How to take effective notes during an online meeting.
Updated: Apr 29
During virtual meetings, there can be a lot of discussion, with a lot of important ideas brought up. With that amount of information, it’s crucial to take notes so that nothing vital passed unnoticed. Meetings can be recorded, and they often are, but it’s not the same as taking notes.
When you have an entire recording of a meeting, it’s very hard and time consuming to distinguish relevant from irrelevant. Minutes (or notes) serve as a sifter, keeping only what’s really important about a particular meeting. Here are four aspects of effective note-taking during online meetings.
Prepare well for the meeting
Interrupt when it’s necessary
Make use of templates
Take advice and feedback from the chairperson
1. Prepare well for the meeting
Preparation is essential for effective note-taking. It will be virtually impossible to follow agenda items well without prior knowledge of what the meeting is about.
The person in charge of taking notes should read all the relevant documents and materials pertaining to the agenda.
Also, he/she should know who the attendees are:
What their role is within the company
Why they are attending the meeting
What their expertise and responsibility is
All of this will prove vital once the meeting takes place.
The person taking notes should also be good at recognizing different speech patterns (even accents, if it’s an international team). This will help them understand the attendees perfectly, without losing any crucial information “under the radar”.
2. Interrupt when it’s necessary
Online meetings are live events and, like any other live event, they can have unexpected moments. This is why it’s important to be prepared for them, and to know what to do when they come up.
Therefore, the person taking notes shouldn’t be just a passive observer, but an active participant. In case something is inaudible, or they think they didn’t hear or understand something well, they are allowed to interrupt an attendee.
Also, they should interrupt when they think something requires further clarification for other participants. Usually, the meeting chairperson does this, but the person taking notes should also be allowed to act as an “assistant” to the chairperson in this respect.
3. Make use of templates
Not everything that is spoken and discussed during an online meeting is of equal importance. That is why meeting minutes should be organized according to their priority. Also, in order to be used easily afterwards, notes should be gathered in a logical, intuitive way. The easiest way to do this is by using meeting templates.
There are many resources for meeting templates online (i.e. here's a template for Evernote); the person taking notes should consider several of these and choose the one that is most suitable for their meeting agenda.
4. Take advice and feedback from the chairperson
The person taking notes should communicate with the chairperson before, as well as after the online meeting. Discussing the meeting before is a part of preparation, where the chairperson can give guidelines and point out crucial aspects of the meeting agenda. The two can go through the meeting templates, discussing the meeting by each bullet point.
However, even more important is their feedback after the meeting. This way, the person taking notes will know exactly what to pay attention to in future meetings.
Needless to say, the chairperson should have absolute trust in the one taking notes. This is important for both. The chairperson will be more relaxed and focused on the meeting, and the person taking notes will be ready to handle the meeting with confidence.