Meeting Notes: How to Write them Well

Have you ever been overwhelmed during a meeting because you couldn’t keep up with the discussion and still take notes? Or, have you gotten frustrated because you couldn’t understand or even read your meeting notes afterwards. If you’re not accustomed to taking notes, it’s important to learn how to write clear, organized, and detailed notes for every meeting from brainstorming sessions to board meetings.

Note taking is important because it helps you keep track of tasks and important information you’ll need to remember later. But, it can also be a little frustrating, especially if you aren’t a fast writer or if you don’t know what information to write down. To help you get the most out of the notes you take at your next meeting, follow these easy tips.

Remember the 5 W’s. Your notes should contain general information you can use as a reference when necessary. So, think like a reporter and don’t forget the 5 W’s when you take meeting notes.

  1. Who. Write down who was present at the meeting so you know where to go if you have questions or follow up information.
  2. What. Write down what the meeting is regarding.
  3. When. Take note of when the meeting took place, including date and time. This is especially important when you know you’ll have multiple meetings for an ongoing project.
  4. Where. Briefly note where the meeting was held to help jog your memory for details about the meeting later.
  5. Why. State why the meeting is important, including the purpose and determined goals.
    Having the following information may also be useful to you in case you have to give an account of the meeting, need to inform an absent team member about the details discussed, or when you need to refer back to the goals and objectives.

Focus on what’s important. In order to take clear and detailed notes, you need to understand what works for you. Being conscious of your writing pace will help you record the more important things as opposed to irrelevant things. It is impossible to catch everything that is discussed in a meeting, so you should listen more than you write. By carefully listening, you will ensure that you take down the most relevant information. Be sure to write things you know you will need to act upon later or specific information like dates, times, names, and places.

Use action words to write your notes and symbols. If the notes are for your personal use only, you don’t necessarily have to write full sentences. As long as you can understand them later, you’re successful. For example, if you were reminded of a task you were previously given via e-mail, instead of writing the task all over again, you can make a little note to yourself to check your e-mail. This will save you the time of writing too much down and becoming overwhelmed.

In addition to using action words, come up with a group of symbols to highlight information you don’t want to miss. Try using a star to mark information you need to remember or a checkbox or action items that you need to attend to. This will make your notes more organized and easier to understand later.

Don’t forget your ideas and questions. When taking notes, write any ideas or questions you may have in a designated section. This is important so you don’t forget what you want to say. It will also prevent you from interrupting or cutting somebody off during the meeting. By making notes of questions and ideas, you will remember them when it’s your turn to speak.

Create a to-do list. Have a to-do list in your notes. Specify who is responsible for accomplishing what tasks and the deadlines for each task. Don’t forget to add your action item symbol when the task concerns you. After the meeting is over, make sure to insert your tasks into your calendar or schedule so you can keep track of your to-do list in one location. This will help you actually remember to accomplish them.

Taking notes doesn’t have to be a pain. Just remember to cover important topics and write in a clear and succinct manner.

Comments

  1. Stephanie LH Calahan aka @StephCalahan

    Excellent tips. I’d also add that you should have a consistent location at your desk for the notes and follow ups when they are complete. Many people take fabulous notes but do not reference them and end up missing important action items.
    To your success!
    Stephanie

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