How To Take Better Meeting Notes

How To Take Better Meeting Notes; A Short Guide

16 minutes read

Taking flawless meeting notes is a skill that doesn’t always get the credit it deserves for high performance. Taking good notes can immediately improve your work, help you develop active listening, be more organized and help you build stronger relationships with your new skills. But most people do not indulge in notetaking for reasons such as thinking that the art of notetaking is archaic or not necessary. That couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Those who take notes will often focus on the wrong things and end up with information that isn’t valuable to them after the meeting has ended. The primary reason for all of this is that good notetaking is quite challenging, and it takes some amount of consciousness, training, and consistent practice to nail the art of writing good notes for yourself and others. Notetaking is increasingly important in our digital and interconnected world, where Zoom meetings are the norm, and attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. 

Notetaking can save you tons of time and help you become more productive at work and in your personal life no matter the occasion; brainstorming sessions, customer meetings, sales calls, team meetings, interviews, user research, and more. This article covers what notetaking is, some notetaking techniques, and tips for writing the best meeting notes.

What Are Meeting Notes?

What Are Meeting Notes

Meeting notes are a record of the proceedings of the meetings and may contain the opinions or personal observations of the notetaker. Notes are typically for personal use but are sometimes for an entire team. 

In cases where meeting notes are for a team or the entire organization, the task of writing the notes is mostly appointed to a professional notetaker who has been trained and well-skilled enough to keep accurate records of the meeting without compromising the actual meaning and decisions that came from the meeting. Meeting notes are important for not only record-keeping but also for updating everyone on the happenings as well as for use by team members who missed the meeting. 

If there is one thing meeting notes cannot compromise on, it would be accuracy which includes the ability of the note taker to maintain absolute clarity on their notes. Meetings do not end until the accurate notes have been submitted and approved as the official and accurate record of the meeting; that is how important meeting notes are when used as official records of organizational meetings. 

Meeting notes are not exactly meeting transcripts, and neither are they the same as meeting minutes. However, meeting notes typically contain many of the same things as meeting minutes and, of course, transcripts, but in a shorter version. They can contain anything from action items, decisions, next steps, and more. 

Are Meeting Notes The Same As Meeting Minutes?

Are Meeting Notes The Same As Meeting Minutes

No. Meeting notes are not the same as meeting minutes. And both are not the same as transcripts. While meeting notes are records of the meeting that could be unofficial, meeting minutes are always official and are recorded in chronological order. Minutes are written according to the meeting agenda and reflect what was said, decisions, and timelines for various happenings in the meeting and the members present. 

A meeting minute is a short version of a meeting. A transcript is an exact word-for-word account of the meeting, which makes it not the same as the others. While the three; meeting notes, meeting minutes, and transcripts are not the same, they can be used for the same purposes in most cases. 

When it comes to meeting minutes, they are always formally written and are short versions of a transcript of the meeting. They will typically follow a template and need to be approved, a process involving various stakeholders present in the meeting agreeing that the minutes reflect the inaccuracy of what transpired in the meeting. Minutes are always shared with meeting attendees as well as participants who couldn’t make it. Other stakeholders also receive a copy of meeting minutes when necessary. However, meeting notes could be informal and even personal for any meeting attendee.

An example is deciding to take notes of your meetings for personal use and not share them with the entire team. Notes may not be as detailed as minutes and even exclude entire agenda items based on the preferences of the person taking the notes. Again, they don’t typically follow a template and do not need to be officially approved. 

Why Meeting Notes Are Important

Why Meeting Notes Are Important

Taking meeting notes not only helps others catch up, but they can also help move your organization forward. If you are wondering how notetaking does this, read on.

1. Document Decisions

Although some people possess sharp memories, some people are prone to forgetting what decisions were made during a conversation or meeting. Writing notes can help team members remember the decisions taken at a discussion. Meeting notes can also be used to maintain the accountability of team members and are beneficial to refer to later on in the course of a project.

One method to ensure that all members of the team are able to refer to notes at a later time is to store the notes in a specific location to serve as a central source of information. tl;dv can serve as the perfect repository for organizational knowledge and video library. Making a list of all notes from meetings and agendas in one space can give important background to the conversation should someone goes out and wants to review what was accomplished by the team.

2. Improve Your Meetings

Let’s take a look back and look at how you’ve run the meetings you’ve had, whether with your customers (external) or members of your team (internal); you’ll be able to observe how far you’ve come from the very beginning if you have a dedicated notetaking schedule. Having a time machine such as tl;dv will help you improve how you coordinate meetings, talk about your agenda and then take into account feedback and then respond to improve every session.

