How to Take Better Meeting Notes [Template Included]

Be honest: how many times have you forgotten absolutely all the major points of a meeting right after you left the conference room? We’ve all been there. If you're reading this article, it means you need to hone your meeting note-taking skills to make sure you can catch all the noteworthy points. Today, we'll cover how to prepare for a meeting, what to include in your jottings, and how to make them more effective. Also, we'll provide you with some free templates you can start using right away. By the end, you'll be ready to take great meeting notes that will help you get the most out of every get-together.

How to Take Better Meeting Notes [Template Included]

First, a bit of theory

Don't worry if you've never taken meeting notes before - we'll give you a quick rundown of the basics so you can hit the ground running the next time you're in a conference.

Why is note-taking an underrated skill?

People can be divided into two groups: those who take notes and those who don’t. And often, those who do this extremely important thing, do it wrong, jotting down unnecessary stuff. This happens because many people underestimate the power of this skill. Maybe it's because it seems like a simple task, or maybe it's because we often take it for granted. Whatever the reason, it's time to give note-taking the credit it deserves. After all, it's a skill that can help you in different areas - from your personal life to different types of business meetings.

What about the benefits?

There are plenty of reasons to love taking notes. For one, it's a great way to boost your memory and recall information more effectively. When you take notes, you're actively engaged in the process and are more likely to remember the information. Note-taking also allows you to organize your thoughts and ideas properly, which can be helpful when you need to review the material later.

All in all, knowing how to take records effectively gives you the following benefits:

  • Increased work performance
  • Active listening development
  • Deeper information processing
  • Memory development
  • Critical thinking enhancement
  • Tracking all important news and updates happening in your company
  • Maintaining friendly relationships with your team by storing and sharing meeting records
  • Efficient information absorption
  • Saving time

Taking notes may be hard work because this activity requires us to be highly organized, concentrated, and have perfect active listening skills. But the perks of note-taking are clear, so it's worth the effort to learn how to do it effectively.

Mind the difference: meeting minutes vs meeting notes

There's a big difference between meeting minutes and meeting notes - and it's crucial to know which one you need for your business.

 

Meeting minutes 

Meeting notes

What are they?

Meeting minutes are an official record of what happened at the conference. They can be used in court if necessary.

Meeting notes are an informal summary of the event that can be used for reference.

What's inside?

They include the date, time, and location of the event, as well as the names of those in attendance and a summary of what was discussed and decided.

Anything you find important and useful for future reference: key points, deadlines, action items, new ideas, and topics discussed.

Who takes them?

Minutes are usually jotted down by the company secretary or another designated note-taker.

Any participant can take meeting notes. Moreover, they can be in any format you find appropriate.

When to use them?

If you're hosting a planning or strategy session, for example, you'll want to take meeting minutes to ensure everyone is on the same page and that all decisions are recorded. You can also use a ready-made sample minutes.

If you're hosting a more informal gathering, such as a team check-in, notes will suffice.

In any case, mind the difference between minutes and notes so you can choose the right tool for your next meeting.

Is there the best format for taking notes?

There's no right or wrong way to take notes - it fully depends on your individual needs and preferences. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a note-taking format.

First, think about how you want to use your materials. Do you need to be able to search them easily, or are you more concerned with having a physical record of your thoughts?

Second, consider how much detail you need to include. Taking too many notes can be overwhelming, but too few notes can make it difficult to recall key information later.

And third, define the structure you'll use. Some people prefer using bullet points, while others like to write out full sentences. Some people favor a mix of both.

If you're not sure what format to choose, try out a few different ones and see which one you like. And don't be afraid to experiment - mix and match. Using combinations of various formats can be a great way to find what works best for you.

Practice: how to take good notes during a meeting?

What to include?

Obviously, you don’t need to write down every word said during an offline or virtual meet. So when taking part in a conference, concentrate on the most significant information and figures. Your records may include:

  • Key points of the agenda
  • Shared ideas
  • Tasks assigned
  • Important questions 
  • Major outcomes

Moreover, you can also jot down all significant and meaningful information that your team may find useful for their future needs or higher productivity at work. 

