Taking better notes is a key business skill that will improve your communication with coworkers and clients while also creating a meaningful record of knowledge for yourself and others.

Whether you are taking notes for internal meetings, clients, or something else, it is crucial to have some form of documentation of what was discussed or agreed on. Meeting notes help create a tangible record of something that can be looked back upon when necessary.

What are meeting notes?

Meeting notes are exactly what they sound like, notes for the meeting. They serve as a quick reference to some important topics that came up during the meeting. These notes can refer to goals, obstacles, objectives, deadlines, and ideas that were brought up. They don’t have to cover every single thing that happened during the meeting. However, they should focus on anything you find essential that you and your coworkers or clients can refer back to, should they need it.

Why are meeting notes important?

Taking notes during a meeting is important for a few different reasons. Meeting notes are also important, as the act of writing or typing things out forces us to absorb the information we are hearing. Since we can’t write down word-for-word what everyone is saying, taking notes forces us to pick and choose the key information we should jot down.

Meeting notes help to keep track of attendance, decisions and future plans. They’re an excellent resource for anyone who couldn’t attend the meeting but must know what happened. Some meetings may be long and complicated, and as a result, if you are not taking notes, it will be easy to forget the details.

Meeting notes also help with accountability-if there is any confusion about a task, meeting notes help with this process.

The Difference between meeting notes & meeting minutes

While both the meeting notes and meeting minutes are important and used to summarize key points in a meeting, they are not completely the same.

Meeting minutes are a lot more formal than notes and often include the following:

  • A list of everyone who attended the meeting
  • An absentee list
  • When the meeting began and when it adjourned
  • Key topics covered in the meeting
  • Any actions taken and/or decisions made during the meeting

While the information covered in the meeting minutes isn’t that much different from the notes, it follows a more structured approach. Meeting minutes often act as a form of legal documentation of what’s covered in your meetings and are viewed as such in courts and by auditors.

What should be included in the meeting notes?

Items to include in your meeting notes:

  • Date of meeting
  • Attendees
  • Meeting agenda/ talking points
  • Important discussions/ decisions
  • Questions asked and associated answers
  • Talking points for future meetings
  • Meeting action items
  • Meeting recap

Tips for meeting notes

The structure of your note-taking is an important element to writing good notes. That being said, you still need to develop your recording skills to ensure the capture of the necessary information.

The goal is to keep your notes as simple as possible without losing any important details.

  • Key points: It is best practice to record a brief summary of each item that is covered on the agenda, as well as the outcomes that are discussed. When writing down these notes, try to limit each point to only about 3 sentences and be sure to confirm with everyone that is in the meeting the next plans or steps before writing them down.
  • Action items: as these items are discussed or pop up during the meeting, make sure to make note of the assignment itself, who is responsible for them, and their due date.
  • Ideas: If you or anyone else has any ideas, questions, or follow-ups during the meeting, include a section in the notes for these so you don’t forget. 

Simplify your messages using codes

Abbreviate words whenever possible. Minimum becomes min, maximum becomes max, quantity becomes qty, and so on. This will help with shortening the amount of time you spend writing. If there are important points that are brought up, make sure to highlight them or use a code when writing them down. 

Meeting notes will help you retain information with a higher degree of effectiveness. Unlike formal meetings, meeting notes don’t need to capture the entire conversation.

Taking meeting notes is an underrated skill, but once you do master the basics of them you’ll be organized and productive. Before heading into a conference room or jumping on a sales call, you want to remember to retain that information and remember what was discussed. Meeting notes don’t need to be fancy-they just need to be useful, it is about being able to summarize the important information into a few short sentences.

Meeting notes template

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