How to Take Notes at a Conference

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Categories: Continued Learning,What to do at conference

Take a break from doing business but keep your tools handy to take copious notes at any conference/event you attend.It’s important to take notes when attending a conference, but with so many options these days what is the best tool to do so?

Life was simple years ago when a person just carried a pen and note pad to a conference for capturing notes. Now, there are many different devices conference attendees use for capturing notes. And the beauty of the devices is we can do much more than just take speaker notes.

Conference attendees are carrying everything today from iPads to iPhones, Blackberries and small laptops. It’s actually the power of the software that is so magnificent. We can take pictures, access speaker PowerPoint presentations and read the latest conference happenings via tweets. We can see convention hall layouts, speaker bios, and read what other attendees think about the speakers’ presentations.  I am fascinated when I think about all the capabilities we have today.

There is only one reservation I have about ‘event’ software. It happened to me last year when I was attending the American Society for Training and Development conference. It was the first time I decided to use the conference-event software to pull up the speakers’ slide presentations, handouts and to take notes. I had two days of notes and contact information when the software program crashed on me (and several other attendees). Much to my dismay, I lost all the great ideas I had captured for two days. Ugh!!! Fortunately, many of the sessions were recorded and I was able to watch the speakers again after I got back home.

So this year, I am taking notes with pen and paper but using the event software for the handouts and PowerPoint slides; to look at the program schedule (even though they provided a fat book for attendees). By the way, that reminds me of one thing I’ve noticed and that is many conferences do not provide a hard copy of handouts any more. If you want the handouts, you have to print them out ahead of time or access them online.

At the Office Dynamics Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence, we still provide a hard copy participant booklet. But it will be interesting to see if we continue the trend in 2014 and beyond.

What do you prefer as a conference attendee? Would you feel lost without a hard-copy conference booklet with handouts? What do you think about the paperless idea?

I would love to hear your thoughts about your preferred note-taking method at conferences.

Thank you

Author: Joan Burge

Joan Burge is known as the red-lipstick-wearing “Rock Star” of administrative and executive assistant training and a successful entrepreneur who founded a movement in 1990 to help administrators see themselves as professionals so they could excel in business. She is the creator and host of the “Event of Distinction” Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence™ (started in 1993); the World Class Assistant™ Certification course; more than 40 customized workshops and seminars for executive and administrative assistants. She has authored 8 books; 4 for administrative and executive assistants.

2 Responses to "How to Take Notes at a Conference"

  1. Amanda Carpentier Posted on June 6, 2013 at 1:21 am

    I currently prefer using the notes App on my iPad, then email the note to myself and file it away. I have tried other apps, including removing into my work computer; however using notes has been the most reliable. It has only been 14 months of trial/error and at first I thought I’d be lost without hard copies. It was a huge mindset change, and now I make sure to also reference slides/presentation/handout page numbers when available. Since I can type faster than I can print my notes are more complete and add value to my training. If absolutely necessary I print the notes to be filed with training materials, particularly for HR so I can easily reference to several things at once.

    As a side note, I now use my iPad to take meeting minutes (via remote access), and use Evernote for reminder notes unrelated to the meeting (great App I have yet to test for conference use).

    I would love to hear what you all are using and App recommendations!

    Thank you & have a wonderful day!

  2. Joy Brewton Posted on June 6, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Great blog. My preference for notetaking is Notability App on my I-pad and I use it daily. I can even take shorthand with the maglus stylus (which alters the width of the strokes). Technology is moving so fast there are so many options that I almost cringe at paper and the “traditional” pen. However, I totally understand – not everyone is there – its a matter of preference. “Tech-y” girl here :) Thanks Joan – hope you bring your conference to Ohio soon!