“As a leader, you must consistently drive effective communication. Meetings must be deliberate and intentional - your organizational rhythm should value purpose over habit and effectiveness over efficiency.” ~ Chris Fussell, Managing Partner at McChrystal Group
Whether it’s a strategy planning session, client meeting, or catch-up with your line manager, note-taking is an under-appreciated skill in workplaces.
With many teams working remotely, it’s more important than ever to be able to capture the information shared, and discussions had. Without good notes, meetings can be pointless and teams left wondering what to do next.
In this post, we’ll show you exactly how to take flawless meeting notes. We’ll also give you a free template that will help you take your note taking game up a notch (or three).
Items that should be covered in your meeting notes
You could try to write down every single thing mentioned in a meeting — but do you really need written evidence of what head designer Tim did over the weekend?
No, you do not.
Jotting down only the most useful information is key to effective team meetings. It makes your note-taking efforts more practical, useful, and easier to sift through later.
Here are the kinds of notes you should consider taking:
Summarize the key points from each item on the meeting agenda, including what was discussed and any outcomes that were mentioned. Try to keep each point short (less than three sentences).
The action items are what turn a meeting from a team chat to a productive part of your schedule. Jot down each action point, who it’s assigned to, and its due date. Even better, add these action items straight into Teamwork.com to notify relevant team members in real time.
Meetings often bring up fresh ideas, especially if you’re collaborating with multiple departments at the same time. Note any particularly good ones that you can follow up with later.
What important questions cropped up during the meeting? Write these down, as well as any answers that were provided. If there are open-ended questions that require follow up on your behalf, make a special notation so you remember to add related tasks to your to do list.
Decisions are the meat of your meetings. Details will slip to the wayside, but it’s important to keep track of what was decided, including next steps and any outcomes.
Types of meeting notes
The purpose of taking meeting notes is to stay organized and remember key points discussed. Following a methodology that doesn’t work for you, therefore, is pointless. We all take in and process information in different ways, so your notes should reflect what feels most natural to your unique process.
For example, some people prefer color-coding their notes, while others like to put things in a list. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
But there are some popular methods you can use as inspiration.
The Cornell Note Taking System calls for note takers to write down basic ideas on the right hand side of the page and key takeaways on the left.
This helps you quickly scan the most important points while still recording essential background information.
There are five main steps in the Cornell Method:
Record: Write down key information.
Reduce: Summarize key information using keywords.
Recite: Rewrite the key information in your own words.
Reflect: Figure out how to work with the recorded information.
Review: Look over notes periodically after the meeting.
This simple note taking method instructs you to divide your page into four sections with the following things:
Questions that crop up during the meeting
Ideas that come to mind during discussions
Personal to dos, including deadlines and milestones
Tasks that have been assigned to others
The Mind Mapping Method
Notes in a listicle format aren’t for everyone. If you’re more visually inclined, try the mind mapping method, where you create a graphic representation of ideas and concepts.
Key pieces of information are connected in a diagram format, providing a quick, birds-eye-view of the meeting.
8 tips for taking stellar meeting notes
We’ve covered just about everything about taking meeting notes — except for how to actually do it! When it’s time to sit down and start taking notes, use these eight tips to generate the best results.
1. Use the right note taking tools
Use the right tools for taking your meeting notes. We’ve evolved past stone tablets, through handwritten notes and dedicated typists, and are now reaching the next evolution in note taking technology: AI-powered notes.
The technology isn’t perfect — you’ll still need a human touch to turn those notes into something reliable, accurate, and actionable — but it can save all sorts of time, especially for the person responsible for taking meeting minutes or sending out action items.
These note taking tools aren’t the only way to do it and aren’t always the best option (see our next tip, for example). But if you haven’t taken a look yet, we highly recommend trying them out.
Tools to consider
Otter: Automatically creates transcripts of what was said in a meeting
Rewatch: Records, summarizes (via AI), and shares team meetings
Fireflies: Transcribes in real time and produces searchable text
Rev: Produces higher quality, human generated transcripts
2. Try taking notes by hand
Sometimes hand writing your meeting notes is the smarter choice. If you’re experienced at typing, you can type far faster than you can write. It’s easy to slip into autopilot mode when typing, where you capture what was said but never really process or understand it.
