Capturing meeting notes

Recently in the Unclutterer Forums, reader Knyghtmaire started the interesting thread “Capturing Meeting Notes” and asked:

I am curious how other [people] capture their meeting notes to reference later.

The answers that follow are wonderful and shed light on the different ways we all work. A few of the highlights:

HappyDogs: Frequently, we end up mapping out something on the white board, then, since none of us want to rewrite it, we take a photo of it.

AJ: How about a pen that records your writing and puts it into a PDF? A pen that also records (if you want) and co-ordinates the timing of your notes with the voice recording?

I haven’t looked into prices because it’s not available where I live, but the SmartPen looks like a really cool gadget.

rachel_413: What I do for important notes, is I scan them and put them in the computer folder for that particular project, usually in a subfolder called Basis. Although scanning your notes is an extra work step, it gets rid of paper files, and it’s important to have records for other people who work on the project, or may have to follow your trail long after you’ve moved on to other projects or companies.

I will type notes directly into a text file and then save the file in the corresponding client folder. If the notes will need to be referenced at a point when I’m not at my computer, I’ll upload the file to Evernote. If someone is interested in reading my notes, I’ll simply e-mail them. I like the idea of linking the notes somehow to the event that was scheduled on my digital calendar, but I’ve never actually done this. Anyone know how to do this with Google Calendar?

How do you capture meeting notes? Share your ideas in the comments to this post or join in the discussion on the Unclutterer Forums.

15 Comments for “Capturing meeting notes”

  1. posted by Rachelskirts on

    There is a Labs feature on Google Calendar that allows you to add an attachment to any event that you create.

  2. posted by Denny Daugherty on

    I use Evernote exclusively for all kinds of notes including meeting notes. I have found it to be extremely effective. I’m able to search and find notes from any meeting I’ve been in for the last 8 months instantly which definitely comes in handy.

    Sometimes if I need to do any preparation, I’ll create a note in Evernote prior to the meeting and copy in any background information, screen shots or anything else that I might need to reference during the meeting.

    Evernote combined with a netbook is a great combination for me. I can easily carry the netbook anywhere, and it is small enough to work well in situations where there is limited table space (such as a lunch meeting). I also have used it for conferences and seminars which has been very helpful.

    I once considered Livescribe but ultimately decided to go the netbook+Evernote route for a few reasons. One major consideration was cost and need to use special paper. Also, I found after doing a lot of note taking in evernote that I can type much more quickly and with better accurately (read: legibility) than I can write. Also my hand is less strained after typing than writing for an extended period of time.

  3. posted by SusanTheCat on

    I’ve used my son’s FLY pen (Similar to LiveScribe) for taking notes and it worked really well.


  4. posted by Barry on

    I’m a high school teacher and I use the Livescribe pen in my classes to capture (meeting) notes. I have a notebook for each section of a course, and at the beginning of class I hand out the pen and the notebook to a student to take notes for the day. Students clamor for the chance to be the one with the pen, but they all understand that everyone must take a turn… even those who might not normally take notes for themselves.

    At the end of the day, I rip the audio and notebook pages to my computer and upload them to my class. I find the handwriting recognition capability of the software to be quite accurate, and the ability to go back and search my class’s notes for specific important terms is quite valuable. I also am slowly accumulating several sections worth of notebooks so I can review what I was able to accomplish when planning for future school years.

    Another great benefit is that the audio recording allows students who were not in class because of illness, trip, or other conflict to have the ability to replay the lesson and follow along as the notes are transcribed on the computer screen in front of them. Finally, they can at least print off a pdf of the days notes without having to copy them by hand from a classmate.

    I also value the ability to go back and listen to the notes myself, not because I need to review the information, but because it allows me to listen to how I interact with my students and improve the quality of my instruction.

    I also use the pen to create ‘pencasts’ in which I review a topic from class or demonstrate how to solve a challenging problem. Students can then access these pencasts on their own time when they are struggling with a particular concept.

    True, its not an inexpensive device and there is a cost associated with the notebooks. I’ve found the notebooks to be fairly durable and reasonably priced. Certainly worth the time (which some would equate to money) I have saved by getting information out to me students in a useful and meaningful way.

  5. posted by Walter Reade on

    I use Livescribe, and have converted two other people over to the technology. It is particularly useful when you want to capture everything without worrying about writing everything down. It is GREAT for training events, where it may be hard to think about what is being said and taking detailed notes at the same time.

  6. posted by penguinlady on

    I work from home and take a lot of conference call meetings, and what I found works for me is the Note feature of Outlook. It’s not the end-all-be-all, but if you just need something basic, it works very well.

  7. posted by shris on


    It kinda depends on the meeting.

