Taking notes in meetings is an art that any good participant can acquire with patience, but especially with listening. Taking notes is a difficult task and I will explain here the important steps to consider succeeding in having efficient meetings.
1. Identify the note taker
First, it is important to identify who will take notes during the meeting. It may be you or someone else and I would suggest rotating that responsibility with your teammates. If you are using a meeting management software, it can even be more than one to collaborate in taking notes for the same meetings.
2. Be well prepared
Before your meeting, consult the agenda and use it as a guide. Find out what topics are covered, who is the participant and what the objectives are.
3. Be well equipped
Are you a traditional notetaker with a notebook and pencil or a techno-style by using a meeting management software? Everyone has its preference: then why not use both? But in our current workplace, everything is going fast. So the best note-taking tool is a Meeting Management System (MMS).
- Keep your attention with your teammates, as we look more often people in the eyes when writing by hand.
- Have a better understanding of what is being said, because we summarize more.
- Slower to write
- Difficulty in reading back
- Notebooks must be kept
- Doing research through old notes may become laborious
- Have to rewrite what has been written. Transcription often limits people to complete minutes.
Computer / mobile / tablet
- Type faster to the computer than writing by hand
- Saves time: no need to retype later
- Allows you to get actively involved in the meeting
- Be a collaborator instead of a spectator
- Can immediately update tasks
- More than one person may be a note taker during the meeting
- Notes are automatically visible to all participants. You can have quick feedback.
- You don’t need to be in the same room, just connect to the remote meeting.
- Gives the impression that people are working on something else.
- Ability to transcribe everything because more texts are typed than written by hand.
- A greater source of distraction if the meeting is boring.
4. Listen and focus
When taking notes, you must listen and focus on everything that is said. First, you must understand the whole discussion to write it down. Otherwise, this will not be understood properly afterward. This will allow you to keep the only important element of the discussion. Be careful: More you take notes, the less you listen. You don’t need to write down EVERYTHING. Select useful information according to the meeting objectives. Here is the information you should pay special attention to:
Decisions that are made.
Actions to be taken
Tasks that are assigned
Sensitive information that must be retained or recorded *.
The next steps after the meeting
* Record a meeting allows you to:
- Save time: Reduces time spent on taking notes in meetings and transcription in post-meeting.
- Increase your productivity: You can listen to items that you have missed or by a lack of understanding in order to properly produce your report.
- Reliability: Meeting recording greatly improves notes accuracy because you will eliminate problems resulting from incomplete or incorrect notes.
- Protection: Record meeting in whole or part may serve as evidence in case of differences or misunderstandings or simply to confirm some facts.
5. Structure your notes
Make a habit of always taking your notes in the same way. Use bullet lists, keep them concise, use keywords, common abbreviations (D.I.Y. = do it yourself, CEO = Chief Executive Officer) and personal (BRB = be right back) In order to save time, take notes directly on the computer/tablet/mobile.
6. Don’t hesitate to interrupt the meeting
When taking notes, if a point is not clear, don’t hesitate to interrupt the speaker. Ask your questions, ask him to repeat or clarify the discussed points. Perhaps this may seem rude to you, but this is not, trust me. If you were attentive and you missed something, people will be glad to repeat. Probably other participants are in the same situation as you and they are shy to ask questions. If you are still not comfortable and you are an introvert personality type, record your next meetings. It will be an asset to you. In another way, when the meeting doesn’t stay focus on the main objectives, it may be well to interrupt the meeting and bring people back to the right path. This task must be assumed by the leader but also from his partners.
7. Complete your notes immediately after your meetings
Immediately read your notes, you are still in the heart of the matter! Verify that nothing has been forgotten, complete certain subjects and organize your writing. Ideally, the minutes must be practically final at the end of the meeting. In order to spend a little time in post-meeting, it’s important to read back within 24 hours! After this period, we forget 50% of what we heard. And you, what are your tricks to have an effective note taking?
Melanie is the Marketing Director at Comnet Technologie who handles design, content, user experience, and all marketing for Beenote. Melanie helps individuals, teams, and organizations to adopt good meeting practices.