Estimated reading time: 9 mins
A Guest Post by Mark Delarika
Team meetings happen every day and in almost every office worldwide. The decisions that are made on such meetings can involve the company’s financials and actions, or even decide on the future of person’s career. It is a known fact that there are different types of team meetings, but they are all held for the same reason – to maintain or achieve great things for the company.
This is where your role as a good note-taker is important. Without knowing how to take notes, you cannot prepare for everything the meeting will bring. Believe me – bad note taking puts you and other team members in risk of making a mistake or missing on something really important.
Importance of Note-Taking
When I was given this task, I did not recognize the effect it can have on my career. Being the dedicated perfectionist I am, I still worked on my note-taking skills to impress the employer. Before I knew, the things I did when organizing those meetings were the key to getting my dream executive position.
Organizing notes before and during a meeting is a fundamental skill for your career, and here is why I believe you should master it:
Notes Help People Remember
Team meetings are very important because their goal is to discuss important matters for the business. With this being the case, no one wants to miss out on the important matters because they slipped your mind in the entire hassle of solving everything in an hour or two.
I remember this one time, I had an extremely important team meeting and I was assigned to lead it. My wife was at home with my sick boy, and I kept thinking ‘I have to get to my daughter’s play in time because my wife won’t and she will be very disappointed’. It was later when her play was almost ending when I remembered I forgot to discuss the new client. My team and I were supposed to have a live meeting with him before.
We don’t have robots to remember things for us, and computers are simply not enough to save us every time. Notes help us remember and memorize, as well as recall important matters while at the meeting. After all, no one is perfect, and we all have thousands of things we juggle in our mind.
Notes Keep Our Focus on Track
People talk on meetings, and your job is to listen. But, how often does it happen for your mind to wander during those long meetings, like mine did the day of my daughter’s play?
The brain is not equipped to handle so much information without a break, so you will need some help. Taking notes during meetings helps with remaining focused.
Notes are a Document of Proof
They may not stick in court, but the notes will back you in case there are some doubts about the things you discussed during a meeting. Detailed notes can show details about the discussions and agreements and silence all future doubts your team has.
How to Write Notes to Prepare for Meetings
When you have a plan you made ahead, your meeting is much less likely to suffer. Now that I explained how note-taking can change the entire course of a meeting, here are the things that will help you take notes effectively:
Always Use Pen and Paper
When you have a piece of paper in front of you during a meeting, it shows you were dedicated on making the meeting work. Reading your notes from a piece of paper is much faster and professional than having to open a document on your phone or tablet, find the note and read it to others.
The same applies for note taking during the meeting.
Yes, it is a modern world and technology is all around us, and you probably type as fast as you write. But, what I learned in my team meetings is that pen and paper are much simpler and less intrusive. Most people will see a laptop or a tablet as a kind of a barrier between you, and they can easily believe you are not interested or working on something else.
Call it nostalgia, but I really enjoy the old note-taking on a white piece of paper or a notebook in front of you.
If you haven’t learned shorthand, do it as soon as possible. This is still very relevant because people won’t be slowing down their speech for you to keep up. It is simply time-consuming and not effective at all.
In addition to shorthand, I used some other tricks like mnemonics and visual note-taking. These have less rules, and are great for those days when you feel a rush of creativity.
Use the Reports from Previous Meetings
Was your previous team meeting related to this one? It doesn’t have to be that one – perhaps you had another meeting that discussed the same matters a month or a year ago. If you can think of a related meeting, it is time to find those tossed-away reports and check them again.
If you make a habit of preparing a report after a meeting and keep those notes you take for future use, a little bit of organization can make this really easy. As I said, notes are a reminder and a document of proof at the same time, so have these at hand in case you need one or the two during the meeting.
You can even create pre-meeting notes after checking these reports. Note the things that need to be reconsidered or discussed again, and write down some good examples you can use once again as a solution to the company’s problems or a tool for reaching the goals.
Get a Copy of the Agenda
Get a copy of the agenda of the incoming meeting and use it as a guide. Prepare your meeting based on who attends the meeting, whether there are guests and speakers, which documents should be handed out and stored for future use and reference, etc.
Make an Outline Beforehand
When a meeting is set to discuss different ideas and matters, an outline is your best strategy. What are the essentials you should include in an outline for a team meeting? I wrote down a quick list, but feel free to add information that are important for your company’s reports:
- Who is in the meeting?
I find it hard to remember everyone’s names, especially when there is someone new in the meeting. So, writing down the names of everyone in the meeting has been a real life-saver at times.
To be able to find the name of the person in time, I check off the names of attendees as they enter. If you want to follow my example, get in the office before everyone else, and check them off as soon as they arrive.
- Date, time and location of the meeting
Details like these can be key to measuring the success your team achieved since the last meeting, and you will probably need such details to use notes as proof or organize the reports.
- Decisions made during the meeting
If you already have notes of the matters that need to be discussed, this should be very easy. Just make a separate column while preparing for the meeting and add the decisions and notes right next to those matters.
I use one column for actions and another for decisions. In this way, when I organize my schedule, I check the actions column and know what I have to do next.
- Next meeting details
Team meetings happen very often in some companies, and less often in others. Regardless, always note down the time, date and location of the next meeting.
When the Meeting is over…
Your job does not end when you create an outline with notes or write down the key ideas of the meeting. Once the meeting is finished, it is time to sit down and write the minutes.
That report won’t write itself, you know. And you will probably need it as a guide and reminder for your future meetings. As I mentioned before, organizing the notes afterwards will save you many headaches when you need to get back to them later.
In the very beginning of my note-taking challenge (I call it a challenge because at the start, that’s what it was for me), I couldn’t organize anything. My notes were a mess and I was in desperate need of help. In my experience, it is best to ask for a help from an expert than to ruin things, so I found a professional.
If you choose to do this, research for a good one first. Find a writer or the best paper writing service and ask them to organize your horrific writing in a well-written report. When you see how it is done, you can learn from the example and do it by yourself.
Here are some tricks I learned from expert writers:
- Write the report as soon as the meeting ends because this is the time when everything is fresh in your memory. If you procrastinate this, you are about to struggle with some huge gaps in memory
- Don’t be afraid to write additional notes to clarify the points you made during the meeting. You can even add a paragraph with ideas you have for future meetings, which you thought off just after the meeting ended
- Ensure that all decisions and actions are noted in a detailed and cleared way
- Summarize the key points of discussion and main decisions
- Edit your report until it is clear and concise. It needs to be easy to skim through when you need it in future
Distributing the Notes
My role only started with preparing for a meeting. The next steps were taking notes during the meeting, finishing the report afterwards, and of course, distributing these notes to the team members.
Note-taking is more important than you think. Without notes, you cannot capture the essentials for and of a meeting. But, even though it is a highly important task, it does not have to be daunting to the one performing it. I hope my article helped you start your learning process and learned to be more effective in taking notes for your organization.
Mark Delarika is a professional content writer, teacher, and successful blogger. He is familiar with a wide range of spheres concerning running own business and education. Mark taught in more than 10 countries all over the world. He is a business writer at a best writing service. He helps students and business people to improve their writing skills, shares his personal experience and gives practical tips