Meeting Notes Made Easy

Show that you are accountable and dependable with these easy note taking steps

Taking efficient meeting notes
Getty Images/Sam Edwards

Whether your meeting is in person, online or a conference call they are an important part of the day-to-day operations of most businesses. How can you make them more effective and set yourself apart as a star employee? By taking great meeting notes and following through on the tasks and action items you were assigned.

Use these suggestions for taking detailed and useful meeting notes.

Bring the Right Tools With You

Head into every meeting with the proper tools, which may depend on your work culture and the type of meeting your attending.

 If you are a paper and pen type of worker, be sure both of these items are in easy reach.  If you prefer typing, prepare your laptop 20 minutes before your meeting.  Close out any distractions like email or reminder alerts and bring up a blank document previous saved under your meeting name and date.  Or if you prefer a tablet, the same advice applies.

Keep Your Notes Organized

If you have notes on the same topic spread over multiple notepads, it will be almost impossible to find them when you need them.  The main reason you are taking notes is so you can reference them at a later date. So again, if you are a paper and pen person consider having a separate notebook per meeting type or project.

If you use your laptop or tablet, create directories named after each meeting type or project so that you can easily reference the notes at a later date.

This way when an idea about a particular area of responsibility comes to mind, make note of it in the appropriate pad or directory.

 Or if your boss calls you into her office for a between-meetings discussion, take the notepad with you or your laptop/tablet for fast access to your notes.  Another good reason to follow this system is if you receive a phone call or a voicemail message related to this meeting or project, grab the appropriate notepad to take notes or open the directory to access your latest notes.

Take Notes in Outline Format

The most effective way to take meeting notes is to follow an outline format.

If there is a written agenda, each of the individual agenda items will be a major section of the outline. If you don't have a written agenda, each major topic discussed with be its own section of the outline. Number these individual sections to correspond to the agenda or simply start with number one.

All notes pertaining to that topic should be indented underneath the major heading. Don't try to write down word-for-word what is being said; simply bullet-point the main ideas.

In addition to documenting the content, make note of who made the point as well. For example: [Mary] indicated sales were down by 10 percent for the quarter.

Consider leaving room for additional notes in each section. It's not uncommon for topics to be revisited during a meeting. If you leave room, you can make your additional notes for the topic just beneath your original notes ensuring that all notes associated with the topic are together. 

Use the Note Header and Margins Wisely

At the beginning of the meeting, write the following information at the top of the page on separate lines, the date of the meeting, who was present, and what the purpose of the meeting was.

Think of this like setting the stage for when you start reviewing your meeting notes.

As you are taking notes during a meeting, there are two topics that require special documentation.  The tasks you're assigned during the meeting and questions that you want to ask at the right moment. 

If you are using paper and pen, make notes of your new to-do list items or the questions that you want to ask. If you are using your laptop or tablet, bold the question you want to ask and/or highlight your new task for easy reference.

Review Your Notes After the Meeting

It does you no good to take effective meeting notes if you don't do anything with the notes between now and the next meeting.  Immediately following the meeting, review the meeting notes and transfer any to-dos to your master to-do list.  

Are there any to-dos that would be easier to accomplish while the meeting content is fresh in your mind?

Do them now. Not only will you create a better end-result, you will save a lot of time. There's nothing worse than sitting down to complete a task and having to remember things before you start.

Did someone at the meeting request something from you such as a previously generated document or report? Go ahead and send it to them immediately following the meeting. They may need it to complete one of their assigned tasks and will appreciate your promptness.

 

If you follow the tips outlined above for taking effective meeting notes, you'll soon have a reputation for being organized and on top of things. You'll never show up for a meeting again without your tasks and assignments complete. Your co-workers will notice and your boss will be impressed.