Taking notes during the meeting, though critical for the success of any project, is often viewed as a daunting task and easily the least liked part of the meeting. In the article “Meeting Minutes” we provide an overview of meeting notes and the importance of capturing notes during the meeting. Highlighting the importance of note-taking, Richard Branson writes:
“One of my greatest frustrations is having meetings with people who don’t take any notes. How do they expect to remember what was said, and act upon it?”
Since meeting minutes or meeting notes are a written record of the meeting, they are valuable only if they are exhaustive and accurate. The note taker should capture all the relevant details of the meeting including the discussion, key decisions and meeting outcomes - action items and next steps.
In this article, we share five tips to help you capture notes so that sharing meeting minutes seems like a breeze.
1. Know the meeting agenda and objective
This is fairly straightforward for meetings where the meeting owner is also the note-taker. However, not all meetings follow this format. It is a common practice to assign a notetaker for the meeting who is not the meeting owner and does not own the agenda. In such situations, getting acquainted with the meeting agenda and key objectives before the meeting will build context for the meeting discussion. This will help the notetaker filter out irrelevant discussions from the meeting notes. Getting familiar with the meeting agenda also ensures that the notetaker is capturing all the key outcomes that drive the agenda forward and the notes are exhaustive.
2. Prepare meeting minutes template beforehand
Before jumping into the meeting, having the meeting minutes template ready to be filled will help the notetaker stay focused and capture relevant callouts from the discussion. This reduces the time taken to compile notes after the meeting to share meeting minutes with the larger audience. Our guide on writing effective meeting minutes provides deeper understanding of how you can prepare for notetaking ahead of the meeting.
3. Confirm all key decisions before the meeting ends
The purpose of meeting minutes is to ensure that all key decisions are documented, stakeholders are aligned and action items are correctly assigned to the right owners. However, incorrectly captured meeting outcomes can result in confusion and project delays. Hence, it is a good practice to summarize the discussion - confirm key decisions and action items, at the end of a topic or before the meeting ends.
4. Abbreviated meeting notes
During a meeting, it is often challenging to keep up with the discussion when taking down notes. Furthermore, the complexity increases if the meeting owner is responsible for both taking notes and driving the meeting agenda. This results in notetaker missing parts of the discussion which does not bode well for the project. Hence, it is best to skip complete sentences when taking notes and instead organize meeting notes in abbreviated form as a bulleted list. The note taker must focus on actively listening to the discussion. Expand the notes right after the meeting while the discussion is still fresh in the mind.
5. Capture meeting notes in digital format
The jury is still out on - Is taking notes on pen/paper better than using digital applications? Studies show that taking notes by hand promotes learning and increases the ability to recall the content, compared to using digital form. In fact, Bill Gates himself takes notes in his yellow pad and pen and is a very diligent note taker. However, this adds som more work whene these notes hav to be distributed to teams. On the other hand, taking notes in digital format on a computer gives additional flexibility to the notetaker. Meeting discussions are often non-linear and do not strictly follow the agenda order. Moreover, meeting attendees often go back and forth on various elements of meeting agenda. In such scenarios, taking notes digitally allows the notetaker to capture the discussion non-linearly and provides the flexibility to edit, delete, reorganize notes seamlessly at a later stage in the meeting or after the meeting.
There you have it! Happy Note taking!