Taking notes to recap“Are you just a really amazing note-taker or great with shorthand to get the info you need?” That’s what a colleague asked me recently, wondering how I take down the notes I turn into event summaries (recaps).

Shameless flattery accepted.

I do often recap events for the associations I belong to, so people who weren’t able to attend can still learn something from them. This goes back to the days when small children and a travelling husband sometimes prevented me from attending an event, and I wished someone had shared the highlights.

So here are my nine tips for writing a great event recap:

  1. Take notes using pen and paper. A 2014 study showed that writing helps understanding and retention, whereas using a laptop means you are more likely to mindlessly try to capture every word.
  2. Don’t try to capture every word, except for something you want to use as a direct quote. Summarize and paraphrase to cover the key points.
  3. Focus. Don’t try to multitask. Pay attention to the speaker and reactions or questions from the group. If someone wants you to “live tweet” the event as well, do that and turn the tweets into a post later. (See my tips for summarizing Twitter chats in this post.)
  4. Use your own type of shorthand — things you might use in a text (U for you, 4 instead of for); abbreviations (pref for preferences, comms for communications); substitutions (mktg for marketing, bkgrd for background).
  5. Use bullets or numbers. If the speaker mentions three points, group the information under 1, 2 and 3.
  6. Get the speaker’s presentation, if you can. If you know at the start of the event that you’ll be able to get a copy, it lessens the pressure to capture as much.
  7. Go through your notes as soon as possible after the event. Fill out the abbreviations while you still remember what they mean.
  8. Get feedback. Ask other people who were there to comment. What did they think? What key point will they remember? What action will they take as a result?
  9. Write up the event as soon as possible, too, while it’s still fresh in your mind.

What else would you add? Please share in the comments.

Image: Nikolay Frolochkin for Pixabay.