I’ve been an outstanding note-taker since school. Don’t ask me how I got to be that way, it’s not as if I trained for it or anything. All I know is that come exam time, people started asking for my phone number and email awfully quick to get some last-minute notes.

Naturally, I started taking notes when I attended the Florida Speakers Association meetings a couple of years ago. My mom and I would share the notes and come up with strategies based on them, so the process was insular at first. Then, some people at the meetings noticed that I typed a lot faster than they did and started asking me to send my notes along. That expanded until now, where my notes are posted on the FSA blog for others to enjoy. I’m officially a member now :) very excited about that. Anyway, here are my notes for our May speaker, Joachim de Posada. He’s an amazing speaker – you can check him out on TED talks and on his website. He’s also a really nice guy.

Note-taking is one of the reasons I created my company, Millennial Voice. It all started when adults started asking for my notes. It’s one thing to have half your English class ask to photocopy your notebook right before an exam. I saw them snoring every day, I knew they weren’t paying attention. But it’s a different thing to be in a professional setting, where people have paid for the opportunity to listen to someone speak, to watch people actively taking notes and paying attention, and then have that person ask for your notes anyway. That’s when I realized how valuable my skill could be.

Funny enough, that’s one of the things that Joachim talks about in the presentation I took notes on: finding your strength and using that as your guiding light. Something I thought of as mediocre, something everyone has to do (take notes) could be really valuable to someone who isn’t necessarily as good at note-taking as I am. All I did was see that this was a personal strength and converted it into a money-generating enterprise, thus Millennial Voice.

Back to the notes. Because I’m essentially using note-taking to create content, I thought it would be helpful to give three tips for improving your note-taking ability. You can do this during a presentation or even for your own material.

1) Don’t transcribe

I’ve seen people feverishly scribbling as speakers present, interrupting every now and then to ask “What was that last part?” and missing the entire point the speaker was making. Try not to do this. It’s tempting to get the phrasing just right but unless you can type or write very quickly, this approach isn’t valuable and when you look over your notes later, it won’t make sense anyway.

2) Pay attention to lists

I tend to orient myself based on tips and lists. The three ways to improve your writing, the five ways to give a better presentation. It’s easier to keep more accurate notes if you follow those verbal markers. This is also a sign of a good speaker, since you can usually follow their train of thought based on how they organize their speech.

3) Translate the core message

Is it really important to write down the long, drawn-out story that makes the point… or is it more important to write down the point? I usually write a reminder (example: the Nike example, the elephant story) to prick my memory in my notes, but I usually focus on writing down the point of the story. This is the part you need to take away from the talk so focus on catching those big points.