Ahh…glorious OneNote. The more I use it the more I love it.
For some reason OneNote still seems to be a well-kept secret, but it shouldn’t be, as it’s a brilliant tool for research, planning and collaborating with colleagues and partners.
In this post I’m going to share how OneNote’s awesome digital note-taking features with Outlook integration promote super-efficiency around managing meetings.
Create a meeting agenda
You’ll want to start your meeting agenda in a notebook that’s stored in a shared location – like your team SharePoint site, a project site, or wherever is most relevant to the type of meeting you’re running and to the folk who will be attend your meeting.
For my weekly team meetings I like to setup the following:
- I use a team notebook with a section tab for the year.
- I then add the date of the meeting to the page.
- I insert a predefined template with topics we need to cover.
- Where relevant, I edit the topic headings and start adding items to be discussed during the meeting.
If any of the topics require further research, or have supporting or related Outlook messages, documents, images or links to SharePoint or Web pages, I insert these into the agenda.
This is extremely handy during the meeting as it allows us to quickly move to relevant information with just one click.
Send the meeting agenda to attendees
It’s easy to insert OneNote pages into an email or a calendar invite.
Anyone you invite to the meeting (that has appropriate access rights to view and edit your shared notebook) can see the agenda in advance of the meeting and if applicable, can add to it.
When you create an Outlook calendar appointment for the meeting go to Appointment > Meeting Notes and select the notebook with the relevant page that holds the meeting agenda. A link is inserted into the appointment, and invitees who accept the meeting are able to click the link to view the agenda at any time.
For my team meetings the agenda for next week’s meeting is always available, and the team are encouraged to view it in advance of the meeting so they can be prepared for queries and progress updates on the day.
In fact, I often start a page with next week’s agenda during this week’s meeting, making it easy to quickly note or copy and paste items that are pushed out till next week.
Record minutes and actions during the meeting
Depending on how formal or segregated you require the minutes of your meeting you may create a sub-page to the agenda page, or a new page in a new section.
Because my team meetings are held weekly, and are for internal staff only, I record actions and decisions in the original agenda page, but in a different colour to the agenda text.
In the screenshot above you can see Alex added a suggestion in blue before the meeting. The decision or action agreed in the meeting was added in red and a task flag was set up for Alex to progress.
No method for recording minutes is right or wrong – do whatever works best for your meeting and the type of information you need to record. If you plan to share the minutes with a mixed audience (i.e. external clients or people who didn’t attend the meeting), I recommend recording the minutes in a separate page. This helps to keep the formatting clean and gives you a single page to share after the meeting.
If the meeting was organised in Outlook Calendar, you can add the meeting details to your OneNote page. Go to Home > Meeting Details and select the relevant meeting.
The details from Outlook Calendar are added to the page, including the names of invited attendees.
This provides a good base for your minutes, all you have to do is start typing under the Notes area.
You can easily add images, attachments and links to the minutes as you require.
You can also tag and categorise relevant items to help you find them later, or batch related tasks.
You can even record the audio or video of your meeting, go to Insert > Record Audio or Record Video. A huge bonus for those who couldn’t be at the actual meeting!
Any notes you type in the page when you’re recording are bookmarked, so after the meeting it’s a breeze to forward on to others pertinent parts just by clicking on the note you’re interested in.
It’s also easy to create action lists and set tasks for attendees of the meeting, or even for folk who didn’t attend. Go to Home > Outlook Tasks > Custom … and click Assign Task to delegate a task to someone.
I urge you to start using OneNote for meeting management and start saving your valuable time. You won’t believe how much “double-handling” you avoid. It really is a fantastic business tool that offers so much in terms of efficiency – a secret tool that needs to be shared with everyone!