Love them or loathe them, meetings are an essential part of our working lives.
Yet the real advantage of scheduling time to speak with your colleagues comes from well-organised meeting note-taking.
Most businesses average 8 meetings per week. And with over 40% running between 30 to 60 minutes each, most employees are spending large amounts of time stuck in discussions.
But without effective meeting note-taking processes, companies risk wasting time and draining staff resources.
Instead, by taking a strategic approach, a note-taker can get good results from a meeting. And we want to show you how to take notes during meetings by offering 7 ways to boost your meeting note-taking skills.
Why is it important to take effective meeting notes?
Face-to-face meetings allow attendees to discuss and review projects and make decisions on the next steps to take.
But once a meeting is over, details are often overlooked, forgotten, or misunderstood.
Lack of meeting organisation is one thing. But without effective meeting note-taking, discussions risk misinterpretation and can lead to confusion.
For example, one report suggested unclear actions from poorly organised meetings led to confusion in almost half of all attendees.
Plus, stats show around 40% of new information is forgotten after the first 24 hours.
So if it’s not written down, it probably never happened. Right?
Tips for effective meeting note-taking
To remedy ineffective meetings and increase your chances of successful outcomes, it’s best to take a strategic, well-planned approach to meeting note-taking.
So here are the most useful ways you can do that.
1. Select your minute-taking method
Knowing how to take notes during meetings can make all the difference to your chances of success. And it may even help to consider which type of learner you are first.
The Cornell Method involves note-takers dividing their pages into three sections:
- One slim column on the left: for writing key ideas, headings or keywords.
- One large column on the right: this section allows for more detailed notes that link to each heading or summary word in the left-side column.
- A horizontal box underneath both: use this to summarise and note down the main outcomes or actions.
Perhaps the most common form of note-taking, the outline method uses the meeting agenda as its structure.
By outlining key discussion points in the meeting agenda, note-takers can use the agenda structure to note down minutes and action points under each heading. This way, you can write bullet points underneath each heading and track discussions in line with the agenda.
This method takes a more simplistic but very effective approach to task management. By separating notes into four quadrants, note-takers can organise themselves as they go, rather than having to sort them into a sensible structure afterwards.
- General notes: Use this as your main section for note-taking
- Questions: Use this to note down any questions you may have during the meeting
- Actions for others: Creates a to-do list for participants
- Actions for me: Creates a to-do list for you
2. Prepare in advance
To get the most out of any meeting, you must clarify goals from the outset. These may include questions such as:
What’s the purpose?
Who should attend?
What could success look like?
Consulting firm McKinsey suggest the typical outcome of any ‘decision-making meeting’, for example, should be a specific and agreed action. They also suggest this type of meeting should contain no more than 8 attendees.
To gain clarity on the purpose and perceived outcomes of your meeting, make sure to schedule time with the chairperson in advance.
3. Get good on the detail
Well-run meetings and their follow up actions, rely on accurate and precise information.
So, make sure your agenda and notes cover the following points:
- Set timings: Help the chairperson stay on track and make sure everyone knows when the meeting starts and finishes
- Note attendees: Note who joined the meeting and who didn’t
- Assign tasks: Assign action points to everyone, even those who couldn’t attend
- Agree to deadlines: Make individual deadlines and general milestones clear
4. Record your meetings
Pressing ‘record’ is the ultimate way to ensure your meeting note-taking is precise and on-point.
That’s because, while it won’t do the work for you, it should leave you with exactly what was said and by whom.
That being said, it’s important to build trust with your meeting attendees. And you can do this by letting them know you’ll be recording the meeting, but not sharing the recording. Instead, use it to present notes in the most helpful, efficient and organised way.
You can use Caption.Ed to record your meetings and generate a transcript from your calls. You can then revisit your transcripts at a later date to revise what was said during the meeting. Handy.
Learn how to use Caption.Ed for online meetings here and check out the video below to see an example of a user reviewing a transcript.
5. Create codes
Meeting notes should present a summary of bullet points, actions and tasks to work from.
So, rather than copy down every point made verbatim, think about how you could use abbreviations, symbols or highlights to make your notes easier to refer back to.
Note-taking software can help you to do this too.
After all, meetings run quick, are often complex and need a precise approach to note-taking to succeed. So it’s important to know how to take notes during meetings of all shapes and sizes.
6. Take a neutral stance
Strong note-taking relies on accurate depictions of each meeting.
So, as the note-taker, make sure that you capture what was said and not how it was said.
For example, it’s best to avoid judging anything as good or bad. Instead, hold the middle ground and serve the meeting agenda, not your own.
Even if a member of the meeting seems angry, emotional, or tense, there’s no need to highlight this in the notes.
Try to keep things objective, transparent and unbiased towards any members of the group.
7. Take control
Since it’s very important to ensure accuracy in your notes, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on any points made during the meeting.
It’s important to listen well, but it’s also fair to ask for clarity on any points made. And while it may feel uncomfortable to assert yourself this way, your meeting attendees will appreciate your efforts to provide them with the clearest reflection of outcomes.
Strategies and tools are the best ways to capture effective meeting notes
Effective meeting note-taking isn’t so hard. But it does require the right strategies, preparation and planning to work. Just remember those meetings you were in that were chaotic, messy or unplanned. While they can sometimes open the door to new insights and innovations, without effective meeting note-taking any progress can slip away or get lost.
So now you’ll know how to take notes during meetings.
If you’d like to use Caption.Ed to capture all the details and take your note-taking to the next level, try it out at your next upcoming meeting (for free)!