Aside from very informal, quick discussions, taking notes in meetings is essential. It’s important to capture not only the discussion but also the key decisions and action items generated during the meeting.
Unfortunately, it often falls to the person leading the meeting to take notes. Obviously, this can be challenging when considering the need to stay focused and engaged. How can one do both at the same time? Generally speaking, it’s not a viable option.
In this post, we propose three ways to take notes in meetings.
Meeting Leader Takes Notes in Real Time During the Meeting
In this scenario, the meeting leader can display his or her notes on a projector or screen so attendees can see the notes being taken in real time.
Having to type while talking or pause to capture what is said will slow the pace of the meeting, but the benefit is that attendees will be able to object or correct something if they feel it was recorded inaccurately.
Meeting Leader Takes Notes After the Fact
Alternatively, the meeting leader could set aside some time after the meeting to record the discussion, decisions, and action items. This allows for an uninterrupted and smooth-flowing discussion during the meeting itself.
The downside, of course, is that there is a greater chance of forgetting or misremembering the content as time elapses between the meeting and the note taking.
Designate Note Taker Other than Leader
A third option is to assign someone other than the meeting leader the task of taking notes. It can be someone who would have been in the meeting anyway or an administrative assistant who attends solely for the purpose of taking notes. This allows for real-time note taking without disrupting the flow of the meeting.
A potential downside, however, is that the notes may lack sufficient clarity if the person taking the notes (i.e., an administrative assistant) is relatively unfamiliar with the subject matter. The note taker might mishear terms or jot down information out of context, for example. Additionally, it’s another cost in terms of time to bring someone into a meeting for the sole purpose of taking notes.
Effectively capturing discussions, decisions, and action items in meetings is crucial, but it’s also important for the person leading the discussion to be focused and maintain the flow of the discussion. Achieving both goals requires considering how, when, and by whom notes are taken.