Tips for taking great notes at events & conferences

I love going to design conferences and being inspired by all of the wise creative/business people speaking. There is always so much to take in, and I inevitably come away remembering only a fraction of what I heard/experienced.

So, I have perfected my note taking method for events to make sure I retain all of the important stuff I want to take away. This works for meetings, catchups, lectures and even YouTube videos/TED talks too.

The takeaways

At events, there are three main things I want to take away from each speaker:

1. Knowledge and wisdom – tips and tricks, processes, how the experts work 🦉

2. Recommendations – what books they read, resources they use, websites they frequent, people to follow, socials etc. 📚

3. Inspiration – quotes, concepts, inspiring ideas (sometimes inspiration for side projects hit mid presentation) 💡

The method

A fresh notebook

Start with a blank notebook - I normally use a couple of Moleskine Cahier Journals for each event. They are a handy size for carrying around all day, and come in packs of three, so you can stock up and have spares. Bonus if you get a nice complimentary notebook at the event you can use!

Notebook set up

I use both the front and back of the notebook for taking notes - you don’t know if the speaker is going to be a 'one-page speaker' or a 'six-page speaker'. Which is why it’s useful to use the front/back method. This means I can have an index of inspiration and concepts from the entire event (from the back), and chronological notes from each speaker (from the front) - keeping everything in order where it's easy to refer back to.

1. Very first page

Event name & general notes

2. For each speaker/talk, take a new spread

Page one of spread - keep this page clear for speaker info and any recommendations throughout their presentation

• Speaker name & company, date

• @theirsocials

• Talk topic / title

• Recommendations to look up later (websites, resources, tools, books to check out, people who inspire them)

After this, start the notes from that speaker's presentation

3. Back of book (working forwards)

Working from the back forward, take notes on bigger inspiring ideas, nuggets, quotes (and your interpretation / impression from concepts shared), any feeling, vision, idea or impulse you want to keep and remember later etc.

That's it! It might seem like overkill, but if (like me) you like taking notes to look back on, and writing things down helps you learn, it's a nice way of organising your thoughts and having a record of that inspiration when it hits.