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How to Take Meeting Notes Like a Pro

7 items to include in your meeting notes and best practices to track important discussions and decisions.

How to take great meeting notes copy

A lot of people don’t bother with taking notes during a team meeting, only to forget what was discussed only a short time afterwards. Opting out of taking meeting notes is harmful to employee productivity because it makes it extremely difficult to recall important details. If employees can’t recall these significant takeaways from meetings, they won’t take action and therefore lack the ability to execute tasks that bring the team closer to achieving their goals.

If you and your team choose to take meeting notes, you will notice that you will retain information much more clearly and feel more prepared to tackle your responsibilities. 

What are meeting notes?

Meeting notes are not to be confused with meeting minutes, which are formal and structured with the purpose of being shared with all of the meeting participants afterwards. Meeting notes are simply what they imply: notes. They serve as a quick reference to important topics that have been covered in your meeting such as goals, obstacles, deadlines or ideas that have surfaced. 

Writing meeting notes doesn’t mean documenting the meeting word for word but simply taking down key points that will be valuable to recall at a later time. Although meeting notes aren’t as structured or formal as meeting notes, you should still follow some kind of structure while writing them. If you don’t, you may feel like your notes provide very little context and are somewhat confusing. 

The goal with your meeting notes is to keep them as simple as possible without losing any important details. Because you can make meeting notes your own style, you can be creative in order to retain the information as effectively as possible.

Whether it’s mind mapping or typing and storing your notes in a meeting notes app such as Fellow, you can really make them your own. 

Pro tip

Customize your meeting notes to your liking and style right inside Fellow!

The difference between meeting notes and meeting minutes

Meeting notesMeeting minutes
Don’t require approvalRequire approval
Document key points and next stepsDocument as much information as possible
Independent structure (aka whatever works best for you)Template for structure

Why are meeting notes important? 

Writing meeting notes is important for a few different reasons. First, it allows you to record the information from the meeting in your own words, using your own method that makes it easier for you to understand and retain information. 

Meeting notes are also important because writing or typing things down forces us to listen and absorb the information that we are hearing. Because we can’t catch everything word for word, recording information pushes us to pick and choose the key information to jot down. We can analyze the information in the moment which promotes our ability to retain important information from meetings. 

Finally, you can refer back to your meeting notes to remind yourself of important deadlines, decisions or topics that you’d like to speak to at the next meeting, and if someone has missed the meeting, you now have the ability to share your notes and get them up to speed. 

7 items to include in your meeting notes

  1. Date of meeting and attendees
  2. Meeting agenda with talking points
  3. Important discussions and decisions made
  4. Questions asked and answers given
  5. Talking points for future meetings (parking lot)
  6. Meeting action items
  7. Meeting recap

1 Date of meeting and attendees

The first item to include in your meeting notes is the date of the meeting and the attendees. The date is to recall the context of information that was shared at which time and the attendees should be included to recall the people who were involved in the decisions and ideas that were shared at the meeting. If a meeting invite has been sent, use it to jot down the names of the people that were invited before the meeting. That way, you can check peoples names off as they sign in or enter the meeting room, without frantically writing names as faces appear (or log in). 

If you’re using a meeting notes app such as Fellow, that information will be displayed in the meeting agenda automatically. 

2 Meeting agenda with talking points

If there is a meeting agenda, try using it as a general outline for your meeting notes. You can then use each agenda item as a section to record notes on each item of the agenda including any outcomes that have been discussed.

Make sure that you’re only taking down key information, limiting each point to a couple of sentences. 

3 Important discussions and decisions made

It’s important that you include a section in your meeting notes for important discussions and decisions made. Here, be sure to write down all of the decisions, recommendations and challenges that have been identified. Putting these major discussions into your own words is going to reinforce your understanding of the desired outcomes. 

Record all of these items as they come up, rather than after the meeting when it begins to be difficult to recall the decisions that have been made. The accuracy of your information will be maximized as you capture details of the meeting in real-time. 

4 Questions asked and answers given during the meeting 

Writing down any questions asked and answers provided during the meeting is going to add context to the content of the meeting and give you a stronger understanding of the expected outcomes so that you can work with your team members to achieve collective goals. 

It’s likely that if one person has a question that others are probably wondering the same thing so don’t be afraid to speak up and request any kind of clarification. This is useful because when these questions arise while you are working on your everyday tasks, you can refer back to your notes without having to reach out and ask the same questions to the appropriate individual. 

This saves you time and boosts your productivity.

5 Talking points for future meetings 

You should also include a section for any ideas, questions, or follow-ups that you want to make after the meeting is done so that you don’t forget. You can use the “parking lot technique” during your meetings so that you remember to come back to your ideas. 

Essentially, the parking lot technique is used to write down any talking points at the bottom of the agenda (the “parking lot”) that you’d like to bring up later, instead of interrupting others as the meeting evolves. 

6 Meeting action items

Whenever an action item is proposed during the meeting, document the assignment, the context of the assignment, who it’s assigned to as well as the due date. Often, we only write down action items that are assigned to us and in doing so, we lose the greater context and we lose sight of the larger, overarching goals that we are working with our teammates to achieve. 

When you know which individual is working on which action item, it will encourage collaboration and support amongst the team to gain a better understanding of the project details. 

Pro Tip

Before you write down any definitive plans or action items, it’s a good idea to confirm them with the facilitator or with the group at large. 

7 Meeting recap

When you’ve finished writing your meeting notes, create a short summary while the meeting is still fresh in your mind and send it to all the attendees. This summary can include the information which is most important to you, next steps or action items that you need to get started on. Completing this summary is going to make for effective meeting minutes that you can use as a quick reference when you’d like to recall any key point from the meeting. 

You can use the “send notes” feature in Fellow to do this in a matter of seconds:

Completing a written summary gives you an opportunity to break down the discussion and keep track of the details that are most pertinent to customers and colleagues.

Writing meeting notes is going to help you retain information with a higher degree of effectiveness. Unlike formal meeting minutes, meeting notes don’t need to capture the conversation word for word. You can simply summarize the key points that hold the most relevance and importance to the meeting and it’s ultimate goal. 

  • Start by including the date and the attendees of the meeting.
  • Next, use the meeting agenda as a general outline.
  • Jot down any important discussions or decisions that have been made and then capture any questions asked and answers given during the course of the meeting.
  • Write down some talking points to bring up in the future.
  • Document the action items.
  • Finally, create a general summary or recap of the meeting. 

Refer back to this guide any time that you need a template for your meeting notes!

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About the author

Kate Dagher

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