct quotes from participants or name who said what, but do give a general summary of the discussion. Be sure to note any decisions that come from these discussions.
If votes are required for these decisions to be made, note that the decisions were reached by vote, but don’t state who voted in which manner. Instead, stick with more general language such as “Action: Vote held, passed, and carried.”
5 Write objectively
At no point should your personal slant pop up in the report. Stick to objective language, almost as though you’re a journalist reporting from the meeting in a fully neutral tone. Save the personal comments, judgments, and observations for another time, or just keep them in your head.
6 Detail all action items
Almost every meeting will end with action items for your team to take. You should include these at the end of your report, but keep them separate from your meeting minutes.
Think of your meeting minutes as a movie and your action items as the credits afterward. Listing your action items after your meeting minutes helps outsiders focus on your meeting’s details while still letting attendees see what they should do afterward.
7 Make your reports and minutes the only existing documentation
Your meeting report should be the only potential touchpoint between the public and your company regarding your meeting. This way, all potential legal procedures proceed based on one set of information.
To that end, it may not be a good idea to archive audio or video recordings of your meetings. No set of meeting minutes or notes will ever be pitch-perfect, and even minor differences between recordings and notes can potentially land your company, or individual staff members or officers, in hot water. No, you’re probably not up to anything mischievous or questionable, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Meeting reports: The easiest formal document you’ll ever create
Meeting reports are certainly more formal than most ways of documenting meetings, but they’re not hard to create. Staying objective, including key details while keeping the notes general, following simple document structures, and sticking to your agenda is all it takes. Speaking of agendas, Fellow can help you create meaningful agendas and follow them with action items that turn discussions into realities.