How to Take Meeting Notes Effectively: The Ultimate Guide
Wondering how to take great meeting notes?
Either you walked out of a meeting with nothing but a few words floating in your head.
Or, you scribbled things down on paper, hoping it’ll make sense later. But they never do!
The struggle is real. And we get it.
That’s why this article will highlight five valuable tips on how to take notes in a meeting effectively.
Let’s get started.
What Are Meeting Notes?
Meeting notes are simply notes that you take during a board meeting, team meeting, business meeting, sales meeting, or any other meeting.
Wait… isn’t this the same as meeting minutes?
Meeting notes are more personal and informal, and can help you remember important details and important discussions of a meeting.
These casual notes allow you to use your own words to create a tangible record that you can work from.
Moreover, you can get creative with them.
On the other hand, meeting minutes are the suit and tie version of meeting notes. Official meeting minutes are a formal affair that requires unanimous approval from all meeting attendees.
Another important difference is that meeting notes aren’t always shared notes. You take them for yourself as your own notes, but you can always share meeting notes if you wish to. Your call. You can approach taking notes in many ways, but a meeting notes template is the smarter choice!
However, proper meeting minutes are meant to be shared with all the meeting attendees.
A Note Taking Method for Better Meetings
Note taking helps. To help clarify things further, here’s what you’ll find in good meeting minutes:
- List of the meeting attendees and any team members who might not have made it
- List of team members absent from the meeting
- Meeting duration (start time and end time of the meeting)
- Documentation of as much key information possible
Taking meeting notes might contain:
- Quick references to important topics
- Discussions that take place in a meeting
- Objectives and key points for business growth
- Deadlines, key ideas, etc.
5 Tips on How to Take Meeting Notes Effectively
Your meeting notes may not be formal, but they still need a basic structure.
For example, let’s say you have a bunch of handwritten notes. The could be complex or just basic notes.
Then, you leave the meeting room after the meeting and forget about them.
And when you revisit your written notes a week later, you’ll need a cryptologist to decode what you wrote!
So whether you’re a university student or a top level executive, let’s take a look at some tips that will help you take useful meeting notes.
Tip #1: Grab the right note-taking tools
You can’t go fishing without a fishing rod, can you?
Similarly, you can’t take good notes if you don’t have the right tools for it.
Find out what suits you best.
All you have to do is look for convenience.
But here’s the thing:
- A physical notepad can get lost or clutter your space
- A dedicated note taking app can be a space-eater on your device
- A Microsoft Word document is kinda outdated and can be hard to keep track of…you will end up spending excess time on follow ups and sorting through a mess of text!
ClickUp’s Notepad is loaded with all the features you need to go beyond just noting things down.
You can use it to create quick checklists or note things from a brainstorming session. And when you’re done with your note, you can instantly share it with your team if you want! ClickUp project management software can also be used to track time and collaborate with team members!
Docs is another ClickUp feature for executing an effective note taking method.
Here, you can even Assign Comments to delegate tasks directly from your notes.
The best part?
You can create documents from anywhere on ClickUp.
Just click on the square icon beside the + Task button to create a new Doc.
Note: If you prefer shared notes, then Docs is the way to go. Each document is flexible and shareable, and you can even collaborate in real-time.
Tip #2: Get a hold of the team meeting agenda and meeting minutes
A formal meeting typically has an agenda that gives you the chance to prepare for the meeting. Taking notes is an art form, and the art of taking meeting notes requires a seasoned professional who understands the importance of using high-performing note-taking tools and meeting note templates, paired with stellar team communication!
It gives you essential information, such as:
- What the meeting is for
- The topics that may be discussed
- Who will be the attendees
- Deadlines, Due Dates, and Milestones
Use these agenda items to create an outline for all the headings and important topics for your meeting notes.
This way, when the team starts following the meeting agenda, you can just spot the heading in your outline and note things in that section, keeping everyone on the same page!
Simple, but clever right?
If you’re the meeting leader, create a meeting agenda for yourself and for the convenience of your meeting attendees.
Just handout the meeting invitations with the agenda to all participants and stakeholders.
For example, take a look at ClickUp’s Folder Template called Meetings.
In each list, you can add Custom Fields for more important details such as tasks, upcoming topics, progress percentages, etc.
ClickUp’s Checklist feature is also great for creating agendas.
If you’re using the same checklist over and over for a meeting, save it as a Checklist Template. You can even edit the saved Checklist Template in case you need minor changes instead of creating a whole new checklist.
This way, you won’t have to search through thousands of detailed notes templates or meeting minutes templates available on the internet to find one that fits your needs.
Imagine all the time you’ll be saving!
Wait, there’s more!
Create checklists on the Notepad by ClickUp for a simple to-do list of things you want to discuss with the next meeting participants.
