Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you don’t write it down, it never happened”? It’s a great phrase to apply to meetings, not simply because people can be forgetful. Taking and sharing notes helps you and the group focus the meeting on results, and keeps everyone accountable. It shows your team that their ideas have been heard. Plus, it’s an easy way to catch up someone who wasn’t there. And while taking notes might sound simple, there’s a bit of an art to capturing exactly what you need.
The biggest advice to the meeting host about taking notes is this: Don’t. You need to focus on facilitating the discussion and moving the meeting forward according to the agenda. Research has proven time and again that humans are not good at multitasking. And the more we multitask, the worse we are at remembering things. So give this note-taking role to someone who doesn’t need to facilitate or contribute significantly to the meeting. Once you’ve chosen a note-taker, here are some tips to give them to perfect the art of simple, effective meeting notes.
Tips for Effective Meeting Notes:
- Keep the notes to a high level. There’s no need to record the nitty-gritty details of the discussion or often who said what. Write down the most important points and don’t dwell as to not miss anything.
- Use the Meeting Agenda to stay organized. Break down the notes into the same “sections” as the agenda items.
- Focus on action items and decisions made. Don’t record all the back and forth, but rather the result of the discussion. This should include a list of follow-up tasks and pertinent details like deadlines, names assigned to tasks and so on.
- Make them easy to read. Anyone reading the note should be able to pick up important information with a quick scan. Try using a simple table with columns for actions, follow-up tasks, deadlines etc.
- Focus on follow up. Beyond action items and decisions made, note anything that may need a follow-up: topics that have been deferred, questions that didn’t get answered, ideas that were suggested etc.
Don’t forget, the job of the note taker is not over when the meeting ends. They should sync up with the host immediately after the meeting and determine a plan for distribution. Designate a note-taker for each important meeting from now on, and your team will thank you for keeping things simple, yet effective.