How to Take Notes While Listening

Taking notes while listening to an audio/video file is easy because you can rewind the recording any time and write anything you missed. It is different when it comes to taking notes during the live talk. You may need to take notes during the lecture or an event. In all cases, you need to be prepared both before the talk and during the talk. The following tips may be useful for taking notes while actively listening to the speaker.

Prepare in advance

There are usually lecture outlines, handouts, promotional material that contain essential information about the lecture/event. It demonstrates the major topics that will be discussed and gives you an idea of what to expect from the lecture.  Entering the lecture with all this information in mind may help you follow the talk and take notes more comfortably.

Avoid distractions

Distractions play a big part in unsuccessful note-taking. Try to sit in the front row and close to the speaker so you can hear them better. Body language is beneficial, and you can easily observe it from proximity. Don’t pay attention to their appearance.

Introduction to the presentation

In case you don’t have an outline or handout of the lecture, the introduction part of the presentation may replace it for you. Speakers usually give an overview of the entire topic during this time.

Use keywords, symbols, abbreviations

It is not required to write down full sentences. Choosing keywords from sentences, using abbreviations or short forms of the words, paraphrasing the key information lets you keep track of the talk. Leave some free space under the notes so you can go back and add anything you have missed. You can also add further information by asking questions during the Q&A section. Another method you can use is interpretation – expressing multiple sentences or ideas in a few words.

Pay attention to “signposts”

They may signal the sharing of important information. Sentences such as “I would like to talk about … in this part” or “We come to the conclusion that …” are some examples of signposts.

Structure your notes

Use headings, subheadings, and bullet-points to categorize your notes. You can use the outline of the event to create a template. Highlight the primary ideas using different-colored pens or underline them. 

Record and transcribe

Recording the talk and transcribing it may give you the text of the entire lecture. You can do it yourself, hire a transcriber, or use the third option – automatic transcription software. The latter is the most cost-effective and time-saving method. It lets you distinguish between different speakers and search the transcript with keywords.  By clicking on any word, you can play the part of the recording associated with that word.