This isn’t something that happens by itself. You’ve put in the time to find out what’s not working and improve the meetings over time. With the aid of notes from meetings, you’re increasing the efficiency of your process. It is much better if those notes go with timestamped videos of the meetings. 

Take note of the points that could be improved, and write down an outline of how you could improve it. You can do this a couple of times, and you’ll make a few improvements to implement to improve the effectiveness of your meetings and be beneficial to all participants.

3. Improve Your Performance

Nobody wants to remain in the same place. Everyone wants to do better at work so we can relax in the evenings and on weekends. If you work in a place where time is more precious than any other (aka startups), your meetings are the time to perform at your best, record the moment, create deliverables, propose ideas, and receive feedback.

Note Taking will be the best method to accomplish this. However, it is possible to uncover gaps and concepts to enhance your work.

4. Offer Asynchronous Participation

If any team members are not able to take part in the meetings, sharing previous notes from meetings can assist in getting them up to speed while giving them the ability to take in the decision-making process at their own pace. Certain team members might not be able to be present due to scheduling conflicts; however, sharing meeting notes allows them to take part in the decision-making process while it is happening. To do this the virtual way, get started with tl;dv and share the meeting recording and notes when you are done, just like Google Docs. 

5. Make Your Meetings Meaningful!

Everyone suffers from Zoom amnesia. It is possible that you’ve had a moment in a meeting where you decided to note down something to remember for another meeting or conversation. However, the next day, you don’t remember it. It’s likely that you totally forgot what you desire to remember.

It’s not unusual. Humans can’t remember much from gatherings. Unfortunately, memory isn’t the best choice, and it’s far from it.

Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist well-known for his research on human memory and memory, concluded that we all start to lose information shortly after having it.

Notetaking Techniques

Notetaking Techniques

Cornell Method

The Cornell method of notetaking involves creating two columns on your note pages. On the left side of the page, you leave a small space for writing, and on the right side, you leave a large enough space for writing the main notes. Now, this is how you use those two columns. The left side contains only highlights and key ideas you gain from the meeting. On the right side, you go into the details of each highlight or idea. As the conversation moves from one thing to the next, ideas will come up, and you can write them in the left column and have detailed explanations, views, and opinions on the right side of the page. This kind of note organization helps you quickly find ideas and their corresponding details without wasting much time.  

Outline Method

The outline method is good when your meeting has a written agenda. When the agenda is shared, you can start taking notes. All you have to do is use the agenda to create an outline for your notes. Use the key points in the agenda as your key highlights awaiting details when the meeting finally takes place. You can mix this method with the Cornell Method of notetaking.

Quadrant Method

The quadrant method involves dividing your notes into quadrants and then giving each section a label in this format; general notes, personal action items, teammates’ action items, and lastly, questions. Write down your highlights, ideas, and key takeaways on the general notes portion. Then, use the other parts of your notes for the designated content. 

Mind Mapping Method

You may be familiar with mind mapping from brainstorming and other ideation processes. It turns out mind mapping is a great way to take notes. It is executed the same way as you would anywhere. All you need to do is use the agenda and the meeting proceedings to create a central idea and create branches, along with various connections of the ideas shared in the meeting. Using a mind map to take notes is enjoyable if you are a visual person. 

Taking Notes On Virtual Meetings

Taking Notes On Virtual Meetings

Our world is increasingly digital, and more meetings are being held on Zoom and Google Meet than physical. Organizations are becoming more global and remote, making virtual meetings gain such popularity. If you wonder if there is an easy way to take notes right on your Zoom or Google Meet, the answer would be a YES. tl;dv is a simple extension that takes seconds to install. It works seamlessly with the native app, which feels natural. tl;dv is also a recorder and has you covered for all your meetings. All you have to do is click record, and the bot will automatically join your meeting with a side panel for you to type all of your notes without taking your eyes off the screen. 

What Is The Best Format For Meeting Notes?

There is no one best format for meeting notes. Some people prefer to take notes in a linear fashion, recording everything that happens in the order that it happens. Others prefer to take more structured notes, using headings and bullet points to organize their thoughts. There is no right or wrong way to take meeting notes, so choose the best format for you. 

Keep in mind that meeting notes are not just for your benefit. They can also be shared with other people who could not attend the meeting. If you are sharing your notes with others, make sure they are clear and easy to understand. This means using complete sentences and avoiding abbreviations or acronyms that not everyone will know. 

