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Rachel Jun 10, 2021 4:35:00 PM 10 min read

How to Take Meeting Notes: 4 Tips for Effective Meeting Minutes

MIT researchers have found that up to 50% of meeting time is wasted. Yikes. How do you keep track of the important details from the other 50% and learn how to run better meetings overall? Get better at note taking. 

The art of taking meeting notes often gets downplayed, but it's a really important skill. And it's not one most people ever learn to finesse. It might feel like a skill confined to your college years, but it also helps you focus and learn at the same time. Both skills are valuable on the job too! 

Don’t worry — we’re here to help. We’ll guide you through four tips that’ll show you how to take meeting notes.

What Not to Do: 3 Note-Taking Techniques

There are usually three methods for taking meeting notes:

  1. First, there's a "grab an admin" plan. Someone who has nothing to do with the project at hand, like an assistant, gets looped in to keep track of things during the meeting. This person has no context of what's going on and might have to interrupt the meeting to clarify things.
  2. Second, there's the "I'll do it all" plan. In this case, the leader might have to both run the meeting and keep the notes. Talk about spinning all the plates. Each of these skills uses different parts of the brain. It's nearly impossible to do both tasks well. 
  3. Third, there's the "every man for himself" method. Multiple people take sporadic notes, leading to a disjointed and confusing record of what happened in the meeting. 

You're putting your brain through it doing both roles, and usually one or both of those tasks will suffer in quality because of it. Let’s figure out how to take meeting notes in a helpful, sustainable way. ✍

How to Take Meeting Notes

How to take meeting notes: Office character writing

While seemingly simple, taking notes during meetings can be more of an art than a science. In the moment, what you’re writing might make complete sense. However, when you go back to review your notes later, you question your command of the English language (hey, you’re writing fast!), let alone understanding important takeaways. 

When you're meeting digitally, there are so many voices to keep track of that it's hard to tell who said what and when. And a brainstorming meeting, where people are throwing out ideas and coming to a decision together? Forget it! You need a good note-taking strategy.

Everyone processes and records information differently, but we have some tips to make your note-taking a little easier and more effective.

So let's raise a glass to all of us who have put brilliant things like "Ask Sam about this" in our notes only to realize later that we don't know Sam's last name, job title, or email. Those days are over. 🙌

1. Assign a Formal Notetaker for Each Meeting 

If someone is playing an active role in the meeting, don't task them with grabbing notes, too. We've all been there saying "Hang on, let me make sure I note that down," but context switching like that can hurt you. Doist defines context switching as, “toggling between screens, apps, and tasks in response to interruptions.” 

Someone needs to keep track of things live or by poring through a transcript later. Get the best of both worlds — assign the same person to do both of those roles to make sure nothing was missed. 

This person does not need to be the same person for every meeting, but every meeting needs a notetaker. And just because you're not the notetaker does not mean you can slack off like the 47% of people who don't pay attention in virtual meetings. Show up to join the conversation, and let Anchor.AI grab the most important notes for you. This way, the notetaker can capture general information like bullet point highlights. However, Anchor.AI’s transcript will help build that into action items after the fact. 

You need meeting and note-taking tools that help you be present. Here at Anchor AI, we believe note-taking should help you engage with the meeting in whatever way works best for you. That’s why we designed a tool that transcribes the meeting for you, so you’re free to participate in the meeting.

2. Get Context for Every Meeting 

All notes should include context. Things may make sense in the Zoom or in the conference room, but you'll lose all that context the minute you step into your next task. There are a few easy ways to add context: 

  • Use doodles or images of what the room looked like to capture info on what meeting you were in when you grabbed the notes. 
  • Use a template for meeting minutes that always encourages you to leave day/time/topic info so you can cross-reference with your calendar later. 
  • Always add a little more background than you think you need in your notes. 
  • Write the names of all meeting participants and the names of anyone important who was absent. 

You'll speed up your time dramatically by adding some simple context to your notes in real time. 

3. Use a System That Works for You 

The best way for you to retain information and track action items and follow-up details may be different from your coworkers’ methods. The system that works the best is one you can use and reference later, so don't feel pressured to take digital notes if you don't want to. 

Studies have shown that people actually retain concepts better by taking hand-written notes than by typing them. So figure out what method works best for you, because we believe that note-taking should be focused on helping you.

If you use acronyms to remember things, your own version or shorthand, or drawings/icons to keep things straight, go for it! You'll get better meeting notes because of it. Creating a custom meeting notes template like a mind map will make sure you get the same information every time. 

4. Speak Up to Recap 

Pro tip: If you're the assigned notetaker, prepare to interject around key points. This is your chance to grab major takeaways and keep team members on track with the meeting agenda. Keep your ears open for important details or decisions. If you don't have what you need, it's okay to interrupt and clarify by saying things like: 

  • "I'm sorry, but it wasn't clear if Brian is scheduling the next meeting or if we're waiting until Craig gets back from vacation."
  • "Before I jot this down, we're using Evernote and not Microsoft for this project, right?" 
  • "Want to make sure I heard this right: The due date for that agenda item is July 6th, right?" 
  • "Just to remind everyone, we've got other milestones on July 6th, so we might need to move that project management team meeting on the 5th if we're going to hit those deadlines." 
  • "I just heard you say that we need to reach out to team B for more info on that project. Who is our B team contact?" 

You don't have to grab word-for-word recaps, but when it comes to action items, deadlines, keywords, names of other people to loop in, or other important points, it's always worth the effort to slow things down to note them properly. You're there for documenting important discussions, so get great explanations for your detailed notes. 

How to Use Anchor AI to Take Better Notes 

Seth Meyers scribbling

Now that you’ve assigned someone to take notes at each meeting, learned how to assign a context and system for notes, and created a follow-up plan, you’re ready to take your meeting notes to the next level. 

Did someone say searchable transcripts? No more having to ask your colleague (who probably doesn't remember anyway) what people said. Searchable transcripts give you the power to revisit the part of the meeting you need, shame free. 

Whatever your note-taking methods, make sure your notes help you. Then, let Anchor AI take care of capturing the notes for the group! Join the waitlist today to get early access to Anchor AI for your meeting needs.

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Rachel

Never thought I would be blogging, but when you work for a startup, nothing is off the table! Excited to share what I've learned, what other people know better than I do, and sometimes what randomly pops into my head.

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