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📝 How to Take Meeting Notes People Actually Use [9 Templates & Examples]

Learn how to take thorough meeting notes using these tools: meeting note templates, best practices, and how-tos.

The Hugo Team
The Hugo Team
The team transforming meeting productivity
📝 How to Take Meeting Notes People Actually Use [9 Templates & Examples]

Ever left a meeting feeling like you were forgetting something? And then you thought to yourself, “I wish I took some notes”?

You’ve got a busy life and a million things to remember, not just about work either.

But, decisions and action items from meetings tend to be important — a kind of my-career-might-hinge-on-this level of importance.

Well, I can't help you with the last meeting you went to, but I can with the next one.

For a foolproof method for meeting notes, you need a system that is simple and not a burden. That’s what this article is about.

The templates, best practices, and suggestions here will turn you into a meeting note-taking machine.

Today, we’re going to cover the ins and outs of taking awesome meeting notes. Then we’ll show you some example notes in the form of meeting note templates.

You might even think you know how to take good notes, and just want to nab a Google Doc or Word file for a professional-looking notes template.

But the truth is, the way most people write meeting notes is like how they took notes in school—incredibly long and detailed.

That kind of note-taking is tedious in a professional setting, and it doesn't produce meeting notes that your team members can benefit from.

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to put aside bad habits like writing down way too much information or taking notes only to lose them later.

Stick with me and you’ll learn a note-taking method that will make people want to bring you to their meetings because your meeting notes are clear, concise, and capture the most important information.

What are Meeting Notes?

Meeting notes should highlight the key issues discussed, decisions that were made, and any action items from the meeting. In more informal settings, meeting notes are taken so that you’ll have a reference of what was discussed. In board meetings, or other more formal settings, meeting minutes may need to be taken and kept on hand as legal documentation.

Good meeting notes can make your project management process easier, since people who may have missed a meeting can still read over the notes you took during the meeting.

There is no right or wrong way to take meeting notes, so the technique or template you use is completely based on individual preferences.

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Table of Contents

Note-taking tips:

  1. Why bother? (Benefits)
  2. How to take notes

Meeting notes templates by team:

  1. Sales meetings
  2. Customer meetings
  3. Product meetings
  4. Get more meeting notes templates

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Why bother writing meeting notes anyway?

Note-taking improves recall.

Studies have shown that note-taking improves the recall of information. Taking notes provides deeper levels of subject-matter understanding.

While the bulk of this research on note-taking has focused on academic settings, it’s likely that the same benefits for students occur when taking meeting notes professionally. Take any kind of notes at all during a meeting and you’re more likely to be able to remember what happened, even if you never glance at your notes again.

Notes make meetings meaningful.

Learning how to take the best meeting notes you can gives you an opportunity to organize, retain, and act on what’s happening at your meetings.

Having a record (sometimes called meeting minutes) will help you and your team become more effective and productive during meetings. That's right—simple meeting minutes can help create a cycle of continuous improvement. The notes also hold the group accountable to use the meeting time effectively.

Meeting notes become especially valuable as time passes and you need to look something up. With even a basic note-taking habit, you’ll likely save yourself a lot of time and embarrassment at your company.

Left unchecked, meetings might kill your business. BUT—run with the right process, according to the right values, meetings also hold the potential to drive your success.

Meeting notes enable professional success.

By taking notes in meetings, you are potentially helping your career just as you’re making yourself more successful at work. When you share these notes with colleagues or your boss, well-written meeting notes establish you as an organized person and as a leader. Your notes show you know what is going on. They inspire professional confidence.

With so much on the line, taking (good) meeting notes can seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. All you need is a laptop or a notebook to start. (A meeting notes template may help, but we got you covered below.)

Below are some tips on organizing your meeting notes so they are brief, clear, and useful to readers.

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How to take effective meeting notes

There's nothing worse than spending an hour in a meeting and then afterward not being able to remember the important details because you didn’t record anything.

The opposite is just as bad. You wrote down everything that everyone said but didn’t engage in the most important discussions during the meeting.

