For most professionals, meetings are a necessary evil. Sure, they’re a great way to share information and reach a consensus, but it can be hard to shift focus from your current tasks when someone calls a huddle. On the other hand, it’s easy to sit diligently through a meeting and listen to every point, only to forget important details when you return to your regular duties. That’s why knowing how to take good meeting notes is essential to your professional success.
Thankfully, the Evernote team is here to share their favorite tips to help you level up your note-taking game, so you can keep track of meeting discussions, quickly capture vital information, and follow up on it later—all without fear of missing any details.
What good are meeting notes?
Meeting notes are invaluable because they allow you to quickly summarize complex subjects, and bring clarity and focus so you can turn meeting information into effective action.
With good notes in hand, you can return to your tasks then come back to your notes when you need them. All the pertinent information will be right at your fingertips when you’re ready to start on your action items, so you don’t have to rely on your memory of what was discussed days, or even weeks, earlier.
Meeting notes vs. meeting minutes
Meeting notes aren’t quite the same as meeting minutes, which follow a more structured format. Minutes are formal notes that must adhere to a specific template. They also act as a legal document of the meeting, while notes are simply whatever you, as an individual, feel are the key points. Knowing how to take good meeting notes can easily translate into taking good meeting minutes, but the differences need to be understood.
Meeting minutes should cover every point discussed in the meeting—ideally, in the order it’s presented. They need to follow the same format as every other meeting in your organization and usually cover a specific set of information. Perhaps most importantly, minutes are typically shared with every member of the meeting after the fact, meaning they need to be easily absorbed and understood by everyone.
Power tip: Evernote can facilitate formal minutes the same way it facilitates more personal note-taking efforts. By setting up a unique template for your minute-taking, you can keep that task separate from your own personal note-taking. You can also organize any and all minutes you receive from meetings, making them easy to access when you need them later.
Common meeting note-taking strategies
One of the foremost tips for taking notes in meetings is to focus on the primary ideas, goals, deadlines, and similar data, then organize the information so you can easily recall it when needed. The specifics can vary a great deal from one person to another—what’s effective for one may not work for another—but a big part of knowing how to take good meeting notes is finding the right method for you.
Everyone has their own unique style of information retention. In time, you will develop your own system, but you can begin by trying out a few of the most-popular methods. Find the one that works best for you, then refine it to match your style and make it your own. Here are a few to consider:
- The Cornell Method—Divides the paper into sections and relies on cues for memory retention.
- The Mapping Method—Uses a visual representation of the various concepts to draw connections between them.
- The Charting Method—Divides the page into columns, allowing you to separate the information into categories.
- The Outlining Method—Uses indentation to organize key ideas, with smaller points marked beneath the larger ones they support.
Power tip: Evernote provides a variety of ready-to-use note templates to get you started immediately. They’re a great springboard into effective note-taking, allowing you to easily tailor them to suit your needs. And, if you have an Evernote Professional or Teams subscription, you can even save your own notes as custom templates you can reuse time and again.
The Evernote team speaks!
If there’s one thing the Evernote team knows, it’s how to take good notes. Here, team members share their favorite tips and tricks for keep tracking of all those important details:
“If it’s a recurring meeting, take notes from the bottom up so you can look back on what was said in the previous meeting. And, make sure you date stamp! When you conclude the meeting, be sure to assign tasks to your team so that everyone knows what they’re responsible for.”—Jenn R., Communications and Education Manager
“Create one note with your meeting agenda, attached to your calendar, and take your meeting notes below your agenda. Be sure to have separate sections for notes vs. action items for easy review.”—Gretchen F., Director of Content Marketing & Strategy
“Don’t try to write down everything someone says verbatim. Unless you’re a superb typist, you’ll fall behind. Summarize the important points in your own words.”—Forrest B., Creative Director
“When I prepare for meetings, I click on the calendar note and add to-dos for that meeting and key talking points to discuss. Then I put my meeting notes below them so that I make sure everything I need clarity on gets discussed!”—Emily D., Senior Content Marketing Manager
“Include links to shared documents and presentations. Include screen grabs of helpful slides that are presented so you can quickly refer to them later.”—Linda L., Director of Product Marketing
Breeze through meeting details with your notes
Whether you’re taking minutes for the entire meeting or just jotting down notes for yourself, proper organization is key. This lets you return to the notes at your leisure and get the details you need to act on them. With a tool like Evernote, you can learn how to take good meeting notes, summarizing important information in just a few sentences. This helps you focus only on the things that are necessary to know. It also streamlines the process and helps you stay on top of everything without missing a beat. Get your free account today.