Meetings are a part of work life, especially for those people who work remotely. But no matter what type of meeting you’re in, effective note-taking can get you out of a lot of trouble.
Meeting notes will help you to make the meeting run more smoothly. It also helps those who were unable to attend to keep up to date. You should also summarize the key points and share these notes with your client and the participants.
- Note-taking is an essential activity during work meetings.
- Note-taking methods vary according to the individual preferences of the person taking notes.
- While notes have always been taken manually, with pen and paper, nowadays, several online platforms help us speed up the process.
8 note-taking tips: the definitive list
Meeting notes contain the most relevant points that have been discussed and the actions to be taken before the next meeting. It may sound strange, but note-taking can be very hard and complicated, as it has many details that we are naturally unaware of. Here is a list of some tips that we hope will help you to take notes (3).
1. How to take notes?
Notes do not usually have a set structure, and techniques can vary and be adjusted to the needs of each individual.
The purpose of these notes is not only to record the activity of a meeting, but to create a record that is accessible to those who have been present and those who have not. It also serves as a guide for maintaining concentration during the meeting.
2. Choose the technique you like best
There are several methods for taking notes, but they all have the same objective. Choose the one that best suits you and your role. Here are some examples:
One of the most popular techniques is to divide your notes into three sections. The left-hand column is for writing down the main ideas, while the right-hand column is for writing down the details of those ideas. It is used to complete the notes in the left-hand column to help you understand them better. Everything in a summarized form, of course. The lower section is meant for a summary of what has been discussed in the two previous columns as a conclusion (2).
Make a list of the key points of the agenda and write annotations at the bottom as the meeting goes on.
You divide the page into four sections, and in each section you write the notes that correspond to that topic. For example, one section could be “general notes”, another could be “my actions” as key points that concern only me, “team actions” that concern everyone and “questions”.
3. Define important data
If you want to know which information is the most important for adding to the notes, it is essential to listen and pay attention. Active listening enables a good summary of the most relevant aspects of the meeting (5).
4. Organize your notes
Have a clear objective and follow a timeline for highlighting the most relevant points during the course of the meeting (1). It is easy to get confused and think that one topic has been discussed before another. This can cause you to lose the flow of the meeting and make your notes look cluttered and confusing. Therefore, while you are taking notes, it is very useful to number the headings or underline the main topics.
5. Focus on the relevant information
In order to write faster and to be able to take note of the most essential things without missing anything, abbreviations can be of great help. In other words, it doesn’t matter what technique you use to take notes, as long as you are able to gather as much useful information as possible. Use your own specific symbols or abbreviations to make the task easier (4).
Once the meeting is over, and you want to summarize the key points of the meeting, you only need to interpret those keywords. It is essential not to waste time taking notes on everything that is said, as this could be irrelevant information. Therefore, focus on gathering quality information and avoid information that does not contribute anything.
6. Clean up your notes
It is not only important to take notes during a meeting to gather the most relevant information. Writing a report about the key points of the meeting afterwards is almost as vital, because this document will be shared with the other participants and make it easier to work and communicate with the team.
This phase also has its own technique. The best practice is to review all the notes taken during the meeting and write them down following a timeline, giving headings and subheadings and preparing a more comprehensive summary. There are applications available today that convert the text from physical paper to digital and therefore save you all the work of starting to write from scratch.
7. Upload the information to the cloud
Once you have reviewed your document thoroughly, the file is ready to be uploaded to the intranet. This way it can be easily sent to the rest of the team and the client for future reference. It also serves as an official record of what happened.
Nowadays, there are platforms that allow online editing of documents, i.e. we can share documents with other people who can modify the content of the document at the same time as us. This makes it easier to write and define the statement correctly.
See the best Cloud Content Collaboration Software
8. Choose tools
Some people prefer to continue taking notes in the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, while others prefer to use technological advances to speed up this process.
See the best Note-Taking Apps
Because you can use abbreviations and symbols that may not exist on your computer keyboard, writing on paper does not necessarily affect your note-taking.
On the other hand, if typing is not a problem for you, using digital tools can help you get the job done faster. In particular, it can speed up the time it takes to transcribe a document online. In the following graphic, you can see a list of some tools that can help you when taking notes:
Read more about Evernote
Read more about Google Keep
Read more about Microsoft OneNote
In this article, we have provided a brief overview of what it means to take notes in business meetings, the key points when drafting, and tools that can make note-taking easier. Of course, each person will find the method that best suits them and their way of working.
Remember that it is essential to pay attention to what is being discussed in the meeting, underlining and listing the most relevant statements or ideas. That way, the drafting of official minutes will be a more pleasant and easier task.
1. Couchaere J, Couchaere M. Taking Notes, Quickly and Well. Ediciones Granica; 1998
2. Brian R. The Cornell method [Internet]. Universidad del Rosario; 2017 [cited 2017 Nov 9, 2022].
3. Cartolari, Manuela; Carlino, Paula Reading and taking notes to learn in teacher education: an exploratory study Magis. International Journal of Educational Research, vol. 4, no. 7, July-December, 2011, pp. 67-86. Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. [cited November 9, 2022]
4. Carvalho JAB, Silva AC da, Pimenta J. Taking notes: A first step for the construction of knowledge. Rev estud estud investig psicol educ [Internet]. 2007 [cited 2022 November 9];1088.
5. Marta ABUÍN GONZÁLEZ.Note-taking: the development of apprentice-to-interpreter skill. Hermēneus. Revista de Traducción e Interpretación.Núm. 11 – Year 2009.