But taking meeting notes / meeting minutes that people will actually use doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow a few easy practices.

Whether you’re running daily stand-ups or hosting weekly one-on-ones, the following ways to organize your meeting notes can improve note-taking across a range of meeting types.

✅ Start with your meeting agenda

Instead of starting from blank, copy the meeting agenda to provide structure to your notes.

✅ Keep a record of all attendees

Before the meeting starts, note who is there. Listing every participant in the room is less about attendance than it is about transparency. If someone who didn’t attend has concerns about a meeting decision, for example, having an attendee list ready will help you to recall who had a hand in making it.

<blue-bar>Browse 80+ meeting notes templates (Free to download)<blue-bar>

✅ Note decisions, outcomes, and action items as they occur

There are really only three (3) takeaways you need to keep track of in your meeting notes

  1. Decisions
  2. Outcomes
  3. Action items 

Write these down as they happen if possible.

If someone gives an update or presentation, resist the temptation to take detailed notes unless you know someone is missing the meeting but would need that information. For very important discussions, you may want to record each main point or what ideas are discussed (rather than the entire discussion).

Notes do not need to be a verbatim accounting of everything that happened.

They should, however, highlight what was accomplished, what responsibilities were given, and what decisions were made."

—From the book
Vital Meetings

✅ Forget about capturing everything

Stick to the key points. You’re likely to miss out on something important––like the group moving on without making a decision––if you try to capture everything word-for-word. When taking meeting notes, follow the Vital meetings framework and focus on what’s needed: decisions, outcomes, and action items.

✅ Collaborate in one digital document online

Expecting attendees to take their own notes opens the door to misunderstandings and is a waste of time. Instead, give everyone access to the same shared document so there’s one source of meeting note truth. Participants can focus less on note-taking and more on the issues at hand.

Sharing the same doc also lets you standardize your meeting minutes. By using the same kind of meeting notes template for all of your meetings, follow-ups are easier.

(Until recently, I often would take meeting notes on a yellow legal pad. Then, I would take my time typing everything up at home that night. It was time-consuming, but the worst part was that other people on my team were doing the exact same thing.)

✅ Share meeting notes with all stakeholders

Keeping everyone in the loop means sharing meeting notes with team members who weren’t in the room, especially if your team size is on the larger side. Just don’t rely on email as your only channel.

Slack and other chat programs are great venues for follow-ups since they provide an immediate and direct way for all vested parties to push things forward and have context for future meetings.

Sharing summarized information from meetings helps an organization develop a shared consciousness across roles and departments, which leads to more knowledgeable workers and better decisions."
—From the book Vital Meetings

✅ Use meeting note templates for repeatability

Templates afford you the ability to write meeting notes in a predefined meeting notes format. Your meeting agenda is the ideal framework for turning one-off notes into a reusable outline.

Take meeting notes today, turn them into a template to use for your next meeting.

You don't need to follow your template exactly. As long as you record decisions made, key ideas, takeaways, and next steps, your minutes will be helpful. The template is there to be an outline and keep your notes organized, and give you structure—but not so much that it makes your job harder.

✅ Choose the best note-taking methods for your needs

There are countless note-taking methods available for your to choose from. If you select a method that works well with your natural writing style and role, you’ll be more likely to take better notes in meetings you attend.

These are some of the more common note-taking methods:

  • Cornell Method: The Cornell Method uses two columns to organize your notes. In a smaller column on the left side, you’ll write down the key ideas from the meeting. In a larger column on the right side, you will dive deeper into the key ideas
  • Outline Method: If you share an agenda prior to your meetings you can use that to build an outline for taking useful meeting notes. Then in the meeting you can take notes on each agenda item.
  • Quadrant Method: This method involves using four sections (or quadrants) for organizing your notes. Your notes will be broken into: general notes, action items for you, action items for the team, and questions.
  • Boxing Method: The Boxing Method organizes different topics into individual boxes, so that each topic or big idea from your meeting will be contained in its own box.

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Meeting note templates and tips for specific teams

You'll eventually want to make templates for all of your main meeting types. With the right meeting note template, an effective meeting yields more than action items––it enables teams to capture critical business insights.

