This has gotten me into a trouble a few times. But not the way you’d think.
Recent example. A marketing firm sent me to interview a few product managers as background for web content.
The meeting went well. I got exactly what I needed.
On my way back to the office, my client called me, all agitated.
“Geez, what happened at that meeting? You didn’t exactly fill them with confidence. They said you only asked a couple of questions and didn’t write anything down. Did you space out or what?”
Actually, I had jotted down three URLs and a few email addresses.
But otherwise, true. No notes.
What I do is write notes after the meeting.
I learned this by accident some years back.
I had arrived for a big-deal meeting with a CEO and his marketing director, carrying my Moleskin notebook like we fashionable writers do, but inexplicably, I had nothing to write with.
Not a pen, a golf pencil, or crayon of any kind on my person. I was a tree guy showing up without his chain saw.
Once everyone got talking, all I could do was rivet my attention on the conversation, and nod sagely. (Which seemed to be a nice touch.)
Meanwhile I tried to burn everything into my brain, recapping and indexing and reshuffling the discussion points in my head as we went.
An hour later, out in my car, I found a forgotten pen between the seats, and quickly wrote out my take on the meeting.
I was surprised to see that the entire substance of the meeting netted out to barely one page. (Which is about average, I’ve found.)
I have followed this practice ever since.
It’s partly because my brain is the basic single-channel model. I can listen, or I can write. If I’m truly listening, I can’t write a coherent note, and vice versa. Worst case, I’m doing both badly.
It’s also because when I go into a briefing, I know what I’m looking for. When I hear it, it sticks.
Anyway. Best to listen hard, and make notes later.
About the marketing client above. When I got back to the office I wrote my ‘after-meeting notes’, and emailed them to the product managers.
I think were less nervous after that.