How Do I Take Meeting Notes Like A Pro? (Note Taking Tips)

How Do I Take Meeting Notes Like A Pro
  1. Use A Proven Notetaking Technique

You already know the common notetaking methods. Which one appeals to you most? Which one do you think fits your meeting? Deciding on one method can help you skip having to decide each time you want to take notes and move toward action faster. 

  1. Don’t Take Notes Verbatim.

Writing meeting notes down word-for-word will waste time as well as energy. A meeting consists of many conversations, but not every aspect of the discussion is essential to be read by those who are reading the meeting notes later. Instead, note the main issues that were discussed and the outcome of the discussion, as well as any next steps to ensure that you concentrate on the most important work.

If you’re writing handwritten notes, make use of shorthand symbols, abbreviations, acronyms, or abbreviations, to get familiar concepts or phrases to the page in a short time. Be sure to draw an explanation or a key prior to writing to ensure you know what the shorthand is referring to later.

  1. Notetaking Templates Are Helpful.

Using a note template or meeting minutes template that has been designed will make notetaking easier and save you the hassle of having to create or format the notes in the course of your work. No matter who’s taking notes, your notes for meetings will adhere to the same format, and every person within the team will be aware of the information they should expect.

  1. Designate A Notetaker Who Is Specifically For The Meeting.

If you’re the one who is leading the meeting, it could be difficult to simultaneously keep track of notes and lead conversations with other team members. If you’re in charge of a meeting that is important, you should invite someone on your team to take notes on your behalf. If you’re having a frequently happening meeting, change who will be the designated notetaker to give everyone the chance to participate in the conversation.

  1. Record Conversations And Transcriptions Using tl;dv

Since many teams work remotely, it is simpler to record and then share a video instead of writing notes for meetings. Make use of integrations like the Zoom and tl;dv integration to record and transcribe the meeting so that team members can be able to read the transcript in the future. Through reading the transcription of the conference, you are able to easily discern the typical discussion from the most important elements and actions at a glance.

Before recording, it is important to notify everyone during the conference call that they’ll be recorded and the purpose for which this recording will be used. It is important to share the transcript and recording in a central place to ensure that everyone on the team is able to access the recording, such as your team slack channel or Trello board for your meetings schedule.

  1. Make Sure To Highlight The Most Important Points Of Contact

If someone mentions something that needs to be followed up on later, ensure that you write their name at that date. In this way, when you are seeking answers or want to communicate with them in the future, you will know who to speak to regarding the subject.

This approach is also useful when two people disagree on a particular issue. By capturing both their views, you can use the arguments as a basis for the final decision.

  1. Make Sure You Share Your Notes From The Meeting With All Participants

After a meeting, following up is a good method for ensuring that the parties are aware of the decisions taken. If someone is absent from an event or meeting, they are able to catch up on your notes from the meeting. In addition, if any important items were not covered, your team will have the option of adding them to the notes for follow-up.

If you follow up with the stakeholders following the meeting, make sure that the document can be easily shared and available. As a team, make a communications plan to ensure that everyone knows the location of this data and what it is possible to retrieve at a later time.

What Are The 4 A’s Of Taking Meeting Notes?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to taking meeting notes, but the 4 A’s approach provides a framework that can be useful for many people. The 4 A’s stand for Accuracy, Action, Attention, and Association. 

Accuracy

Meeting notes should be accurate. This means recording not only what was said but also who said it. If there are any disagreements about what happened during the meeting, the notes can be used to resolve them.

Action

Meeting notes should not just be a record of what happened but should also include any actions that need to be taken as a result of the meeting. This could include assigning tasks to specific people, setting deadlines, or making decisions about the next steps.

Attention

In order to take accurate and actionable notes, you need to be paying attention to the meeting. This means putting away distractions and focusing on the discussion. If you find your mind wandering, make a note of what you were thinking about so you can come back to it later.

Association

One of the most important parts of taking meeting notes is associating the notes with the meeting itself. This means having a system for organizing and storing your notes so that you can easily find them when you need them. This could include keeping all of your meeting notes in one notebook or creating a folder for each project on your computer. Whatever system you choose, make sure it works for you and that you will be able to find your notes when you need them.

Conclusion

Taking meeting notes is a crucial way to ensure that you can remember what happened during a meeting and capture any action items. The 4 A’s of taking meeting notes can help you make sure your notes are accurate, actionable, and easy to find. Please choose the format for your notes that works best for you and makes them easy to understand. Use tl;dv to record and take notes that automatically match timestamps to your meeting video.