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How to Take the Best Meeting Notes

Your ultimate guide to taking virtual meeting notes: tips, practices and more…

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Whether it’s a team meeting or a client call, online meetings have become an integral part of the remote worker’s life. Since a majority of us spend so much time in front of our screens, it’s not unusual for people to forget what was discussed the moment the meeting ends (even if they say they were paying attention). But not remembering the essentials of a meeting can make you inefficient, which leads to unproductivity. So how does one stay on top of all their online meetings?

Enter meeting notes. 

What are meeting notes, honestly?

Meeting notes are the key bullet points you document during a meeting. They could encompass anything from action items to deliverables, to new ideas that were brainstormed during the meeting. There’s no right or wrong way to take down meeting notes, but as long as they’re well organised and easy to read, you’re good to go. That’s half the battle won.

What’s the real difference between meeting notes and meeting minutes?

A lot of people assume that meeting notes and meeting minutes are interchangeable, but we are sorry to disappoint you but that’s a myth. Meeting notes are informal and more of a quick recap of the meeting (think bullet points), and you can write them without anyone’s approval.

Meeting minutes, on the other hand, are more formal. The quickest way to explain it is as a ‘pre-approved documentation of a meeting that lists every little thing that happened’. They follow a set template and you need to get sign-offs before they’re sent out to everyone.

Which makes taking down meeting notes a game changer, because it’s time-saving and (conventionally) not bound by red tape.

What are the benefits of taking down meeting notes?

Yes, writing meeting notes can feel like a bit of a chore, but the benefits of writing great notes are worth the effort you put in. Think of it this way: it’s a way for you not to forget the key points of discussion in a meeting (not everyone’s blessed with the memory of an African elephant, some of us have goldfish memory). Here are some more reasons you should be transcribing a meeting as it goes on:

They are great for people who might have skipped the meeting.

There’ll always be some people who can’t make it to a meeting because they are busy or stuck in an emergency (or just plain exhausted), this way they can stay up to speed by looking at the notes and not scramble to figure out what they missed. A recap of your previous meeting notes can also help everyone properly feel caught up and ready to tackle the next one.

They document the important things.

We all wish we had eidetic memory, but that’s a superpower only few people are blessed with. Meeting notes help bridge that gap. They create a TLDR version of the meeting so that everyone can be on the same page. After all, memories might fade, but notes last a lifetime.

They are easier to search.

Plus, you can use variable colours, fonts, headings, and text sizes to stress importance or enhance organisation.

Inside the meeting note: an exhaustive checklist of things to include…

Before you pull out those virtual pens (we call it a keyboard) and start jotting down notes, you’d need a refresher on the basics. But don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for.  Here’s a quick checklist of all the things you need to note while taking…meeting notes:

a. Time, date and place

Seems like the bare minimum, doesn't it? You’d be surprised how many people forget the most important thing while taking down meeting notes. Noting down the time and date of the meeting helps build context while details of key projects are being shared.

b.Attendees who made it for the meeting

Very straightforward, but this is a great way of remembering the key stakeholders of a conversation when there’s a big group of people attending.

c. Items on the agenda

Think of this as the skeleton of your meeting notes. It’s a compendium of action items and who they were assigned to. You can start a new section for every topic that was discussed in the meeting. It makes it easier for people to understand them when they look back at your notes.

d. Questions asked and decisions made

There’s a very high chance that more than one person might have the same question during a meeting. Noting them down they pop up the first time saves time and gives clarity to everyone on the team.

The six tips to take spectacular meeting notes in a virtual meeting:

Don’t write down everything that’s said

There’ll always be parts of a meeting that don’t need coverage - the small talk and the discussions and all the awkward pauses in between - so you don’t need to write down everything word for word. Stick to the key takeaways, every meeting is a conversation anyway. When you jot down only the important stuff, you can remain engaged in the conversation yourself.

Transcribe the meeting online

Some employees will inevitably miss the live broadcast of the meeting for various reasons. To ensure that they don’t miss out on valuable information, always provide a recording for them to watch later. Another good idea? Closed captioning.

Here’s the thing. It's inevitable that your virtual audience will miss out on some information during the meeting. Like we’ve said before, most people have the attention span of a goldfish. Some are just exhausted.  Use the right tool to take down notes and send everyone a recap of everything that was discussed. You can even include answers to the questions you were not able to answer during the town meeting in the meeting notes. 

Choose an official note-taker

It’s only fair that things will get chaotic when everyone is scrambling to take down notes. Instead, choose one official note-taker. This way more people get to participate actively in the meeting, and over time, everyone gets a turn at the coveted spot. That’s what we call a win-win situation.

Write down important questions

If an attendee brings up a question, make a note of it (don’t forget to include their name) so that the concerned person can get back to them later. This is vital to avoid conflicts during a meeting (or go off track, which is a problem most people have with online meetings).

Recap the key takeaways

After you’ve finished taking down all the notes, highlight the key takeaways with a quick summary - this ensures that you recap everything that has been discussed while it’s still fresh in your mind. Things to include in this summary: all the important bullet points and action items that the team needs to track to tackle the next steps together.

Send it to all the attendees

Once the meeting is finally over, send out the recap as an email to all the attendees (Have you tried…Dive?) This helps everyone on the team, especially the ones who couldn’t attend the meeting. Your notes will help everyone stay up to date with the meeting without the risk of feeling left behind at the next meeting. You don’t need to stick to any format while sending out the recap (your notes, your rules), but short bullet points are the way to go.

That's it.

You officially know everything there is to know about meeting notes. You're welcome.


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