Hand writing notes makes you slow down, digest what’s being said, and keep only the most important details. When recall and absorption are high priorities, taking notes by hand may be the better strategy.
Benefits of taking notes by hand
Produces results that are already prioritized and summarized
This prioritization is something you end up having to do on most AI-generated results anyway, but your handwritten notes are already put together the way you want them to be.
3. Only record key meeting items
Next, don’t try to capture every single word uttered in the meeting. You rarely need this level of detail (and if you really do, the AI tools covered earlier are definitely the way to go).
Trying to capture everything will stress you out and puts you in that drone-like, nongenerative note taking mode. You’re essentially turning yourself into a typewriter, not thinking through what matters and what doesn’t.
By intentionally recording only the essential items, you’ll give yourself room to breathe and space to focus on getting them right.
Key meeting items to record
Purpose of meeting
Date and time
Team members present
Key responses to agenda items
Questions that were discussed
Action items/next steps
4. Use a meeting note taking template
Even if you narrow down your note taking to that list of key meeting items, it’s still easy to get overwhelmed in the moment or forget a category completely.
That’s why we recommend working from a meeting notes template every single time. Your template will remind you of the categories of information you need to capture, keeping you on track and ensuring you don’t leave any gaps or blanks in the record.
5. Make your notes accessible to team members and clients
For most types of meetings, some groups of people will need access to the meeting notes. For team meetings or huddles, everyone in the room likely needs access. For meetings with clients, this can get a little trickier.
We’ll leave it up to you to decide who needs access. The bigger issue here is getting it to them.
Businesses and teams used to print and distribute meeting minutes. Next was email, where everyone who needed a copy could get one. But both of these methods created static, un-editable notes and agendas, leading to versioning issues and worse.
Today there’s a (much) better way, one that works well for today’s blended teams, hybrid workers, and Zoom sessions. A new generation of collaborative apps enable teams to share and edit notes so that everyone always has the latest copy.
Ways to share notes
Team or space-based collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace
Corporate or departmental intranet
Project management apps like Teamwork.com
Read more: World class project planning software
6. Turn your notes into engaging resources
It’s important to take notes in the first place and file them away in an accessible location — but some notes are destined for more. Depending on what was discussed, your meeting notes could have the potential to become engaging resources that live on in more memorable, more visible ways.
For example, if you just solved a persistent problem, chances are good that someone else in the organization is facing or will face that same issue. It’d be a missed opportunity to document the solution only in meeting notes that won’t be seen by anyone other than attendees and the occasional interested stakeholder.
Ways to transform your notes
Create training materials to share meeting-generated solutions with a wider audience.
Turn meeting notes into process changes (or process change requests).
7. Identify areas of high importance that require follow ups
Any good meeting will result in specific action items assigned to specific people afterward. These are usually areas of high importance and often require some kind of follow up action.
Ideally, you never want to leave a meeting without a clear understanding of:
What the action items are
Who each item is assigned to
What, if any, follow ups are expected
Important points of contact
Related is the concept of an important point of contact. When someone brings something up in the meeting that might require a follow up, jot down that person’s name next to the item. That way, you’ll have a record of the right point of contact when someone responds a week later that they’ve taken care of a task.
8. As the note taker, write a quick meeting recap after the meeting
You’ve probably been taking notes throughout the meeting, but they likely aren’t perfectly organized or complete. So, before you leave the meeting room (or get up from your laptop in search of a cup of coffee), take a few minutes to either organize the notes you’ve taken or write a fresh, separate meeting recap.
This recap should include all the high importance items discussed, along with action items and assigned resources.
Key items to include in the recap
Main discussion points
Person assigned to each action item
Follow up needs and important points of contact
Details about scheduling the next meeting (if applicable)
Take better meeting notes with Teamwork.com’s template
Taking great meeting notes is at least as much of an art as it is a science. But just like any other form of art, technique and talent are only parts of the equation. Life is easier when you’re working with the right set of tools.
Central to everything, you need a smart template for actually taking those notes. And we’ve got one of those, too! Click or tap below to access our 100% free, no-strings-attached Teamwork.com meeting notes template. This simple yet powerful document will help you capture the right information in meetings every single time. Download the free Teamwork.com meeting notes template now!