10 essential tips that will make meeting notes work for you

The key to success lies in a proper structure, a convenient tool for record-keeping, and our helpful tips. Have a look!

1) Prepare in advance

It may sound weird, but even note-taking requires preparation. 

Meetings, no matter whether they are online or offline, usually take long. Preparing beforehand will save your precious time and help to get ready for anything that may take place at the team meeting. In your notebook you can gather the following information:

  • Date, place, and time
  • Meeting purpose
  • Meeting agenda
  • Information about the participants
  • Major goals
  • Key ideas
  • Questions you want to ask
  • Course of action
  • Milestones & deadlines

If the event is informal, you can create just a brief summary including only 2-3 major points: day/time, goals, and some questions to ask.

2) Use specialized services

Did you know that, according to a study by Fellow, 51% of employees prefer recording notes individually, instead of using a shared document? This results in the team's decreased efficiency since their members don't have access to one source of truth.

That's why having a quick and simple tool for keeping records is a must-have for any professional. It will not only help you better structurize everything but also increase your team's productivity. 

There are many tools for taking notes, for example:

Each of them offers a virtual space where you can write and store jottings, as well as your own meeting note templates. 

But some apps offer users more than just a note-taking tool, but an all-in-one virtual workplace with modern features for arranging online conferences. Microsoft Teams, Whoosh, and Webex are the most popular solutions of this type. 

3) Don’t try to write everything down

Remember school dictations when you tried writing down every word you hear. Was it a good idea? The same concerns meeting notes. This note-taking method is a way to nowhere. In the end, you’ll see a couple of pages full of indecipherable writings. At the same time, writing too little is no better. Just try finding the middle ground. For doing this you may try to:

  • Keep sentences short
  • Use keywords
  • Divide your records by headings and subheadings
  • Abbreviate long words and phrases
  • Avoid adjectives and concentrate on nouns and verbs

4) Stay organized

It’s the most challenging part of note-taking. When you’re in a hurry actively listening and jotting down simultaneously, it’s so hard to keep your records structured. And it’s easy to turn your notes into messed-up scrambling. What can help:

  • Prepare a meeting note template divided into sections (you may try Microsoft Office or Google Docs templates)
  • Keep to a certain structure: you may use bullet points, headlines, tables, or charts
  • Post-meeting editing: add notes to your CRM, create to-do lists, set deadlines and reminders

5) Try different methods

There are many note-taking methods, created to help you stay focused and organized while recording information. Just choose the one that works best for you, for example:

  • Mind-mapping: it’s the most creative way to take notes during any meeting. Mind maps are colorful illustrations of concepts and ideas shared during an event. The main topic is put in the center. And everything connected to it is drawn as its branches.
  • The Quadrant Approach: a page is divided into four sections - questions, ideas, personal to-dos (with deadlines and milestones), and tasks assigned to other team members.
  • The Cornell Method: a page is divided into two sides - the left is used for basic notes, while the right is used for major outcomes. And the process of filling them out consists of the following five steps:

1. Record key information

2. Summarize it using keywords

3. Rewrite them with your own words

4. Decide on the further work with this information

5. Review your notes after some time

6) Record the meeting

The easiest (and for some, the best) way to take effective meeting notes is to make a recording. The only problem is that such events usually last for a long time. Fortunately, you can use Whoosh, which offers AI-powered cloud meeting recording. The whole process includes the following steps:

  1. You record a session.
  2. AI analyzes it and picks up the most significant moments.
  3. AI creates a short video mashup with all important information shared at the meeting.

As a result, you rewatch not an hour-long recording but a 1-minute video with all the highlights and without any information loss.

