and 5 Other Efficient Ways of Taking Useful Notes During Online Meetings
“He listens well who takes notes,” said Dante Alighieri.
His words could be without doubt applied to team meetings. Indeed, taking minutes not only stores important details of the meeting for the future, but also allows the person taking notes to practice their written communication skills.
What is more, remote meetings, so widespread during the current Work-From-Home era, might require note-taking more than offline ones, even despite the potential ability to record virtual gatherings. On the contrary, not everyone has the time to re-watch the meeting. Besides, not all meetings are meant to be recorded, and as for those that are, there is always a chance of human error, namely the responsible person might simply forget to press the “record” button. Finally, with an attention span of an average adult being approximately 18 minutes, managers are encouraged to keep meetings as short as possible, thus reducing the options to ask for reiteration of the information in the process.
As a result, in parallel with the increasing importance of note-taking, there is an increasing demand for methods allowing to take clear, concise and, most importantly, useful minutes of a meeting. In this regard, below are the 6 most useful ways to achieve it.
1. Preparing for the meeting beforehand makes note-taking during it less stressful. To specify, two things that could be done even before the meeting has started:
It might be very useful to create a schedule for note-takers, explicitly stating who takes minutes on what days. Such scheduling helps to avoid an urgent necessity of appointing a “stenographer” moments before the meeting.
Another nice idea is to anticipate the meeting with the WWW-method. WWW here means “When” (date and time of the meeting), “Who” (people present during the meeting) and “What” (purpose of the meeting). All of these elements should go into minutes before the meeting to save time for more important topics on the agenda.
2. Typing instead of handwriting is faster and more efficient. Typing is becoming more and more preferable way of note-taking due to 3 major points.
First, typing is faster. On average over five words per minute faster than handwriting.
Second, typing provides anyone with the ability of searching relevant information in electronic minutes by keyword.
Third, notes in electronic form are better shareable with colleagues. While it is still possible to share handwritten notes, the fact that they can only be shared with one person at a time, as well as the misfortune of not everyone having a clerkly hand, puts minutes in handwriting at a disadvantage.
3. “Disruptive” elements might be the most important in the meeting. “Disruptive” in this context means “unusual” or “creating the most uneasiness”. Such elements might be the most important gears of the project, requiring special attention, thus is it crucial to include them in the meeting report. Examples of these elements might include something that incited strong emotions or excitement during the meeting; controversial or disagreeable things; new information; things that changed during the meeting; as well as things that were not done.
4. Well-written notes are made for the future reader. In particular, such notes should be structured and brief.
The simplest way to write well-structured minutes is to use bullet points. With an inclination to take notes in bullet points, a note-taker automatically adds some sort of structure to the minutes.
As for the brevity, a touchstone here is that anyone should be able to read the meeting notes in under five minutes and understand what the meeting was about. In order to achieve brevity, only important information should be included, “disruptive” or otherwise, the rest falls under the SKIP rule — Stop Keeping Irrelevant Points.
5. Recapping and rearranging the notes after the meeting helps retention, thus benefits the company in the long run.
To recap the notes after the meeting, it might be practical to use the already-mentioned for the meeting preparation WWW-method. Recapping WWW means the same words, but in reversed order, namely “What” (what needs to be done), “Who” (who will do it) and “When” (when is the deadline). In such a way, the minutes are forward-looking and actionable immediately after the meeting.
In addition, a perspicacious manager should always see to that the note-takes always have some time after the meeting to rearrange the notes, putting them in a more presentable order. Better arranger notes make them easier to read and understand even to a person external to the meeting, thus these notes could later serve as a useful pillar for future projects.
6. It is helpful to use a good note-taking software, tailored to a particular taste. Note-taking method does not matter as much, according to the 2012 study. To elucidate, during the experiment, the much appraised Cornell System did not prove to provide a significant boost in terms of productivity (in that study, productivity was measured by exam grades). What matters though is a good software, suitable for personal tastes. Ideally, such a software should present an opportunity to take notes for each particular meeting separately; be integrated with project management tools, like Trello or Jira, to put the after-meeting WWWs into tasks right away; and be equipped with special applications for presenting the information graphically, like a mind mapping tool or similar.