Improving your Note-taking Skills: Strategies for Mapping a Speech

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  • 0:01 Why Take Notes During…
  • 0:48 Listening Tips
  • 2:12 Note-Taking Strategies
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

When attending a speaking event, the tendency is to listen to what the speaker has to say. But it is equally important to take careful notes to determine the central idea of the speech.

Why Take Notes During a Speech?

Think about a time you attended a lecture or a speaking event, and the speaker was so interesting that you hung on every word. All along, you might have thought you would remember everything he said.

Well, chances are, you won't recall everything. In fact, one study reported that we remember only 50% of what we heard during a lecture and within the next 48 hours, that percentage decreased another half! That means by the time that we may want to use the information we learned at the speaking event, little of what we heard will be available in our memories.

So, note taking during a speech is important. But not everyone knows exactly how to take good notes. Well, here are a few tips that will help you take really good notes.

Listening Tips

Taking notes seems pretty simple. A pen, a pad and a couple of ears should do it. However, before we can think about taking good notes, we need to sharpen our listening skills.

Don't confuse listening with hearing. Listening is to attach meaning to words and sentences. In other words, it makes sense out of the sounds we hear. Hearing is different. It is the involuntary and uncontrollable act of absorbing noise in our brains. When a glass hits a tile floor and shatters, we hear it. Simple. Listening takes practice. Here are some tips you can start using right now!

For one, read up on the content of the speech prior to the engagement. Having a little background knowledge will prepare you to cut through the information to get to the most central ideas. Once you get the main idea, you can connect ancillary information to create a clear idea of what is being said.

Listen for verbal cues the speaker may send. Things like using examples, repeating details or referencing a source may tell you that the point he is stressing may be important. Direct statements that call attention to certain points in the speech tell the audience to listen up.

Non-verbal cues are equally important. A serious facial expression may indicate a critical point will follow. Hand gestures, like pointing to a visual, is a good indication that the speaker wants to be sure you see it. Put all together, listening should be easier.

Note-Taking Strategies

Now that we learned how to recognize when important information is coming our way, just how do we put it all down on paper? Sounds a little like rubbing your head and belly at the same time, huh? Well, not so much. Let's break down some easy to-do strategies that should help you write better notes.

First and foremost, never try to write down everything the speaker is saying. This is mostly because not everything being said is important. Some information is really just there to take up space.

Of course, listen for direct statements that take you from one place to another. For example, if the speaker directs you to his first point, it probably means that the information to follow is part of the central theme. Once you get the main idea of the speech, listen for sub-topics that relate to the main point and make connections on paper. Depending on your note-taking style, it could look something like this.

Note Taking Type
Note Taking

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