Below we share a meeting notes format that works for every type of meeting. Here are templates and meeting notes best practices for taking better meeting notes across three of your most important teams: sales, customer success, and product

Templates and tips for Sales Meeting notes

Success in sales often comes down to asking the right questions and moving quickly to provide value. The following meeting note templates will help focus your sales meetings so you can uncover what to prioritize moving forward. 

Sales Qualification

Qualifying leads is a time-consuming but necessary step towards building successful customer relationships. Sales teams that simplify the process can make effective judgments without chasing bad-fit deals. Well-structured meeting notes will help keep your qualifying questions on track, even if the meeting veers in a different direction.

Whether your team qualifies via cold call or during appointments, this sales qualification meeting notes template streamlines the process by identifying what matters most when evaluating a lead’s potential to become a long term customer.

Most importantly, the note template promotes alignment between team members as leads move through the sales funnel.

Sales Conversation

The right series of sales meetings turn qualified leads into customers. But steering leads through your sales funnel requires more than just talk. It demands a thoughtful and systematic approach that connects your prospect’s pain points to your organization’s solution.

This customizable sales conversation meeting notes template is designed to do just that.

By balancing discovery questions with relevant information for leads, the template prepares sales teams to strike with purpose––and value––to close more deals. 

Save meeting notes like this to your CRM to stay organized. Share with your team if needed so everyone everyone remains in the loop on important meetings.

Customer Onboarding

The onboarding process plays a crucial role in customer retention, and it's one where you may decide to share your meeting notes with your customer to follow along.

The more quickly your customers gain value from engaging with your product or service, the more likely they’ll be to stick around for the long haul. Sometimes, your meeting note is the first big step in claiming that value.

That’s why having a customer onboarding meeting note template matters: It puts the focus of these critical meetings on helping customers to establish quick wins.

But proper onboarding isn’t limited to the short term. Once customers define what success means, your team can agree on an implementation path that not only identifies risks but also unearths opportunities. Onboarding may not be a single meeting, but a series of check-ins at critical steps in the launch process.

By providing accountability and transparency, this meeting note template will position your team to drive better results. To ensure team alignment around customer needs––and to set the stage for continued customer success––share it with people who weren’t involved in onboarding.

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How to take notes for Customer Meetings

Long-term customer success rests on understanding and responding to your customer’s needs as they evolve. Meetings remain one of the most effective ways to capture customer sentiment. 

To master the art of customer meetings, begin by using the right meeting notes template. From there, act on what you learn to keep those relationships happy and healthy.

Customer Hand-off

The sales-to-customer success hand-off is one of the most important transitions in the customer journey. It's also usually best done in a meeting. Without alignment between teams, customers are often left to fend for themselves––a recipe for disengagement and eventual churn.

Organizations get this meeting right by anticipating and accounting for possible bumps in the road. They use the hand-off meeting as an opportunity to make the transition as smooth as possible.

This process is much easier with a customer hand-off meeting note template. It centralizes the most relevant customer information––unique priorities, work and communication styles, and key KPIs in the note––so that teams can understand clients better, achieve objectives faster, and earn trust quicker.

So that no balls get dropped, be sure to write all next steps including a due date and who is responsible.

This is another meeting note to definitely save in your CRM. Then anyone can read your meeting note and pick up right where you left off and take meaningful action where it matters the most.

Customer Check-in

Understanding customer needs requires meeting check-ins at regular intervals to see how they’re doing. When done right, a customer check-in meeting empowers your team to note down the information needed to deliver ongoing value.

An effective customer check-in meeting note template helps teams achieve this in a few ways. First, in your meeting note you can identify anything that’s changed since the last check-in. Second, your note template asks customers what isn’t working to determine areas for improvement and risks of churn.

Third, questions in the sample meeting invite customers to co-create goals before your next check-in––things your team can do to reduce or solve for whatever isn’t working.

This proactive approach enables teams to itemize client issues and pinpoint solutions faster and with more accountability. Once your note is ready, head back to the top and add a brief summary (1-2 sentences) as a TL;DR.

