Using Technology to Take Notes

A few months ago, I read a blog (I can’t remember where I read it or who wrote it) about how note taking in meetings is changing in today’s world. With tablets and smartphones and laptops and WiFi, etc…more and more people are taking notes electronically.

The blog was about people who get upset when technology is used in a meeting because they think the person isn’t paying attention. The thought is the person is doing email or something not related to the meeting. And yes I have seen that.

Image courtesy of Naypong /

Image courtesy of Naypong /

I have been inching towards using technology to take notes even though I still like my pen and paper. I have found it is easier to share with others and storing takes up little memory versus large filing cabinets with all the paper in it. My computer search is faster than going through a filing cabinet and Microsoft OneNote makes it note taking easier on a computer.

With that, I think there is still etiquette to be used when using technology to take notes.

  • If it is a large meeting (about 10 or more people), it may be OK just to open up the computer and take notes because several people will be doing it
  • If it is a large meeting and no one else is using technology you may ask the leader of the meeting if it is alright to use your computer or tablet device. You can ask off to the side before it starts or at the very beginning of the meeting with the whole group because others may want to do it also.
  • If it is small meeting (less than 10 people) or a 1-on-1 type meeting, you should ask if it is alright to take notes electronically.
  • A 1-on-1 meeting you still might consider using pen and paper. I know this is extra work but sometimes if you are using a computer, it can get in the way and block the view of the other person. The computer can feel like a wall between you.
  • Understand the meeting before taking notes. Some meetings don’t require you to need to take notes, so there is no need to have your computer or tablet open. Maybe detailed notes will be handed out. Another example are kaizen events. Notes don’t need to be taken by individuals in kaizen events. All the notes are captured on the flip chart paper and post-its. It is more important to have everyone 100% engaged.

All and all, taking notes electronically can be a good thing and is something more and more people are doing. It is alright to do. If you are a person using technology to take notes have some etiquette and understand who is leading the meeting and the purpose before opening your computer or tablet and typing away.


Posted on April 18, 2013, in Respect for People, Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Matt, great tips. I would like to add one. If you are leading the meeting, set the agenda what is acceptable right up front. However, be open minded for the use of electronic devices versus limiting them. There is hardly anything more that demonstrates a generational division than seeing a conference table void of electronics. 😉

    Eric Ries starts out his conferences by encouraging the use of electronic devices and basically says if I cannot hold your interest go ahead and focus your attention on what will. By the way, please use this “hashtag” to tweet. Maybe, the lesson to be learned is to have interesting meetings?

  2. I agree with you that using electronics to take notes requires some etiquette, or it can be a bigger problem than help. I have found that smart phones, and tablets work far better than do laptops, they are smaller and with some you can use a stylus, and there are sevral apps and progams that can turn them into text. Their smaller size which amounts to a paper pad, and the fact that they can see you taking the notes makes then far more accepted.

    The reality is that these tools (tablets and smart phones) are still very under used in organizations, and could in the long-term greatly improve performance of an organization. Teamed with server based programs these devices can speed up information gathering, analysis, and decision making, because they are so easy to take with you every where.

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