Skip to content

How to Help Your Meeting Note-Takers

Teaching Meeting Notes Made Easy, I have heard many note-takers complain. They say that they could take better meeting notes and minutes if the meetings they attended were managed better. Because of my experience in meetings, I know they are correct.

That's why I added the article "How to Help Your Meeting Note-Taker" to my self-study online course Meeting Notes Made Easy. Here are tips from the article:

1. Have an agenda and distribute it in advance. Include outcomes on the agenda–not just topics. A topic is "Discussion of team emails." An outcome is "Agree on best practices for team emails." At your board meetings, outcomes may be motions and votes. (Thanks to Ruth Winett of Winett Associates for reminding me of that point.)

2. Help the note-taker be prepared by discussing the meeting ahead of time and sending the person any presentations in advance.

3. Recognize that meetings are not the best way to disseminate information.

4. Summarize throughout the meeting so attendees will know what they have accomplished, and the note-taker will not need to guess about decisions and action items.

5. Manage the meeting so that it runs efficiently and effectively. Bring rambling discussions back on track, get agreement from attendees to speak one at a time, and paraphrase when someone speaks softly. 

6. Have someone besides the note-taker handle refreshments and the audio-visual equipment you need during the meeting.

Those six tips–expanded with examples–appear in the course article, along with other tips and strategies. Readers contributed the tips below.

From Diane Bishop, the chief's secretary, Perrysburg Police Division, Perrysburg, Ohio:

Especially in technical meetings, be sure that the note-taker receives any handouts before anyone makes a presentation. Handouts will help the note-taker record information accurately.

For large meetings, use place cards (or name tent cards) so the note-taker will know who is who and can cite the correct speaker when necessary.

From consultant Gilda Bonanno:

Have someone besides the note-taker keep track of time for each part of the agenda. Using a timer works well because it can apply to everyone equally.

Set ground rules (preferably created by the group), especially if the meetings will be long or will occur often. Such rules cover things like the use of phones and laptops during meetings.

You can read more of Gilda's meeting tips and other excellent articles on her blog.

I welcome your ideas on making the note-taker's job easier.

Syntax Training


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

11 comments on “How to Help Your Meeting Note-Takers”

  • I think your number 5 is very important – it helps emphasize the points that really need to be recorded and gives the note-taker another chance to make sure they understand what was decided.

    During longer meetings, my boss always breaks after about 1 hour so I get to rest my hand (!), and everyone can check their messages or go to the rest room. This keeps people from fidgeting too much later.

  • I used to facilitate many public meetings, where many issues are often brought up that do not relate to our intended meeting agenda or purpose. In order to let attendees know we hear their concerns or problems, I designate the top right hand corner of the white board as a “Parking Lot.” In the parking lot, I write down the issues raised that are outside of our agenda or charge. This will help the notetaker write down the issues raised while ensuring the meeting stay on track as much as possible. After the meeting I will take time to forward those issues to the relevant departments or persons in charge. Before the meeting minutes are finalized, I update the notetaker about what actions were taken to address those tangential issues so that they can be included as an attachment to the minutes.

  • Hi, Val. Thanks for your echo of Number 5. Summarizing can make the difference between a productive meeting and a waste of time.

    The break after an hour is a terrific idea. Thanks for sharing!


  • Hello, Chee. Your parking lot procedure is excellent. I have used it in training programs but not at meetings. I like the idea of including the parking lot issues as an attachment to the meeting minutes, with notes on how they were handled.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your best practice.


  • During some meetings at my company, an organizer will set up an instant message session with all the meeting attendees. Anyone can send an IM to the group at any time. We use these IMs to emphasize points, ask questions, give feedback (too fast, too quiet) and assign action items. After the meeting, the organizer can email the IM record to everyone in the meeting as a reminder. This system works well for group meetings where many attendees are in remote locations, in front of their computers.

  • Hy Lynn,

    I’m Christopher Mesquita, co-founder of BeesApps, i wrote several months ago about “How to conduct meeting” :
    Your ideas are very clear and helpful for anyone need improve his conduct meeting.

    we have developed an app called Beesy is provides a smart note taking app that understands the underlying tasks and suppresses unnecessary operations.
    It addresses 3 main pain points of business meetings:
    – Quickly take notes during meetings and do not miss critical information.
    – Send instant meeting minutes right after the meeting in less than a minute
    – Easily follow-up on actions with a powerful To-Do organizer reusing 100% of your notes and your calendar.

    It’s would be a pleasure to discuss with you about meeting conduct, GTD method etc…


  • I second using the parking lot as a way to use all those ideas that come up in a meeting that aren’t related to the agenda (and probably need a meeting in their own right).

    Also, it’s important to have the meeting minutes be sent out relatively quickly (same day is best) as the meeting, when it’s still fresh in everybody’s minds, and they can start adding tasks to whatever list they have going at the time 🙂

    We’ve written a post about meeting minutes ourselves:

  • you got your points on number 5 and 6..
    i think these are the things that should be consider first to help the Note-Takers.. we might think it is a simple task for them but without this important things to consider, this will not work out at all.
    thank you for this information..

Comments are closed.