No, I don’t take notes at meetings

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 like a lumberjack showing up without an axe.

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.