Across companies, in international institutions, the local community organisation, or the local chess club, meetings are essential to keep organisations moving forward. Just as importantly, the meetings require a written record of what was said.
It is an important skill to create easy-to-read and effective summaries to send out to attendees afterward.
In this article, I look at three of the best ways to write effective meeting summaries and notes, and the advantages of each. They are the:
- Cornell System
- Charting System
- Mind-mapping System
But first, let us review why taking minutes and notes is an important responsibility.
- They highlight the most important ideas and opinions during an event. This will help further the development or brainstorming of ideas.
- They provide a storyline of how a project or idea develops.
- They attribute responsibilities for action.
- They ensure accountability.
- They provide an opportunity to cross-reference important points.
- They can be used as an opportunity to clarify the main concepts or highlight where further clarifications are required.
- Lastly, they give information to those who could not be present at meetings.
That is a lot of responsibility for one person!
Ensuring the minutes reflect the meeting
Clearly, gathering all the information given by several representatives at one sitting can be challenging.
So how can you approach this task?
There are various strategies for taking notes that have been developed that can be used for minute taking.
The Cornell System.
This was devised by Walter Pauk, professor at Cornell University and author of the best seller book “How to Study in College”. It consists of dividing the note sheet into three parts. One part has all the keywords. The second part has all the points that need clarification or action. And the third part will hold the actual notes. The advantages of this system include encouraging you to reflect on the meeting points by actively summarizing them in your own words. Furthermore, it is easy to review and track the flow of topics via the use of keywords.
The Chart System
This involves splitting the document into several columns. Each column has its own argument. It aims to concretely compare different topics and ideas. The advantage of this system is that it helps you to track conversations and dialogues, particularly if the discussion does not follow a linear path.
The Mind-Mapping System
This is a popular way of creating a hierarchical structure made of lines and font size. Each of the subjects contains a key topic linked to other subjects. Advantages lie in the fact that connections between people and ideas can be easily followed.
Using one of these methods will help to present all the points from each meeting, and provide a means to focus on the most important ideas.
Minute taking requires practice. And over time you may find your own method for taking the best notes. It is an important position; good luck!