    If the meeting is likely to be detailed discussion, I might take script-style notes by typing into notepad while I listen. Script-style is the thing where you start the line with the name of the person speaking, then you jot down what they said. I’m a fast typist so I can usually keep up unless I’m talking myself. I usually summarize instead of trying to type verbatim. So someone who blathers on and on about a single point will find himself in the notes with just a few words. 🙂

    If the meeting is to decide stuff, like who’s going to do what, then bullet action items are more important. Name of action followed by name of person and the date to be completed. These may also include bullets of other important info shared, like an upcoming deadline, contributing facts, or what happened last week..

    For conferences or training meetings where I’m supposed to *learn* something, I write down stuff I didn’t already know or can’t infer from other things I already know. Example: what the trick button in the lower left corner of the software does, or the steps in a process I’ve never used..

    All of these things typically go into notepad during the meeting. Then immediately following the meeting I save and distribute, and sometimes reprocess (like when script style notes need to be translated into bullet action items).

    Meetings are nearly worthless if you don’t come out with something written about what happened, what you learned, or what’s going to happen next.

    I use notepad because I can resize the window to something extremely small (and have another screen open to watch the presentation, etc.) and I’m not going to get hung up in formatting or spellcheck or anything. So I can focus on speed and accuracy.

  8. posted by caroline on

    In a technology environment (Government and public company alike), we are all usually given black hard-cover notebooks. They are numbered. We are to record all meeting notes and other such important things in these books. We must date and title the note page. Pen and paper.

    When the book is full, it gets added to a bookshelf speficially for these notebooks. Usually an admin keeps track of what books are assigned to who, and how old they are.

    The reason for this system, which is simple, yet seems cluttered? Notebooks are considered referencable information for grants, audits, and Access to Information Requests (ATIP), and must be kept for seven years. Photocopies of the information are not allowed, auditors (in Canada at least) must view the original. So even a scanned, PDFed written page will have the auditor asking “where is the original note page that this was created from?”

    It seems silly, but important, especially in Government, for accountability.

  9. posted by Loren on

    I’m a big fan of ‘Google Documents’ because I have a PC at work and a Mac at home. It does all the basic word formatting and spell check for you, saves it online and is available anywhere that you have the internet without having to remember to save it to a disk and carry it home.
    Also they can easily be ‘attached’ to a Google calendar event, searched, and shared with anyone else who has a Google account. You can even manage who has the right to ‘edit’ a document and who can just view it.
    They also can make spreadsheets and ‘presentations’ but I’ve never tried the presentations before.

  10. posted by Wesley Fryer on

    If I am taking private notes, I use Evernote. If I am at a meeting and we are taking shared notes, we use Google Docs. If I am blogging a conference preso, I use MarsEdit and upload to my WordPress blog.

  11. posted by ashley on

    I think Google docs is the best way to take meeting notes since you can share with others so they can edit. If you want to put it in your google cal, you get the link to the document and paste it directly into the cal.

  12. posted by Jarrah on

    I used to use LiveScribe but then I discovered Adapx Capturx. It’s similar, but it works seemlessly with Microsoft OneNotes. If LiveScribe is a Ford, Adapx Capturx is a BMW.

    Capturx was apparently developed with OneNotes in mind and I’ve never had a problem with it converting my handwriting it text. It has completely changed the way I work. Even if I’m not the official note taker in a meeting, people always want my notes because they’re time and date stamped with references, URLs, and easily sharable due to exporting in PDF or contained HTML files.

  13. posted by alfora on

    I am very bad at takeing notes in meetings. I simply cannot listen to somebody talk AND write something (else). I have to remember most of what has been talked and write it up during small breaks.

    My favorite tool for that is a mind map. I am using XMind because it is free and runs on all important platforms. I could also use a simple outline but the mind map makes it super easy to collect thoughts on very different topics. You just click on a place where to enter another piece of information and thats it. You can always re-arrange the entries later.

    Editing an outline is a little more complicated because you always have to think of “insert before” and “insert after”. Re-arranging an outline can be tricky.

    The advantage of the mind map is that it _can_ be represented as an outline but doesn’t have to be. You can also insert meta-information (tags, notes, icons, external links) and you can “dig deeper” into sub-trees or collapse sub-trees if you want to see more detailed information or less of it.

    And I almost always take a picture of flipcharts or whiteboards if they have been used in a meeting. After I updated my notes with the information on the pictures I delete them! I know that I will never look on them again. I need them only to update my notes with information I might have missed during the meeting. After I have done that they don’t have any purpose anymore.

  14. posted by James on

    I use a ScanSnap to put my written notes directly into Evernote. I mark actions with a big AP in a circle so I can quickly ID them later when I review.

  15. posted by Mark on

    Great system for capturing what’s important in a meeting and ignoring the rest.

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