Tip #3: Only note down what’s important
Too much of anything is good for nothing.
The same goes for effective notes.
Don’t note too much because everything discussed in the meeting is probably not really important.
The whole purpose of meeting notes is to take down key points and insights only.
Here are some quick tips for not noting everything down:
- Use abbreviations and keep sentences brief and add short descriptions when needed
- Use keywords instead of sentences wherever possible
- Note key ideas, points, and insights only
- Forget the pleasantries and digressions
For better meeting notes, less is more.
Tip #4: Include these meeting notes must-haves
Just like salt and sugar are must-haves on a grocery list, your meeting notes need some essentials.
Take a look at the ingredients to prepare perfect meeting notes for the most ideal outcomes.
A. Identify and Assign Action items
Isn’t the purpose of your future meetings to learn about the course of action?
That’s exactly why you must include action items in your meeting notes.
Here’s an example of an action item.
Let’s say Detective Jake Peralta from Brooklyn Nine-Nine has to get all the details, recorded information, and paperwork for all his cases done by the end of the month.
And everyone knows Jake and paperwork don’t take well to each other. Jake could have used Clip for audio recording! 😉
So when such an action item pops up in the meeting, make sure you:
- Document the assignment
- Document the assignment’s context
- Note the assignee (hey Jake 👋)
- Note the due date and important points; follow up notes
This way, Jake (and his team) knows why and what he’s working on, and due dates. The more details the better!
And we think it’ll be a Jake-walk for him!
When you define and assign the action items, they become action points.
But taking basic notes about action items isn’t enough. You also need to organize them for future reference. And you can’t do this if you have paper strewn across your desk.
How can you up your organization game?
Turn the action items in your notes into tasks with ClickUp.
Convert your thoughts and notes into tasks directly from the Notepad.
This way, you never lose them and can stay organized.
Seriously, ditch the paper notes already!
In case you prefer Doc, so that when you start taking notes, you can easily link tasks to them with bi-directional links!
This way, meeting attendees can quickly find the meeting notes from within the tasks assigned to them.
B. Important discussion and decisions
It’s impossible to forget the lyrics to some of those catchy 90s hits.
But the finer points discussed in a meeting?
They’re out of your brain before you step out of the room!
As a note taker, we’re sure you can relate to this problem.
And when it comes to important discussions and decisions, there are key information you have to note down.
These can involve:
- Adoption of a new workflow system
- Acceptance or rejection of a motion
- Changes in work allotment
- Change in individual or team roles
Keep a designated section ready in your Notepad or Docs for such items.
Whether it’s challenges, last-minute additions/alterations, recommendations, or decisions, note them down as they come.
Don’t leave them for after the meeting has ended because chances are… you won’t remember them. Be sure to follow through immediately and complete all of your meeting follow ups and updates to attendees (if applicable), same day.
One of the key note taking skills for any team member is the ability to identify requirements as they come.
Remember Jake’s paperwork task?
When you feel he needs assistance, that’s a requirement.
These can just pop up unannounced, like bad weather or a month-end deadline!
However, an excellent note taker must identify requirements as they come for meeting notes.
D. Questions and answers
Ask the right question, and you shall receive.
The answer to a forgotten question from the previous meeting may just help you solve your present problems.
You don’t need a good long-term memory for this.
Just good old-fashioned meeting notes.
Set aside a section of your last meeting notes for informative Q&A sessions because that’s where all the magic happens.
Tip #5: Determine how to retain key information
Whether it’s in a conference room or a virtual meeting, there’s something about leaving a meeting that makes you go blank.
Almost like someone wiped out your memory!
Protect yourself from blackouts (and duty-bound MIB agents) with a suitable retention strategy for yourself.
In this case, your high school teachers got it right. When in doubt, write it down.
Go team pen and paper!
However, you can save a lot of words with the right mind map!
Don’t worry. You don’t have to go buy a pack of sharpies to start mind mapping.
Instead, let ClickUp help you record information.
With ClickUp’s Mind Maps feature, you can get super creative and visualize ideas using colors, diagrams, and more, with ease.
Give your creativity a free ride. ClickUp can handle it.
What is the best way to organize meeting notes?
Relax. Create a shared document that everyone can benefit from. Note the date/time, attendees, meeting goals, agenda, action items, and future meeting plans.
Taking meeting notes doesn’t have to be super hard.
Whether you’re taking down effective meeting minutes or meeting notes, remember to keep things simple.
And while you’re at it, your organization can benefit from the right note taking tool that does more than just note down words. A recent case study even found that American workers would forfeit 10% of their salary for an easier work life!
With ClickUp, you’ll never leave a meeting with a question mark on your mind again!
Get ClickUp for free today and make good meeting notes a habit.