Improve Your Meeting Notes with these 4 Tips

Improve Your Meeting Notes

We’ve all have been in the situation where we needed to take meeting notes when attending an important meeting with fruitful discussions and clear action items, only to leave and immediately forget half the information discussed. Let me tell you something — it’s probably because we didn’t take good meeting notes.

Taking meeting notes can be considered an art-form. There’s a delicate balance between getting all the information needed and not getting bogged down in irrelevant details. In this day and age of remote and hybrid work environments, this under-appreciated skill has become even more important. Many organizations are operating in a world of asynchronous knowledge sharing, so it’s even more important to transmit information and make it accessible for those who cannot participate in the moment.

Good notes facilitate increased creativity, decision-making, and internal team collaboration, which are especially important in a remote environment. Behind this process is a rigorous science of taking in information and output concise and useful points that can be shared with your team or just used to help you organize your own work.

Why take meeting notes?

When taking meeting notes, your goal should be to make your communication as efficient as possible. You want to capture as much information as you can while keeping things simple and concise. Avoid messy, incomprehensible scribblings that don’t provide any context or information and end up being more confusing than anything.  A simple meeting notes template would certainly help in this regard.

Some reasons why you might find yourself reviewing your notes are:

  1. To figure out who is the responsible party for specific tasks.
  2. To gain more clarity on project requirements.
  3. To revisit or clarify decisions made.
  4. To resolve any disagreements or disputes in meetings, especially team meetings.

How to take meeting notes

Create a shared location for the meeting notes to live.

Whether you prefer to take notes with a paper and pen or input them directly into a project management software like Nifty, best practice dictates that your notes should live in a shared location so that other team members can access them.  You could break team members up into meeting notes teams to discuss all items from a meeting.

If you are jotting things down in your notebook, make sure that you’re transferring information to the shared location ASAP while it’s still fresh in your mind. You’ll experience fewer memory gaps as opposed to transferring the information at the end of the day when you’re more tired.

Set up your meeting note framework.

There are a few items that should be considered must-haves when taking meeting notes. By setting up a standard framework before any meeting, you’ll be able to streamline the process and be more efficient.  A meeting notes email should be sent out to allow people to prepare for the meeting. Essential items to include when taking notes are:

  • Key points on the agenda: Having a set meeting agenda is project management 101. Prior to each meeting, review the agenda items to get up to date on what will be discussed and ensure that you capture a brief summary of every item listed.
  • Action items: Clearly articulated action items — also referred to as to-dos, tasks, or requests — keep the team aligned and aware of the next steps. One quick way to document this is by using the following formula: [NAME] to [TASK DETAILS] by [DUE DATE].
  • Decisions: Lots of information gets thrown around in meetings — updates, new ideas, features, approaches, action items, etc. Jot down any outcomes and decisions that have been agreed upon by the team in case you need to reference them later.
  • Requirements/Specifications: Any requirements or specifications that are decided on in the meeting will undoubtedly need to be stored in a centralized location for the rest of the team to access and review.

Once you’re comfortable capturing the critical items, consider expanding your meeting notes framework to include additional information that can provide extra color and usefulness. This includes:

  • Discussion points: Not all discussions in a meeting provide the same amount of value, so capture these at your discretion if you feel like you’ll need to refer back to them in the future.
  • Opinions & debates: If a decision is still pending, it can be useful to write down different thoughts or discussions in the group to return to later. This also helps team members to remember why they made key decisions.
  • Ideas/ brainstorming: It’s always a good idea to have a separate ideas section to write down any questions or new ideas that come up and easily reference them later. This is also the section to include whatever small details that went into the decision-making process. Putting these in designated areas means that you can flip back to them without having to dig through the rest of your notes to find those sparks of inspiration.

While this might seem overwhelming, don’t feel like you need to write down everything! One thing to avoid when taking notes is to write everything down verbatim. Not only will you miss things trying to get every word in, but you’ll also make things more difficult for yourself when you move to step 3: reviewing and synthesizing your notes. With time, you’ll develop your own methods, like using paraphrasing tool and shortcuts for capturing all of this information while staying up to speed with the conversation.

Review and synthesize your notes.

Block 5–10 minutes after each meeting to read through your notes and highlight any missing information or questions you might have to return to later. While fancy writing isn’t necessary, you may want to use grammar tools to make sure it’s comprehensible to everyone.

If you’re short on time or want to ensure clarity, you can rewrite text to improve readability and structure.

Taking a few extra minutes to format and structure your notes before sharing them will make your team more likely to read and utilize them. Nobody wants to read a wall of text, so make sure that action items are called out and things are clearly labeled.

When we think of meeting notes vs minutes – the real difference is meeting notes tend to be informal documentation. This is much easier to read and understand.

Share your notes.

And finally, share your notes with your team once they’re ready! Meeting notes should be shared with anyone who attended the meeting, those who were scheduled to attend and could not, and any relevant parties who might want to be kept in the loop.  You could also use a meeting notes notebook to keep track of everything.

Make sure they’re easily accessible in the shared location and that any necessary access has been granted. Sharing notes builds trust and collaboration across teams and leads to more straight forward communication. Nobody wishes that they were given less information, so you can position yourself as a crucial team member by being the go-to person for structured, comprehensive meeting notes.

Nifty is an award-winning project management software that helps teams share meeting notes, update project documentation, and communicate more effectively to get things done faster and more efficiently. Our centralized documentation and files feature help you share information with teams and clients while tracking comments, questions, and new meeting notes. Try Nifty today to see how you can revolutionize team communication in your organization!