7) Be an active listener

We've all been there: you're in a conference, trying to focus on what's being said but your mind keeps wandering. Maybe you're thinking about what you need to do for the rest of the day, or maybe you're just bored. Either way, it can be tough to stay engaged in a long meeting. Especially if you've just already had 3 of them. By the way, according to the recent data, 37% of remote employees spend 4 to 12 hours per week on conferences. Shocking figures, aren't they?

One way to stay engaged is to turn on active listening. This means not only hearing what is being said but also taking note of the emotions and body language of the speakers. This will help you capture the tone of the conversation, as well as the key points.

8) Ask questions

If you find yourself struggling to keep up with the discussion during meetups, or if your notes tend to be very brief and lack detail, try asking questions. By doing that, you can prompt the speaker to elaborate on their points, which will help you understand the discussion and take more informative notes.

Of course, you don't want to ask too many questions or interrupt the speaker too often. But a few well-timed questions can make a huge difference in the quality of your records.

9) Review your notes

After you've finished your notes, it's always a good idea to review what you've written down. This will help you organize your thoughts and make sure you captured all the important information from the meeting.

Here are a few tips that will help:

  • Try to review your notes soon after the meeting. Thus, you'll better remember what was discussed and capture any additional thoughts or ideas.
  • Highlight the key points of the discussion. This will help quickly identify the most vital information about the event.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything you need to follow up on. This can help you stay on top of action items and ensure you're fulfilling your commitments.
  • Make any changes or additions to your notes, if needed.

10) Share the results

If you work in a team, and some of your coworkers weren't able to participate in the event, become their life saver and share your notes with them. Even if everyone is present, there may be people who need some information from the past event. Imagine how grateful they will be to you! And they'll be glad to return the favor when you need it.

5 templates that will make your life 10x easier

Option 1: General example for short meetings

 

DATE:



NOTES:

PURPOSE:



PARTICIPANTS:



AGENDA ITEMS:



FOLLOW UP:



ACTION ITEMS:



 

Option 2: Problems & solutions

 

DATE

 

TIME

 

LOCATION

 

 

PROBLEM

POSSIBLE SOLUTION

  •  
 
  •  
 
  •  
 
  •  
 
  •  
 

 

NOTES:

 

 

Option 3: Planning

 

DATE: 

TIME:

LOCATION:

SUBJECT:



AGENDA:

ATTENDEES:

  •  
 
  •  
 
  •  
 
  •  
 
  •  
 
  •  
 

 

ACTION ITEM:

IN CHARGE:

DEADLINE:

  •  
   
  •  
   
  •  
   
  •  
   
  •  
   
  •  
   
  •  
   
  •  
   

Option 4: Goal-setting

 

DATE:

ATTENDEES:

AGENDA:

 

LAST MEETING FOLLOW-UP:

 



NEW TARGETS:




MEETING NOTES:




 

Option 5: For those who want to jot down all the details  

 

MEETING INFORMATION

Meeting:

Meeting Host:                                                                          

Attendees:

Date:

Time:

Meeting Goals:

  •  
  •  
  •  

AGENDA ITEM 1

Agenda Topic:

Presenter:

Discussion:

Conclusions:

Action Items:

  •  
  •  
  •  

Person Responsible:

Deadline:

AGENDA ITEM 2

Agenda Topic:

Presenter:

Discussion:

Conclusions:

Action Items:

  •  
  •  
  •  

Person Responsible:

Deadline:

AGENDA ITEM 3

Agenda Topic:

Presenter:

Discussion:

Conclusions:

Action Items:

  •  
  •  
  •  

Person Responsible:

Deadline:

Bonus: Get more templates for various meeting types

Prepare your notebook (real or virtual)

Whether you’re taking part in a face-to-face gathering with your team, or a virtual conference with the whole company staff, it’s crucial to take notes during this event and do this in a properly structured format. The tips prepared by our team can help you perform this task and won’t let you turn your notebook into an illegible mess. 

Just remember: do not try to write everything, keep your records structured, and download an app that will make the note-taking process easier and more enjoyable. For example, Whoosh.

Good luck!

Subscribe to our newsletter