How to take notes from a live speaker

Those who follow me on Twitter know I enjoy live tweeting when I go to something informational. It’s a carryover from my days as a reporter when I would have to take notes so I could write a story later.

Even today, sometimes you get to go to something live, and you want to get down all the good stuff so you can use it later.

    Here are some tips:

  • Don’t type into a doc. Counterintuitive, right? Well research (some of it mine) shows that you make less sense out of a talk when you try to transcribe it into a complete document. The theory is that since you can’t write as fast as you listen, you are forced to categorize and weigh information as you go along. You type faster than you write. So try writing by hand, or the extra steps of tweeting. It will actually make you remember better.
  • Listen for signal words. You got good at this as a student probably, listening for things like “Will be on the test.” As a grown-up, works like “relevant,” “significant,” and “important” are good ones to listen for.
  • Be smart with visual aids. It’s instinctive to copy words off of slides, but it’s not always appropriate. It’s not good practice, but it’s very common for speakers to make slides to remind themselves during the talk, not to communicate with the listeners. In that case, the words you copy may not make sense without the concepts. If you have one of those inconsiderate speakers who put their talk word for word on slides, you are better off just listening.
  • Front-load. If you take a few minutes before a talk begins to review the speaker’s background and why they are speaking on this topic, it will help you put their points in context faster and to thus get down the important parts.
  • Review right away. If it’s something you are going to be using again soon or often, take time as soon as you can (I used to do it in my car before starting the drive back to work.). That way you can see what you have written and fill in holes while your memory is still fresh.
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