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How Better Note-Taking Leads to Better Conference Calls

How Better Note-Taking Leads to Better Conference Calls

Chances are, if you work in type of business setting, then you spend at least some of your week in conference calls. You're not alone. In fact, a 2015 survey found that most workers in the U.S. join anywhere from one to five conference calls per week.

But conference calls aren't much good if nobody retains the information shared during the call. Of course, you should always record your calls when that feature is available. However, there's nothing quite like well-written notes that highlight the most important takeaways from meetings.

Whether there were five, 10, 20 or more people on the line, good note-taking can make the difference between being able to quickly recall critical parts of the call, needing to re-listen to parts of the call or even being completely out of luck.

Let's take a deeper look at why note-taking can lead to better conference calls.

Note-taking encourages better retention

We've written before about productive conference calls from the organizer's perspective, but let's look at this from an individual participant's perspective.

As is the case in the classroom, there is one way to ensure every member of your team gets the most out of your conference calls: note-taking.

People tend to lose about 40 percent of new information they've learned within 24 hours of receiving it. However, when a person takes notes during a conference call or other meeting type, they have the opportunity to retain much more of that new information. At the very least, a good note-taker now has much of that information written down and available to review.

Good note-taking technique is key

Studies have shown that the key to retaining information through notes comes down mostly to good note-taking technique.

Many of note-taking tips for students can also apply to your business conference calls.

According to a World Economic Forum article, good note-takers should:

  • Stay consistent in how they take notes. Note pages should look the same each time.
  • Take notes in their own words so it makes sense to them, not just try to quote speakers verbatim.
  • Leave spaces between lines of notes for additional or related information that may come later on.
  • Develop and consistently use their own abbreviations.
  • Write in phrases.
  • Use bullet points and lists.
  • Make sure to take note of anything the speaker highlights. If they say, "This important," then write it down.
  • Use highlighters to create a hierarchy of information or connect related points in notes.

Take notes by hand, not with a laptop

This may seem counterintuitive to some, but handwritten notes are much more effective than notes taken digitally on a laptop or tablet.

Many people are faster typers than they are writers, meaning that in theory they could type more notes than write.

But studies actually prove that theory to be incorrect.

Experiments cited in a Scientific American article showed students who took handwritten notes were able to conceptualize, synthesize and generalize information better than students who took their notes on laptops.

Researchers suspected that, because writing by hand is a slower process, the handwritten note-takers had to actually listen more carefully to the information and summarize what was said in order to write their notes. The students who typed their notes were more focused on simply trying to type out as many words as possible.

Minutes keep everyone on the same page

While it's certainly a good idea for everybody on the conference call to take their own notes, it's even more important to have a minutes document that is made available to everyone following the call.

One could make the argument that meeting minutes are just as important — if not more — as meeting agendas.

Even if your calls aren't formal meetings, it's still a good idea to write minutes. These are the most organized form of notes and can serve as the official recap of your team's conference call.

Minutes take more time and effort to write than agendas, but there is no doubt they pay off in the end. By writing minutes - and distributing them to your team - you're giving everyone a written record of the conversation, data, ideas and solutions shared throughout the conference call.

In many ways, minutes can be seen as your team's shared notes. Everyone will be on the same page - literally - when reviewing a conference call or meeting.

What to include in conference call minutes

Though how minutes are taken often vary as much as personal note-taking — everyone has their own style — there are at least a few items every detailed minutes should include:

  • Have a list of who's on the call, including guests, and make note of anyone who was invited but unable to join the conference call.
  • Include conversation topics and summarize discussions about those topics. If you have an agenda, these topics should be on that document, too.
  • Identify speakers as much as possible in you notes about the meeting.
  • Keep track of questions asked, follow-ups required and other action items that may come as a result of the conference call.

Also, as with agendas, be sure to distribute the conference call minutes to everyone. That includes participants, invitees and anyone else who may be interested in the information that was discussed on the call.

Record your conference call

Though referencing a recording won't always take the place of detailed notes, the ability to listen again to segments of conference call still can serve as a great way to refresh memory.

Recordings can be especially helpful for the person in charge of writing minutes. Whenever total accuracy is critical, audio recordings serve as the best reference. With minutes, accuracy is always key.

Make sure you select a conference call provider that offers call recording as a feature.

Give a try

Whether you're looking for a list of features that includes call recording, or you want a free conference call service that is flexible enough to fit the needs of today's mobile workforce, has the solutions you and your team need.

Sign up for free to see why we're the free conference call choice for a growing number of clients.


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