Take Note! How you take meeting notes says a lot.

Written by Kasey Bertolino

Let’s set the stage: A meeting assembles, and attendees start filtering into the conference room. Among other things, I’m taking note of how each person has come prepared to, well, take notes. As the meeting progresses, my curiosity grows as I witness several different styles, formats and various tools. There are actual studies about successful note taking: The Outline, The Cornell, Boxing, Charting or Mapping, but that’s not what I’m interested in. This is more about what I see around the conference room table in a typical meeting. Odds are your coworkers fall into one of these categories.

The Typer

Probably a millennial, laptop always at the ready, click, clack, clickety-clacking away. In college you probably took your laptop to class to take notes. In my day, having your own desktop in your college dorm room was a big deal, and there were actually places called computer labs! Sure, you may make a little more noise with the note taking, but you’re efficient, saving time by already having that digital copy of your notes ready the minute the meeting wraps. You never show up with a paper or pen so you’re not only saving time but trees as well. It’s a win-win! You’re also the first person to win a Google search race if something comes up in the meeting that requires quick research, while the older generations in the room are stuck using their brains. 

akhia’s most likely to be a typer – Haley Keding, assistant account executive

The Artist

You show up with a spiral-bound oversized sketch pad accompanied by a charcoal pencil with no eraser (so bold – you never erase because every mark is an inspiration!). This is primarily used for sketching, scribbling, drawing, doodling, capturing some notes and big ideas. Or at least drawing a series of 3D cubes. Do any real action items come out of this? Not sure but man it looks cool! You have a creative mind and these “notes” will later provide motivation for design rather than a to-do list.

akhia’s most likely to be an artist – Sarah Carlson, art director

The Scribbler

You start off strong and organized, in the upper right-hand corner of the large fresh notepad with good handwriting and bullets. But by the end of the meeting you’re writing sideways, drawing arrows, making big circles or triple underlines. Nothing appears to be in order. You may be able to understand it, but anyone else would need Tom Hanks in The DaVinci Code to figure out what the heck it all means. But these hieroglyphics are actually what drive and pay off your thoughts. You got it all down and those notes are helpful – if only to you.

akhia’s most likely to be a scribbler – Mike Lawrence, creative director

The Organizer

Similar to the scribbler, you prefer putting pen to paper. Perhaps you mount a large notepad to a clipboard (it’s a status symbol) for extra reinforcement, or you carry a leather padfolio for extra “officialness.” Because you mean business. You meticulously fill in every line from left to right, using bullets to maintain order until the end of the meeting. Your notes could easily be handed off to a colleague and they would feel like they were in the meeting (so thorough!), and your lovely handwriting makes it an enjoyable read. Nothing is uncertain. You are the unicorn of note taking! You are most likely to use one of the actual methods listed above and would win for best note taker in the office. I would even bet that you probably have a highlighter in your front lapel pocket in case the need to color-code information should arise.  

akhia’s most likely to be an organizer – Lukas Treu, lead, content strategy

The “I’ll just bring a note pad and pen to the meeting to look good” person

You never take notes but instead store all of the info directly to your brain. Like the waitress that takes your whole order without writing it down. I’m always skeptical – this is either going to be a bust or she’s going to nail it and it’s going to be super impressive (no mayo and a side of ketchup, nice!). Same applies here – it’s a little unnerving to watch you sit there and color in the open spaces of the letters at the top of your company notepad instead of taking actual notes, but when we leave the room, somehow, you’ve got it all written down mentally and can still complete all the next steps. Witchcraft. Also, you’d be a great courtroom witness.

akhia’s most likely to only bring a pad and pen to the meeting to look good person – Ryan Stainbrook, digital project manager
While I personally am a scribbler, there are a few things I have learned over the years that have helped me become a more effective note taker. I used to try to write down every word like a courtroom stenographer but then I couldn’t stay engaged in the conversation. Now, I aim to be present in the meeting and take down only quality notes to capture what will be most beneficial to me when the meeting wraps. I like to use a column to the right side of my page for action items that immediately get transferred to my to-do list.

No matter how you get it done or what method you prefer, at the end of the day we do a lot taking notes, transferring information and using it to fuel great work and next steps. Everyone has their own method that works for them. What’s yours?