I need to compile a reference which will allow an end user to effectively take notes at meetings, and then transcribe them into a legible, professional report.  The problem I'm running into in my search is; results are returned which describe either academic note taking (Cornell system), technological systems, short hand systems or meeting minute how-to's.  I've found a reference on structuring a newspaper article, and another on how to write in active voice, which is exactly what I'm looking for in the end state.  What I need is the beginning.  Meeting minutes are close, but not in depth enough.  I have my own system, but I can't teach it to others because my brain thinks in spirals.  My question to the group is; what resources have you used to make you better note takers in the business world?


- It must be simple to learn (no complex short hand).

- It must be easy to implement (if the system is difficult no one will use it).

- It must provide a logical process.

- Pre-printed forms are fine, but they tend to become doctrine around here.  However, if you have specific headers you use to keep information straight, I would be interested to know.

- The system can't rely on technology.  It must be usable with pencil and paper.

- It must be acceptable to barely literate, knuckle dragging neanderthals, who also have college degrees.

I'm looking for specific references I can point to and cite.  There is no problem with appealing to authority, it's actually the preferred method, and would help me sell it.  However, at this point I will take any advice I can get.  So, if you've read a book or an article which has helped you, I could use the reference.  If not, any tips you have will be greatly appreciated.


How do you take good notes in a business meeting?

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I'm useless in this arena, and rely on a mix of typing on my laptop, audio recording, and my own language of visual (drawn) cues - arrows/brackets/flowchart type. 

I'll be curious to see what suggestions come in. 

i just write keywords that i know will trigger a fuller memory recall for me. and like Liam, i am visual and will draw diagrams and arrange the words in a visual pattern.

also curious to see what others say.

Thanks Shane for the topic. I suck at note taking and as such I have nothing that I can suggest but I plan watching for the suggestions. I need this kind of help personally.


Shane, Good luck. I look forward to your results.

 I've found my note taking in meetings suffers from two "problems", first I can't write fast enough to keep up with some speakers, which puts gaps in the information; second there's always that droning soporific presenter who never quite understands that you need to be brief and be done, but is excellent at oing on long enough for one's attention to wander.

To those who question why Shane's after a paper & pencil system:  There are more than a few venues where one can't use your electronic gadgetry. 

If you are lucky enough to have the list of items to be discussed ahead of the meeting I would put them at the top a page head of of time.  Then take notes.  If it is critical I keep a recorder going and note times periodicity. 

Then after the meeting I take the time to re-write the notes.  

If it is for a report send out a copy of the product to all in the meeting so they have a copy and can object or later when they actually read them you have your tail covered for them not objecting.

this is how i handle taking minutes at my church's council meetings.  it's easy cause i just add vote results to the agenda and rename it "minutes".  if i didn't have that, there's no way i could keep up with that kinda of meeting.  at work, since it is IT stuff, that lends itself to diagrams and curt jargon.

They don't teach lawyers how to take notes. They don't even teach us how to write agendas, and it's getting me in trouble this week.

If I were the secretary of a corporation who had to take BoG or shareholder meeting notes with pen and paper, I would go in with a template based on the agenda. [I'd probably have the template in my head; my boss would put it on paper; different personalities.] Even if there's not an agenda, you could fill in the action items as you went along. For each action item, the template needs a place for when the discussion began, each primary speaker and his points, each rebuttal speaker and his points more briefly, each exhibit or handout or the like, and the final round-up, whether a vote or the consensus or whatever, and the time the discussion of the topic concluded.

The trick I find with this stuff is knowing ahead of time what blanks you need to fill in. That way, even if things get crazy, you don't get caught up in the craziness, but in pulling the necessary info out of the discussion.

Not off by heart but why not go to the nearest university library and browse the writing section. There are always a few simple grammar guides for grad students there.

Strunk and White, The Elements of Style.

I've kept a copy on my desk (or cubicle table) for decades.

This is what I recommend when I teach report writing. The best book on clear, concise written communication.

The idea of clear sentence structure and matching verb tenses is universal (also where many have writing issues). The greatest thing about Elements of Style is how it stresses eliminating needless words. This takes most of the "fluff" out of reports and leaves facts and ideas intact.

It is a little much for what you are looking for, but if you are compiling your notes into a finished product it is an excellent reference.

Get hold of the paberbacked copy of Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics, and look at the Slash note style suggest there. It is a fast, flexible, and consistant system that you can use for anything where notes are needed. It is also a great resource for creating outlines for any writing or speaking you will be doing.


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