How to Take Great Meeting Notes & Retain Them

Since we’re taking more and more online meetings these days, it’s even more important to take great notes. It’s true that you now have the ability to record a meeting using an online platform like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. But if you’ve ever tried to find that one important sentence in a 50 minute video, you know what a relief it can be to have written notes. Especially since almost every writing tool on your computer or online has a search function. These tips will help you take notes faster, more accurately, and retain the information you get down.

TIP 1 – Take notes before the meeting

Say what? Yes, we know there are already a million things to do, plus the meeting is taking up enough time already. But the fact that you and others are spending valuable time in a meeting is precisely the reason that you need to start prepared instead of scrambling around once the meeting begins. A bonus is that it will help you stay on track as it proceeds. Jot down the basic logistics (OneNote is great for this since it automatically records the date and time of a new page) like who’s involved, why the meeting is happening and what the goals are, and include any specific questions you have so they aren’t missed. 

TIP 2 – Stay focused on the most important points

This one takes a little time (and some familiarity with your fellow meeting participants) to really master. Don’t worry about getting every word down. Nitpicking the details won’t serve you here, so just capture key phrases/decisions and who said them, as well as assignments and who is accountable for them. Listen for the four main reasons that meetings happen in the first place:

  1. Define issues
  2. Make decisions
  3. Capture action items
  4. Ask and answer questions

PRO TIP – As you write your pre-meeting notes, divide it into quadrants so you keep all four in mind as you listen and absorb.

TIP 3 – Remember that the objective is understanding what comes next
It’s not overstating it to say that capturing action items is the most important reason to take notes. After all, a meeting without decisions to implement, assignments to complete, or follow up communications is really just a social hour. If your “Capture action items” quadrant in your layout remains empty, it might be wise to ask why you were a part of the meeting or why there was a meeting in the first place.

TIP 4 – Organize your notes after the meeting
Really? More work? Yep, but this one will save you loads of time down the line. There are two major reasons that this last tip is so vital:

  1. Isolate the major takeaways and action items
  2. Increase the odds you’ll retain the information

If you’ve got outgoing, invested stakeholders in the meeting, then you may have lengthy notes. Scan them as soon as you hang up and highlight the major “ah ha” moments, decisions made, questions answered, and responsibility assigned. Make sure you particularly call out specific activities that need to be completed and who owns them. Aside from boiling down the meeting’s content, reviewing your notes dramatically increases your ability to retain the information. You’ll avoid the time wasted digging through emails and combing documents. And for anyone who’s been put on the spot to recall something that happened a month ago knows, having the answer readily available make you appear as a more competent and committed employee. Every little bit helps when raise time rolls around. 

If you’re unsure which note taking applications or software might be available to you, just let us know. We’re always happy to answer questions. Just reach us at Help@HDCav.com or at 360-930-6991. And yes, we’ll probably take a note or two when you call. 

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