Mind Mapping

by Gillian Burn

Note taking in meetings and presentations

How often have you been in a meeting where lots of things are being discussed and you are trying to capture everything down, only to find you may have missed some of the key points?

The Mind Mapping® technique can help you to take notes during a meeting in such a way that you capture all the key points, have clear actions to follow up on and yet are still able to fully participate in the meeting!

I have personally used mind mapping for taking notes in meetings and presentations for many years. It’s an invaluable tool to help capture information quickly and accurately. It has also helped me see how different facts link together by providing an overall picture/map of the situation, so I have a greater feel of the meeting’s objectives. It has improved my recall of action points after a meeting and reduced the time taken to produce summary notes or email actions after the meeting.

Use the following eight-point summary next time you are in a meeting or presentation and need to take notes.

  1. It is easier to use a plain pad of paper, in a sideways (landscape) position. You will also find it helpful to have a four-colour pen or several coloured pens. These ‘tools’ will help increase the use of your peripheral vision when taking notes and avoid the restrictions of lined paper, enabling you to be more creative in linking areas or agenda points together.
  2. Start by drawing a simple picture or image, relating to the subject of the meeting, in the centre of the paper: for example, an illustration of a timetable to represent a meeting to discuss timetable changes. You may also include the main objective of the meeting within the image.
  3. You will then need to create branches from the central image. With mind mapping, branches are created from the central image rather like the legs of a spider. You can start to add branches anywhere on the paper. However, I have found I usually work clockwise, starting with the agenda and list of attendees at about 12 o’clock – at the top of the paper, in other words. Each branch is made with a curvy line the same length as the word. The first branch may be titled ‘attendees’ with ‘apologies’ as a sub branch. The date of the meeting can be incorporated within the central image or on the top corner of the paper.
  4. If the agenda is known beforehand, it may be useful to include a key branch for each agenda point. Remember to use only key words, with one word or picture/image per branch. You may choose to illustrate separate agenda points with different colours of the pen. In a presentation or lecture, each section or topic area can be illustrated with a main branch. It will, however, depend on the skill of the presenter in clearly stating the key areas they will be discussing! From my experience, the key branches usually become clear, even if I change the heading of a branch during the presentation. My advice would be to enjoy creating the mind map and not to worry if it does not look like a work of art!
  5. As the meeting progresses and each agenda point is discussed, the emphasis lies on capturing key words only within sub-branches. Add simple pictures, where possible, or symbols or signs to illustrate a key point: for example, a ‘T’, if you need to ring someone (or insert a simple check mark as an action point after the meeting), ‘L’ if you need to send a letter and so on. The key is to create your own simple symbols or images, which you can jot down quickly, like your own version of shorthand, thus reducing the number of words you need to write down. The added benefit is that you will remember the information and action points more if you have created images in the notes, however strange you think they may look!
  6. The benefit of the mind map is that, by capturing the notes in a graphic representation, areas hat are linked together in the meeting can easily be linked with a curvy line between branches. This helps with consistency and ensures that similar types of information are grouped together. The traditional note taking methods, using lined paper and lists, can prove too restrictive when different ideas or points flow during a meeting.
  7. The trick is to remember to develop your own style over time. For example, you will get into the habit of using certain colours to illustrate key points, or specific symbols or images or personal signs that have meaning for you. Allow your style to develop over time. The mind map notes do not have to be a work of art, the important thing is to capture the key points in a way that reduces your time, makes follow up and recall more effective, and allows you time to focus and concentrate in the meeting or presentation.
  8. It is useful to have a separate key branch with the heading of ‘action’, follow up, next agenda points and so on. For me, this is usually placed at around 11 o’clock on my imaginary clock face, near the centre top of the paper. You can then detail the key actions or, alternatively, use a symbol to detail the areas on the branches that may refer to an action. As a sub-branch, you can also add the details of the next meeting, location, key people to attend and so on.

Prepare your paper and pens now, so you are ready to create your first mind map notes at your next meeting. The following mind map picture will help illustrate the key points for you.

   Note taking mind map.