Meeting Facilitation Training – Capturing Meeting Notes

Tips for Capturing Meeting Notes

Dear Dana,

My problem is that our team never seems to take good notes during project meetings, and it always comes back to bite us.  One person forgot what they were supposed to do, those who didn’t come to the meeting don’t know what decisions were made, yada, yada, yada….I try to capture the notes myself, but I usually forget about it 15-20 minutes into the meeting.  What should I do?

Ann in Baltimore

Dear Ann,

I will start off by telling you what you shouldn’t do.  Don’t ever try to lead, facilitate, and take notes at the same time!!  You’re only one person and no one is that strong a multitasker.  What you’ve probably noticed is that it’s impossible to play multiple roles simultaneously without all the roles suffering somewhat.  Indeed, as soon as you start scribing, you slow down the flow and momentum of the session.  You don’t want to do that.  Consider these suggestions instead…

  • Bring the issue up to the team and ask for suggestions. It’s always easier to enforce a process that they’ve suggested (people tend to like their own ideas J).  If you explain the negative consequences of not having consistent meeting minutes, the team will likely agree and suggest an alternative.
  • Ask the team to rotate the role. That is certainly an equitable solution that ensures each person has to do it pretty rarely.
  • Consider using it as a mild consequence for showing up late or some other pesky behavior that’s impacting the group negatively. You may suggest a new ground rule that the last person entering the room (or joining the call) will be responsible for scribing for the next session (not the current session since they’re late).  Remember to get buy-in though – don’t impose.
  • Consider audio taping the session if it’s critical to document verbatim (or close to verbatim) feedback. Obviously, ask participants for permission well before the session and consider whether or not the taping would likely discourage free exchange of ideas and information.
  • Use techniques that get participants to write down their comments (e.g. nominal group technique, affinity diagramming, etc.). You can then collect their cards (or sticky notes) and use that to summarize the notes after the session.
  • Capture very concise meeting notes – possibly only documenting action items and key decisions.
  • Capture the notes real time in the session using a laptop, SMART board or another device.