I’m back! I made the mistake of attending two conferences within a week of each other and not anticipating the ripple effect on my life and I thought to myself, “it would have been great to have read up on how to deal with this.” So, for my blog, I’ve decided to write some tricks I’ve used/learned for the benefit of my own memory and with the hope of helping you survive the next time you attend a conference.
I went to Las Vegas to attend Suzanne Evans’ Be The Change event, which was quite the whirlwind affair, and then a few days later, I attended a local event, the Digital Marketing for Business conference in Raleigh. They were polar opposites in terms of style, “vibe”, types of attendees, presentation but both provided a lot of value. Basically I learned a LOT, both about information for use in my business but also how to better take advantage of the times when I invest in attending a conference. There’s a lot to cover so I’ve broken my ideas/thoughts up into multiple parts (# to be determined). Here’s the first:
Part 1: Systemize your note taking
As much as I love my mobile Evernote to capture my random moments of brilliance, notes to myself, fascinating resources and tools, it just doesn’t help me when I’m surviving the onslaught of brilliance, resources & tools embodied in conference form. I’m also a bit of a Luddite in this regard, in that I don’t like to haul around a laptop or netbook to take notes on (the whole balancing act on my lap is a BAD idea). So, I go old school: pen & paper.
Putting aside that my handwriting is atrocious (I can see my Mother’s head shaking in disappointment), I find that I take the fastest notes when I write (NOT type). Also, I noticed that the activity of writing inspires a crazy amount of related/not always related ideas to pop into my head. I don’t know about you, but my brain goes on overdrive! I’m so glad I have a system for my note taking because otherwise I’d have simply wasted a lot of ink, stained my fingers like a Pollock painting, and cramped my little finger bones for no benefit. Since my last two conferences, I’ve improved upon my method.
In my notebook, I date the top of the page and put the full name and company of each speaker as they present. This last trip, I happened to have a steno pad which had a vertical line in the middle which was useful for a time for dividing my regular note taking from actual “To Dos” but, for now, I’m not convinced enough to suggest you all get steno pads from now on.
Then, as I take notes, I use symbols written to the left of the sentence/phrase that I wrote down to indicate selected items for me to easily find later. (As shown in the photo–I told you my handwriting was atrocious!)
(!) Exclamation Point:
I use this to either indicate an astounding point of brilliance (think big Aha!) or an urgent task/item for me to follow-up. I actually learned this from my high school teacher, who made a habit of noting such sentences when grading our papers.
(?) Question Mark:
I use this to indicate either a question I have (written down), or something that I want to further research or look up (like a cool new tool, person, or website). If I know to whom I’ll be asking the question, I write their name.
(*) A star:
I use this to indicate interesting/good points. If it’s a really good point (but not quite an Aha!), I might reward it another star.
I use this usually at the end of the day or conference, when I’ve gone over my notes again but sometimes I’ll do it while note taking. This symbol indicates actions I WILL take (usually within 6 months). I put ideas of tasks/actions to the right of my notebook as I think of them, marked with the drawing of a top left corner (think a large letter L rotated 90 degrees clockwise), very much like a sidebar. After a little while, usually at the end of the day, I review these ideas for tasks/actions and use a checkmark to indicate the ones I PLAN to do (usually within 6 months).
Of course, you don’t have to use my symbols but I do recommend coming up with something similar that is intuitive & easy to remember. On and off, I toy with the idea of having pens/highlighters of different colors to do the same thing but I find I just don’t like juggling them all. It interrupts my train of thought, which is all the more annoying when my brain is already on overdrive!
What are your tricks for taking notes? Let me know in the comments below!
Here’s some fascinating related reading: