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Make meetings matter with the right tools

Christopher Null | Nov. 13, 2013
With these smartpens, apps, audio recorders, and transcription services, you'll always leave the conference room with the essential info.

Take notes by tablet
If you must take notes directly on a device, a tablet that you can lay flat on the table is your best bet because it avoids that alienating effect of using a device with an upright screen. Whether you choose to write or type your notes on the tablet depends on your typing speed and accuracy. Using a stylus-equipped device such as the Samsung Galaxy Note line will likely improve both, while making it easier to capture diagrams and drawings precisely.

A number of note-taking apps are available for any tablet platform, so shop around to ensure that the app's features match your needs.

If you constantly attend meetings, Minutes App ($5; iOS) helps you organize copious notes, assign follow-ups to different people through integration with your address book, track time, and more. If you need to keep tabs on what happened for a daily staff update, this is your app.

Note Taker HD ($5; iOS) is better suited to a handheld device and a free-form doodler. It includes simple drawing features and PDF annotation options.

For general-purpose notetaking, Evernote (free; iOS, Android, BlackBerry) is a perennially solid choice that makes organizing notes easy.

Mic your meetings
Capturing an entire meeting in audio form can be useful in a brainstorming session, for example, where ideas get thrown out faster than you can write them down—or where ideas may be so complex that your brief notes can't capture them in full. A recording also helps if you'd rather focus your attention on what's being said and wait until later to summarize the meeting with written notes.

Recording a meeting isn't as easy as it sounds. A smartphone placed in the middle of a conference room table is likely to yield tinny, distorted audio (especially if anyone is participating via speakerphone) that will hamstring your transcription efforts.

Your best bet is to rely on a high-end microphone. (Such devices also let you keep your recording device near your seat, so you can start and stop the recording as necessary.) The Blue Spark Digital Microphone ($200), for example, can connect to a USB or iOS device, and it uses studio-grade technology to ensure the highest quality of recorded sound.

If you're recording via mobile device, you'll want to pair this microphone with an app that's designed for recording meetings instead of music. Audiolio ($2; iOS) lets you bookmark audio segments with time-stamped written notes, and then share the files after the meeting.

Order a transcript
If you need a word-for-word transcript of an entire meeting, you can't rely on your own typing to produce the document—even if you type at 100 words per minute.

 

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