note taking in meetings


A lot of us working in an information-intensive environment make note taking a serious job. In elementary, we were trained to exactly copy the writings on the board. Even without the presence of trending collaboration tools like GoogleDocs, we perfected note taking. This was our preparation, a discipline that we can reap later on for the rest of our career lives.

One interesting story I have heard from a colleague of mine who sidelines as a teacher at a university is that students these days use GoogleDocs to jot down notes. The thing with this technology is that anybody in the class can access an online document, write down their notes, and post and answer questions in real time. At the end of the semester, they will print the online note and study everything from there. This shows that the advent of technology helps us organize information more quickly and more efficiently.

Companies have also been spending in worthwhile team collaboration techniques like telecommuting. This works the same way as working from home although they specifically have remote workplaces close to the main office to ease commuting and make employees more productive. Teams can perform their daily tasks across different remote offices by reserving these workspaces via the Bird Office website. The effect with remote offices is that they rely heavily on online meetings with which amenities (e.g. internet, food and unique venues) Bird Office can provide.  As the need for online meetings has come full blown, organized, more traceable documents have also risen up as something critical to teams. In today’s hectic world where meetings can happen at any time in any place, note taking like a pro is what modern secretaries should possess.

Here are a few note taking techniques that I have learned so far in my career as a business analyst :

Shorten and simplify

Taking notes while someone is talking along the line is a one-shot ordeal. So keeping your words as short as possible can help you gather every tiny bit of information mentioned, but not necessarily too short that you can’t understand it anymore. For example, when someone says, “Is it possible for your team to fix the issue about the registration button not working on Wednesday ?” then your notes would most likely look like this : “issue registration button not working Wed”. While thinking of an answer to the question, you have already jot down the important information that you can relay immediately to your team. To shorten and simplify your notes,

  • Use keywords and short phrases.
  • Shorten obvious words like days or months ; in the example, Wednesday can be written as Wed.
  • Write out your notes in basic words that you already know.

Take it verbatim for jargons

Especially in the technology department, when taking notes from two colleagues who are soaked in unintelligible talk, your best bet is to jot them down word-for-word.  If your team immediately needs the meeting notes, you can distribute it the way it is as if you fully understood everything that was discussed in the meeting room. That’s the beauty of taking it down verbatim because you can carry on with noting down technical discussions and researching about them later on.

Organize thru software

Organizing information is the most effective way of optimizing note taking during meetings. Organizing through use of asterisks or dashes helps us to quickly remember information even without necessarily going through the whole segment of the paragraph. Especially in online meetings, the advent of using tools to take down notes helps us to order information faster and easier. Your default method to organize information would be :

  1. Readable headers to cluster information
  2. Numbers for steps or any sorted information
  3. Bullets for itemization random information
  4. Various font colors to differentiate between information
  5. Bolden, italicize or underline words or phrases for emphasis. 

Use simple systems for complex information

The most important output from your notes is its traceability even for very complex information. In business analysis, we represent information in the form of diagrams called the Unified Modeling Language (UML).  For example, a business process can be represented in a Process Flow Diagram, or a user’s interaction to the system can be represented in a Use Case Diagram. There is a lot of simple ways to connect information with each other. The very focus of your notes would be for all the members of the team, technical or not, to easily understand what you meant by what you have written. Although the UML is standard for businesses, you can still use your own personal note taking system.  As long as you’re linking together related information through circles, arrows and lines, you still hit traceability. After all, note taking doesn’t have a standard format anyway.