Managers of every company need to hold meetings with their staff, stakeholders and business partners. When you discuss something, you need to put it down immediately — otherwise, you risk losing important information. In this article, you'll discover valuable tips on taking meeting notes. Plus, you'll find out which software you might want to choose for this purpose.
Meeting notes serve as the digest of the most important information that you discuss at a meeting. When all the participants come back to their workplaces, they can check this document at any moment. It should help them to prepare for the next meeting and recall the decisions taken at the previous one.
There is no one-fits-all format for taking meeting notes. You can stick to any technique that seems the most comfortable for you. Some people prefer using a pen and a piece of paper because they write faster than type. Others use their smartphones or laptops. They can either install dedicated apps for taking meeting notes or put down information in Microsoft Word, Google Docs or another text editor.
Below, we'll list the three most important reasons for taking meeting notes.
Imagine that you leave a meeting and someone calls you. You pick up the phone, you have a 5-minute conversation… and when you finish it, you can't remember what the meeting was about! That's a very common situation among office workers. If you have taken notes, you can check them to recall everything.
Or, here is another common situation: you check your meeting notes and discover that the next group discussion is scheduled on Tuesday. But your colleagues states that it's scheduled on Thursday. In such circumstances, it would be great to have a central source of truth. You might want to appoint a person who will be in charge of taking meeting notes. This team member should structure the information so that it becomes comprehensible for everyone. Then, they should upload it to a place where any staff member with relevant access rights can reach it.
Some managers are used to sending out meeting notes in emails. But it might be wiser to upload them to a cloud. If you store all the notes in the same place, they can provide context for future conversations. Plus, such an approach is more convenient for maintaining accountability.
Some of your team members might fail to attend the meeting because they are out of the office or are busy with something else. To keep them aware of what's going on, you can invite them to read the meeting notes that you've uploaded to a central place.
At a meeting, you might take short-term decisions. For instance, you can decide to offer a 10% discount to a certain new client. But some other decisions can influence your workflows in the long run. For example, you might need to stick to new etiquette rules. To remember these rules, you should reread them regularly. If the human mind doesn't come across important information often enough, it will forget it without repetition. That's the third reason why you should take meeting notes.
Here, we'd like to share valuable tips on taking meeting notes that are very easy to follow.
Here are the three most popular methods of taking meeting notes:
Cornell method. You create a large column on the right and a small one on the left. In the left column, you put down the main ideas. In the right column, you put details for each of these ideas.
Outline method. This approach will work if your team will be able to share the meeting agenda in advance. You can put down the key points before the discussion starts and add details to them as the conversation goes on.
Quadrant method. Your meeting notes should consist of four quadrants: general notes, action items for you, action items for your colleagues and questions.
Slide method. Before a presentation, ask the presenter to share slides with you. During the meeting, you can add comments to these slides.
Instead of using these methods of taking meeting notes, you can invent yours.
Even though using a pen and a sheet of paper is the most convenient way of taking meeting notes, you might still want to involve software in the process. One of the best solutions for this purpose is Bitrix24.
We've already said that you might be able to write much faster than you type. But this method of taking meeting notes has a second meaningful advantage: it facilitates remembering conceptual information in the long run. Besides, if you use a laptop, you might be tempted to switch to some tasks (such as checking your email). In this case, you risk losing important information. That won't happen if you take meeting notes with a pen.
At any meeting, people will be talking a lot — but key decisions will account for only a small part of the discussion. If you put down every word of each participant, it will take you too much time and effort. Your meeting notes will be too long and it will be too hard to read them. You should write down only the key points and the outcomes of the discussion. Your meeting notes should be actionable. Try to write down only the information that can influence your workflows.
If you prefer hand-writing, use shorthand, symbols, acronyms or abbreviations. It would be wise to create a legend or a key in advance and use them every time you need to take meeting notes.
If you use a meeting notes template, you won't need to format your text on the go. The information that you write down will follow a consistent structure. Your colleagues will appreciate it if you always stick to the same template.
The person who will be taking meeting notes for the whole team shouldn't participate in the discussion. Otherwise, they might get distracted too easily and forget about their primary duty. People who need to lead the discussion should avoid taking meeting notes themselves because they should focus on decision-making. Leaders should be sure that someone reliable will put down the notes for them without missing a single key point.
This recommendation should come particularly handy for remote teams. You can record your video call or conference and then transcribe it using dedicated software. Please mind that you shouldn't send the full transcription to anyone or upload it online! To turn the long text into easy-to-read meeting notes, you should edit it. Parse out the regular conversation, leaving only key points and action items.
All the participants should be aware that the conversation will be recorded for the sake of taking meeting notes. Otherwise, it would impolite to record.
Sometimes, you might lack time to discuss all the important points. Or, some information might be relevant only to selected attendees. In this case, it might be reasonable to include into the meeting notes the contact details of the person whom others can follow up after the discussion. This person might be able to provide additional facts, or share useful statistics, or answer questions. As soon as you find out that a certain person can be helpful for the whole team, you should ask them to submit their contact details to you.
Besides, two stakeholders might have different points of view on a certain issue. You can add their arguments to your meeting notes and ask them whether they might be ready to provide further explanations later.
Let your colleagues see your meeting notes. That's a useful rule for distributed teams. If someone misses anything, others can fill in the gaps with relevant information.
Once the meeting is over, you can send all its attendees a short email. It should contain brief information about the fact that the event took place and the link to the meeting notes. Team members who were unable to attend the discussion should also receive this email. If the person who was in charge of taking notes forgot to mention some key points, others should be able to follow up and add the missing information.
Even though using a pen and a sheet of paper is the most convenient way of taking meeting notes, you might still want to involve software in the process. One of the best solutions for this purpose is Bitrix24. It's available in a cloud and on-premise version as well as a mobile app for iOS and Android. You can try its basic functionality at no cost for an unlimited number of users.
Bitrix24 allows you to make audio and video calls as well as host video conferences. Once the document with the meeting notes is ready, you can share it with the team through the Bitrix24 interface. All your colleagues will be able to edit the document collaboratively.
Using the notes, you can assign tasks to your team members from the Bitrix24 dashboard. You can create subtasks, checklists and task dependencies, set KPIs and track task performance. The system allows you to use over 35 time, task and project management tools to increase your team's productivity. Then, Bitrix24 can generate reports to assess your staff's efficiency. This software enables you to turn the notes into actionable insights and use them to improve your worfklows.
Hopefully, you found this article informative and now you better understand how to make the most of the process of taking meeting notes. The information that you put down during the discussion will help you to better remember the key points. Don't write down everything verbatim, choose a meeting notes template and use a pen instead of a laptop. At any meeting, there should be someone in charge of taking notes. Once the document is ready, they should upload it to a central place where all the team members can access it. To facilitate the process of working with the notes, you might want to rely on Bitrix24.