Taking notes in meetings – why tablets suck

The other day I came across this nice, square infographic and felt I absolutely had to share it with you. I have no idea who the original author/producer is (I found it having been shared, on one of the social media platforms) so if it’s you, please say so and I’ll either take it down or give you full attribution with links. In the meantime, we can all learn from its wisdom, and many thanks to the originator whoever you are:
Taking notes in meetings - why tablets suck

Hello, paper and pen – welcome back!

Much as we will agree that all the points made in this infographic are bang-on right, the point that I like best (no surprises here) is “Bring paper and pen.”
And no, I’m not a cranky old Luddite who stubbornly still pumps out words on a manual typewriter. I use a desktop, a laptop and a smartphone, but currently do not own a tablet. Why? Well for starters, despite our hitting neatly 2,000 reads per day here on HTWB over the last few weeks again (ahem…) I don’t make enough money to buy all the toy-toys I might crave. But enough of my bleating.

What really matters is that no matter how whizzy-bang our electronic devices may be, there are reasons why old-fashioned writing of notes by hand, can be very useful – even now.

About a year ago I was sitting next to a lovely lady at a breakfast workshop meet. We had munched the eggs and bacon so were anticipating the start of the training content. I plonked my paper-based notebook on the table and reached for my pen: the speaker got up and started off, and I began to scribble down some basic notes.

In the meantime my next-door lady also wanted to take notes, so she:

**Fumbled in her bag until she pulled out an IPad
**Unfolded it and placed it in front of her
**Hit the wakey-wakey button
**Admired the screensaver shot of her gorgeous dogs (I did too)
**Tapped a few things to bring up an app upon which she could write by hand using a stylus
**Waited until it all went live – only took a few seconds, brilliant!
**Once finally established, leaned over to me and whispered into my ear, “sorry Suze, but can I copy your notes so far?”
**To which I immediately said yes and showed her what I had written down in humble pen and ink.

Yes, I have heard all the arguments about transferring notes from meetings across all your tech

…and if you’re about to incorporate whatever you jot down in meetings, etc. into a plan for world domination, then of course I do understand. But there are some boring consequences here.

Not least of these is the forest of devices and screens haunting the table or tables at live/F2F events, physically preventing participants from eyeballing each other and encouraging them instead to work on:

**Trying to keep up the notes on what the speaker is saying, with single-finger typing
**Failing at that, so instead turning to…
**Responses to emails
**Comments on social media
**Texts to partners assuring them how much you love them
**Texts to children telling them to shut up and get on with schoolwork
**Checking out the latest deals on EBay
**Shopping for a new dishwasher

Do we really want to be taking notes in meetings so antiseptically?

Maybe because so few of us have efficient touch-typing skills (I do, but only because I grew up carving blog posts in tablets of stone) we should make an effort to learn such skills now.

But think about it: how much quicker is it, really, to note down the gist of what a speaker is saying? By hacking some notes into an electronic device that you can only run as fast as your typing skills allow? Or by jotting down the gist on paper, ready for you to incorporate as appropriate into your business or other work later, albeit manually?

Some common-sense tips on taking notes…

Taking notes in meetings - why tablets suck

  1. Don’t be ashamed to get out a pen and a notebook. Remember the lesson to be learned from my experience described above. Pen and paper may be old, but they’re quick.
  2. If you haven’t already developed your own “shorthand” for note taking, do it now. Whatever the techies say you’ll probably find that a lot faster than tap-tapping notes into a tablet or other device.
  3. If you are determined to take notes on a device, learn to touch type. That may sound straight out of the 1950s but trust me … no matter how hi-tech we have become we still use QWERTY keyboards and keypads, in the main, so good typing skills will save you a lot of stress. This connection seems like it could be useful for slow typers.
  4. Avoid the temptation to write (or type) everything down. Listen and absorb what people are saying before rushing to write stuff down.
  5. Summarise what people say in these meetings. Many will drone on at length about a point, but summarising it will help you in two ways: one, it will save on space and scribble room, and two it will crystallise the information for you in your head so you remember the key points rather than, necessarily, the detail.
  6. Don’t wait until tomorrow to read back your notes. Much as we all think we will go back and fetch those notes to deal with later, unless we deal with them ASAP they will get pushed down the priority list. Check them out when you get back to your office and file them appropriately.
  7. At the end of the meeting, summarise what you feel was the key benefit to you. Even if that’s the only thing you take out of the meeting’s experience, that’s worth hanging on to and recording.

And what’s the key benefit we can get from using pen and paper rather than e-devices to take notes in meetings?

Simplicity = speed = time to pay attention.

If we want to get the best from our attendance at meetings, workshops, seminars, etc., the less time we need to spend writing or typing stuff down, the more time we have available to pay attention to the topic, the speaker, the audience feedback, and everything else that matters.

What do you think?

Please share!