Our human memory is not perfect, and obviously, we can’t remember every single detail discussed in a meeting. In fact, it’s quite often we forget what’s just discussed just as soon as we leave the meeting room or video conference call.
This is why taking meeting notes is important, and although note-taking might seem like a simple thing to perform, it’s actually a valuable skill that is often underappreciated in any workplace.
In this post-COVID-19 era where virtual meetings and remote working are the norms, taking and meeting notes are actually more important than ever: it’s very important to keep meeting notes in an editable, shareable format that can be easily shared for those not in attendance of the virtual meetings, and here we will discuss some of the best practices in taking meeting notes.
What Are Meeting Notes?
First, we shouldn’t confuse meeting notes with meeting minutes.
Meeting minutes are formal and structured notes for a meeting with the purpose of being shared with all of the meeting participants afterward. Typically a dedicated person has designated the role of recording the meeting minutes (i.e. a secretary). Meeting notes, on the other hand, are informal notes that are taken by any individual involved in the meeting. The objective is for the said person to keep a reference to important topics that have been covered in the meeting.
Typically we wouldn’t need to document the meeting word for word in creating a meeting note, but simply noting the key points of the meeting. Although keeping a formal structure isn’t mandatory in a meeting note, it’s best for us to keep some structure so it’s easy to read at a later date.
The objective of keeping meeting notes is to keep them as simple as possible while recording important details, and we are encouraged to be creative to create the note in a structure/layout we like.
The Best Way To Take Meeting Notes: Tips and Tricks
Prepare Agenda of Meeting and Attendees
Before anything else, prepare the agenda of the meeting on the top of your meeting notes: write down the date of the meeting and the attendees. If a meeting invite has been sent before, use it to write down the names of the people that were invited on your meeting note before the meeting. This way you can simply check people’s names off as they enter the meeting room or virtual meeting rather than frantically writing their names as they appear in the room.
Use the meeting agenda (if any) and create a general outline for your meeting notes. You can then use each point in the agenda to record the notes.
Also, prepare a section in your meeting notes to list important decisions, identified challenges, and important suggestions. This is important so you can consult the note back in the future to really understand the desired outcomes of the meeting.
Manual Meeting Notes: What You Should Write
The most basic way to take meeting notes is to simply use pen and paper (or software like Notepad) to write down your meeting notes.
Arguably the simplest method (but will take the most effort) is to write everything verbatim, exactly as it was said. Attach each speaker’s name to their statements, for example by using initials and write down everyone’s full name at the top of your meeting notes.
However, you can also only write down the key points on the agenda instead of taking a verbatim note. Only record a brief summary of each item covered on the agenda, and the outcomes of the discussion (i.e. decisions). Write down action items (assignments, due date, tc.), and you can also write down ideas or questions for follow-ups you want to make after the meeting.
Always refer back to the meeting agenda so you can keep track of what’s currently discussed, and make it clear what needs to be done as a result of the meeting.
Using The Right Software
It’s no secret that virtual meetings are all the rage these days, especially after the COVID-19 quarantine period. However, not all virtual meeting and video conferencing software are made equal, and some offer better features than others, including easier and more intuitive ways to take meeting notes.
Solutions like Callbridge, offer not only a screen sharing and white label video conferencing, but the personal assistant Cue that can automatically transcribe your meeting as a meeting note, which also includes speaker tags, time/date stamps, and Auto Tag to filter and select repeated words. We can easily share these meeting notes (transcriptions) with other people or save them to the cloud for future use.
With this feature, essentially you can get an automated meeting note anytime, and you can edit the note later if you want to add additional reminders and other purposes.
Record Your Meeting
Another approach if you don’t have an automatic transcription tool is to record the meeting in an audio/video format. This is not an actual meeting note, per se, but some people might actually prefer listening to a voice-based recording which can be more engaging and can be listened to during their downtime like when they are commuting to work.
You can even set up a private podcast for your company to easily store and share audio recordings of your past meetings with the whole team in a central hub.
A key consideration when taking meeting notes, no matter what methods you use, is to keep them as organized and easy-to-understand as possible. With the tips we’ve shared above, you can now create intuitive and comprehensive meeting notes without turning them into an unintelligible mess. It’s best to prepare ahead by consulting the meeting agenda to prepare an outline before the meeting, so you can understand the context of the meeting and the desired outcomes.