At the next conference you attend, you will almost certainly be given a notepad or something similar to write on. These aren't just for doodling in the margins; note-taking is an important part of every conference. Without it, you will struggle to retain the information you learn and end up with only a vague memory of what was said.

If you want to be able to take the skills and knowledge you learn at your next conference back with you, you need to find the method of note-taking that works best for you. There are plenty of different options; here is a short guide to a few of the most common.

Writing everything down

One option is simply to write down a shortened version of everything as it is said. This is the most common way of taking notes, but it is flawed. You will not be able to write as fast as people talk, even if you are only noting down a few words at a time. You might end up struggling so hard to write everything down that you don't actually absorb what's being said.

Instead, consider learning shorthand or something similar, in order to make your note-taking faster. You should also practice not writing down absolutely everything - you should only need to make note of a few things to jog your memory, not write down an entire lecture.


A great way to organise your notes is with colour. You could allocate a different shade to each of the topics you will be learning about and use that colour pen to write in or highlight your existing notes.

This will add context to your notes. For example, if you allocate green to the topic of 'finance', then you know that every sentence written or highlighted in green is about money in some way. This allows you to take shorter notes and still end up understanding them.

Invest in a dictaphone

In many ways, a dictaphone is a great way to take notes and make sure you can't forget or misinterpret anything. All you need to do is set it up to record whatever lecture or seminar you go to, then write up the notes later. This allows you to absorb more of what you are learning, as you do not have to focus on your note-taking.

However, it does mean that you will have a lot of work to do when you get home. Essentially, you will have to go through every session twice as you play them back to write everything up. Many people do not enjoy this, finding it a hassle.

Charts and categories

Finally, you can always invest in a bit of work beforehand in order to make your note-taking go smoothly. Take your notepaper and divide it up into tables and categories; 'training methods' might be one, for example, or 'employee motivation'.

Whenever you take note of something, you can put it in the relevant column or section. Much like colour-coding, this makes your notes much more understandable and easy to write. However, it involves less work during the actual sessions as long as you have set everything up properly beforehand.