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from Dean Meyers

Better meeting notes can jog extra memories

I have a debriefing call on Monday about a training on presentations I co-facilitated 3 weeks ago. A senior management team convened for a “Reporting with Impact” training seminar, and my role was to teach them Visual Expression in reporting to executives. I’ll talk about that elsewhere, but my challenge for Monday is: How do I remind everyone of the issues we discussed three weeks ago, and make it feel fresh? My solution: at the beginning of that workshop I drew a rough sketch of the table, listing the names of everyone there in their seating arrangement, their titles, and then one or two salient quotes from each person as they spoke. I will admit, I don’t remember people’s names very quickly off the bat, so this was a trick I learned watching lawyers prep prospective jurors–they use a card system with a seating chart, and they write notes on the cards. Here’s my version, first, the pencil draft, and then revised into a graphic that I will distribute before we meet for the review:

Quick sketch showing individuals and their key concerns

Quick sketch showing individuals and their key concerns

Cleaned up and ready to distribute for review

Cleaned up and ready to distribute for review

Here’s the take-away for you: Organize your notes visually, using spatial reminders: draw the layout of the room with major elements, the tables or seating arrangement first–no fine drawing skills required. Use a single page. Write on the page or use post-it notes to label the participants in their position in the room. Make quick notes of what they said on the post-it note or under their name. It will remind you not only of who said what, but will bring back the spatial memory–did the team leader sit at the head of the table? In a panel discussion, who sat next to whom, and was that because they had a relationship worth noting? You will probably remember more with the seating chart jogging your memory than a standard bullet-point note-taking format. Try it at your next meeting or conference.

P.S. if you look at my previous post about the Edward Tufte Workshop I attended in November, you’ll see that I made a quick little layout of where he sat at the beginning of the program and where I was sitting in that giant hotel ballroom. Now you know why I do that.

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