Share this meeting note with colleagues via email or chat––or better, sync it with your CRM––to provide everyone with a holistic overview of customer relationships and up the odds of continuous improvement.

Customer Feedback

Customer feedback meetings are vital to making sound product decisions. Whether you're a customer support member, product manager, or part of the UX research team, notes from these meetings can provide helpful insights into how to improve the user experience.

Acting on this feedback often translates to enhanced customer relationships and increased retention rates. But before your team can take meaningful action, they need to make sure they’re asking the right questions, noting the information that's most valuable, and sharing these notes with the people who matter.

Our customer feedback meeting note template helps make each customer conversation more meaningful by framing feedback in context. Share it so your product team, marketing team, and designers can better understand the customer perspective and translate these insights into action.

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Note-taking for Product Meetings 

Successful product development requires a combination of customer feedback, quantitative data, and a well-oiled process. Meetings are often the glue that brings these elements together.

To maximize their effectiveness, we offer unique meeting notes templates designed for mission-critical steps to building and shipping features your customers will love.

User research

Your product won’t evolve without user research. And effective user research starts with effective note-taking during the research session.

To transform the qualitative insights gained from user research sessions into quantifiable trends, it helps to have a template. Our user research meeting notes template simplifies the process, empowering your engineering, design, and product teams to drive impactful, positive change.

Whether you’re focusing on design enhancements or trying to refine features, this meeting note template can be customized to capture the data and context you need to understand your customers better.

Sprint planning

Sprint planning is a team sport, so any notes here should be collaborative and shared with everyone involved in the sprint. To be successful, product owners, scrum masters, and agile team members must be aligned on everything––from agreeing on achievable goals to turning user stories into tasks.

With so many decisions to make and details to consider, these sessions require robust documentation. Whether you're combing through your backlog to determine what tasks need to be done or fleshing out epics around specific issues, our sprint planning meeting note template puts the focus on what you need to move forward.

Learn More: How to Make a Plan in 5 Steps

Follow-up the team meeting by sharing these notes in Slack, or via email to ensure everyone remains on the same page. And don't forget that as part of this process, you should turn your meeting notes into assignable action items in whatever project management or meeting management software you use.

Product roadmap

In an ideal world, product roadmaps prevent product teams from going off-course. In the real world, competing priorities and misaligned objectives can send product strategy meetings into irrelevant and unproductive territory.

To keep product planning on track, your team must find the balance between the big picture and the seemingly small details that impact it. Our customizable product roadmap meeting note template helps teams organize their thinking around the high-level, long term vision and the steps needed to make it a reality.

Tailor it to meet your needs and ensure your team remains on path. Assign action items in a few clicks to keep everyone accountable.

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Get more meeting notes examples

All of these sample meeting notes templates come from our growing library of note and agenda templates for all sorts of meetings.

You can get every template in the library to use for your meeting notes by accessing the template and applying it to a meeting in Fellow. (Fellow is a free meetings notes app).

Meeting notes templates gallery

Meeting notes template FAQS

Are these meeting note-taking templates free?

Yes, all of the meeting notes templates here and in our library are free to download, copy, or use as you like.

What formats are the meeting notes templates available in?

You can use all of the free meeting templates on this page in two ways:

  1. Apply the template to a meeting in Fellow
  2. Copy the text from the meeting note template right off of the browser page

How do you add one of these notes templates to your free Fellow account?

Fellow is the top-rated meeting management software. All of the templates in the library here are also available in the template library within your Fellow account. To pre-load your account with one of these meeting note templates when you sign up, do the following:

  1. If you're in this article, find the "Get this template" link in the lower right hand corner or any of the embedded note templates. If you're in the template library, locate a "Use this template" button
  2. Click the link or button. Then follow the account creation instructions. You will be asked to connect your calendar to Fellow, and then a couple of questions to set up your account
  3. Once in Fellow, the template will be among your list of active meeting note templates. Click "Use Template" and choose which meeting that you would like to use that template for.

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