Boards & Governance
Kezia Farnham Image
Kezia Farnham
Senior Manager

Guide to free meeting minutes software & when to go premium

April 8, 2024
0 min read
Board meeting with cosec diligently using software to take minutes

Technology can be transformational for corporate and nonprofit boards, school boards, municipal government, and any other body that needs actionable meetings. Intuitive, convenient tools can make meetings more effective and more compliant. But that’s not always a need that free meeting minutes software can meet.

While free meeting minutes software can be accessible and helpful, it can also limit processes before, during and after meetings. Here, we’ll explain:

  • What software to use for meetings
  • Why it's important to get meeting minutes software right
  • Free vs premium meeting minutes solutions and the features of each
  • When free works and when to go premium

What software should I use for meeting minutes?

There are two different types of software you can use to take meeting minutes: free and premium (or paid).

  1. Free meeting minutes software: These solutions range from a simple Google Doc to a more specialized free app that can transcribe minutes or organize to-do lists. Most free solutions offer limited features, with additional features available after an upgrade.
  2. Premium meeting minutes software: Paid solutions are those built specifically for meeting minutes. They’re tailored to secretaries and minute-takers and not only support effective meeting minutes but also help meeting attendees communicate and collaborate.

Why is meeting minutes software important?

Meeting minutes software is important because of how critical the minutes themselves are. Minutes act as a record of the meeting. They’re a tool boards can use to follow through on decisions they make during the meeting or prove they thoroughly discussed each issue before taking action on them. Minutes can even be evidence in legal proceedings.

Software is critical to the integrity of those minutes. The best software:

  • Offers a secure place to format, take and store minutes
  • Communicate about their contents after meetings are over
  • Helps minute-takers accurately document the meeting
  • Protects minutes from breaches and tampering

The problem is that free solutions don’t offer many of these features. Despite its low barrier to entry, that can create headaches over time as boards and secretaries struggle to prevent breaches or overcome inefficiencies.

Free meeting minutes software vs. premium software solutions

Free softwarePremium software
Take meeting minutesXX
Track action itemsX*X
Store meeting minutesXX
Meeting prepX
Pull in organizational dataX
Fully encrypted communication portalX
Robust cybersecurityX
Document distributionX

*Available but may require an upgrade for full functionality

5 key features to look for in free meeting minutes software

A common misconception is that meeting minutes software only needs to take minutes. But the reality is that minute-takers are responsible for so much more than that, meaning that the software should be capable of more, too. If you’re considering free software, keep an eye out for:

  1. Number of users: How many people need to use the software? Some free options limit the number of users, so be sure to pick a solution that accommodates the seats you need.
  2. File storage: Check to see how much storage the solution offers. Regulations require all types of boards to store their minutes, which can get complicated if your solution has restrictive storage limits.
  3. Security: Cybersecurity is a risk for boards of all kinds. Don’t use software that lacks robust security features and encryption, even if it will save you some money.
  4. Customer service: Technology can break or throw error codes. If that happens, will you have access to a support team? Free solutions are usually fairly hands-off, so make sure you won’t be out in the cold if something does go awry.
  5. Integration: There is technology to help take, store and distribute minutes and more, but these solutions don’t always work together. Look for meeting minutes software that easily integrates with any other technology you use.

5 premium features most free meeting minutes software doesn’t have

As convenient as free meeting minutes software can be, many organizations will need features that free solutions will never have. These include:

  1. A secure portal: Meeting minutes are a living document that attendees must refer back to. Action items live there, as do big decisions. Most organizations will eventually want software that can facilitate communication about minutes — not just the viewing of them.
  2. Collaboration tools: Meetings, by nature, are collaborative, from meeting prep to the meeting itself to the activities that occur after. Premium software can make it easier for attendees to work together.
  3. Centralization: Meetings often refer to items outside the minutes, such as documents, reports and insights across the organization. Paid tools centralize all this information so meeting attendees can access it in a single view.
  4. Access controls: Customize who has access to meeting minutes software. This allows attendees to view and communicate about minutes as needed without exposing minutes and other sensitive data to hackers and bad actors.
  5. Data protection: Premium software also leverages encryption to ensure all data is secure and inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have access.

When to explore a premium meeting minutes solution

While premium meeting minutes software is undoubtedly better, there may be organizations that feel they don’t need such an extensive solution. But as they grow, those same organizations will likely face countless barriers within the free meeting minutes software that can make a paid tool a better choice.

You should consider a premium solution if:

  1. Your team is growing: With free meeting agendas and minutes software, you’re bound to realize that you can’t get enough users on the program to make it worthwhile, even for a trial period. If quite a few attendees need access to the minutes, consider a paid tool.
  2. You have lots of documents to store: A free trial may come with little or no capacity to store files, and that’s an important feature for any organization, given the number of documents modern businesses need to manage and store.
  3. You need to prove compliance: Free meeting minutes software doesn’t always comply with the regulations your organization does. Part of compliance includes taking great care with storing meeting agendas and meeting minutes so that they can be retrieved for legal reasons or any other valid purpose — something free solutions struggle to do.
  4. You’re worried about cybersecurity: Hackers are better than ever at breaching vulnerable systems. Testing the waters with what you believe is an innocent, free application, could put your entire organization’s confidentiality and data at risk.
  5. You can’t afford downtime: Meeting agenda and minutes software should offer your team efficiency and accuracy. If they can’t use the program because they’re waiting days to have a support ticket answered or to get a return call from a tech who can fix the problem, it’s not useful, and the word “free” suddenly becomes meaningless.
  6. You want to securely integrate across your tech stack: Free electronic applications don’t always work well together. Each program has its own level of security, and some programs have no security at all. This means that programs that connect can spread malware and viruses between systems. That’s a risk you don’t want to take.

Choose a meeting minutes software that helps, not hinders

Boards are more effective when they have a meeting minutes software that works. In most cases, free solutions only go so far. But when you opt for a more premium option, that software can evolve along with you and make it possible to foster a culture of security and collaboration.

Diligent Boards empowers boards to be more strategic by:

  • Collaborating on the agenda
  • Taking and distributing meeting minutes
  • Securing board communication in a collaborative portal
  • Centralizing insights from across the enterprise
  • Securing files stored in an encrypted, cloud-based environment

With Diligent boards, also part of the Diligent One Platform, meetings are more focused, collaboration is easier and more secure, and boards are better prepared to tackle any challenges that arise. Learn more and request a demo.


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