How to Take Better Notes from Conference Calls

Conference callConference calls are wonderful for remote working and collaboration. They bridge a gap brought on by huge geographical and time bounds; bringing people physically apart into a common and active meeting environment. Conference calls, just like other forms of meetings, would necessitate note taking for the purposes of keeping track of what is being said as well as keeping a record of the whole meeting.

Conference calls usually serve remote teams better since they enable everyone to participate in real time from wherever they are. Taking notes in such meetings is usually important for a couple of reasons, and those that top the list include; getting a better sense of each member of your team and what he or she brings onboard in terms of ideas, documenting everything that was discussed for future reference and having a reference for those who missed the call among others.

Taking notes in any meeting can be a not-so-easy task, and conference call meetings are not any easier because many other factors are involved which can be difficult to control. This is actually one of the reasons why before any conference call can commence, everyone should be advised on how to use the service, how to speak clearly into the microphone and how to adjust their volume, among other etiquettes to uphold during a conference call.

All in all, here is how to take better notes from conference calls:

1. Prepare for the call

You will want to be in an environment that is quiet and less distracting to take the conference call if you want to hear everything that is said properly. Being able to hear every participant in the call is vital for the meeting as well as any note taking. It will be difficult to take notes on something that wasn’t clearly heard and understood as a result of noise or other distractions. Therefore choose a location that is conducive for the call and where you unwell not be disturbed. Now as a manager or coordinator of the meeting, make sure every participant is able to hear everyone else, as well as be heard by all before the meeting starts.

2. Prepare for note taking

Everything can always be done better if extra efforts are put to prepare for it. If you plan to take down notes of the conference call you are going to have, ensure that you have a good note book and a pen that you are sure writes well. Sometimes people want to take down notes on their laptops or other devices, but for the sake of effective participation, it is better to do it the old fashioned way. Writing is a more natural way of putting down important points without thinking of distracting things like where is that ‘Q’ key, or why is the spell checker underlining that word or phrase and so on.

3. Take note of every participant

In a conference call, not every participant can see each other. The only way that someone can know who is who in the meeting is by having everyone introduce themselves. If you are going to take proper notes of the meeting, then make sure you get to note who is on which line. You will have a better chance at recording everyone’s contribution when you can clearly tell who said what. Certain conference call services have a means for every participant to log in and are able to show everyone else who is logged in and from where.

4. Write in detail

During the conference call, writing everything in detail as you listen is much better than trying to decipher what is important to note down and what is not. Do not just write the highlights, and don’t try to write everything that is said word for word either. It will be sufficient to simply note down as much of what is being said as possible in point form, even when you don’t think that what was said has any significance. You never know when that particular thing that you left out becomes relevant in later discussions, and by now you have no way of going back to it. To be on the safe side and to effectively represent what was said in a conference call; write in detail and use any other note taking skills that can help you.

5. Use the Record Feature

Some conference call equipment or service providers provide a feature that can record the call in progress. If you have it, use it. It is a very invaluable feature that gives managers and the rest of the team the opportunity to go back to any point in the meeting and find out exactly what was said. The recorded calls can be archived and even transcribed later for a more detailed paper copy that everyone can have. Note that it is always good practice to inform everyone that the call is going to be recorded before the meeting starts.

6. Explore other features

Conference call facilities vary in features and tools. Some have very cool interactive features such as whiteboards and hand raising. If you familiarize yourself with these features, you can make use of them during the call to get clarifications on something that you want to note down. The best notes from a conference meeting will be those that accurately represent everything that was said, discussed and agreed upon. As a remote team manager, you can invest in technology that not only makes conference calls interactive for everyone, but also make it easy to take notes.

7. Organize your notes after the call

Meetings even where there was a well set agenda don’t necessarily flow in the order that was prescribed. Being a live discussion, different important points can be talked about all through the call, and if you try to organize these points during the meeting, it can really confuse your flow. So for better note taking, just note down things as they are said and then try to organize or summarize your notes after the meeting. However, remember that the sooner you do it after the meeting when your mind is still fresh, the better.

Image:  Steve Bowbrick


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