|Do you spend lot of time capturing detailed minutes of meeting or taking exhaustive notes while attending lectures?
This way you get less time to participate and concentrate on the content.
OneNote offers a brilliant solution to this problem.
Estimated reading time 10 min.
We attend lot of meetings. There are two types of meetings.
Some meetings are boring – you are just forced to attend, but there is nothing useful going on. During such meetings you participate minimally and take some spurious notes which you are never going to look at!
Some meetings are actually important. Negotiations, Customer Meetings, Planning meetings, Brainstorming, Conflict resolution meetings, HR reviews, Interviews…
It can also be used while attending lectures or seminars, rehearsals, music recitals, speeches and so on. Make sure you are not violating any copyright norms while doing so.
During useful meetings, there is often a formal minutes of meetings created and circulated to all participants.
If you have to capture all the important points, you will need to type a lot (assuming you are using Word or OneNote). If you are using paper, you will write a lot and then transcribe it into Word or OneNote later.
The problem is that while you are writing / typing, you cannot participate in the meeting, nor can you focus on what is being said. Multi-tasking is a myth.
There is always a chance that you miss some important point.
If nothing goes wrong, it is fine. However, if there is a dispute later, and you have not captured that particular point clearly, you are in trouble.
Fortunately, OneNote offers an elegant solution (for over a decade now). Unfortunately, most people don’t know about it or even if they are aware, they don’t end up using it.
Many journalists carry high quality and high capacity voice recorders. This allows them to focus on the interview or discussion. They also note down important points on paper / Word sometimes. But later, they have to listen to the entire audio recording to expand on the notes.
This is a time tested, established practice. But OneNote offers something much better.
OneNote allows you to record audio or video
For this to work, you must have OneNote loaded on a Laptop / Windows Tablet. OneNote Online or OneNote available on mobile devices does not offer this feature.
Here is how you manage the show.
At the start of the meeting you explain to everyone the purpose and benefits of recording the meeting. Everyone must agree.
Some companies require you to sign a media release form. Be aware of the norms applicable in your situation.
Now just click the Insert tab – Record Audio button. No special configuration is required. All laptops have a built-in Mic. Just do a test recording to check that regular voice is captured with acceptable quality. If voice quality is poor, increase the microphone sensitivity.
To increase mic sensitivity, right click on the volume button on the taskbar, choose Recording Devices, double click on the default device, go to levels and increase the sensitivity level. Test again. Repeat till you get good results. Keep the sensitivity on the higher side so that other people’s voice is also recorded. If you want good quality, buy a low cost table top mic so that it captures everyone’s voice equally well.
OneNote starts recording immediately.
How much space does the recording require?
Usually, at default sampling rate, it requires approximately ONE MB of file size for TEN MINUTES of AUDIO. Which is not much. Don’t worry about it.
The filename is same as the name of the OneNote page.
It records in WMA format, which provides good compression. The recording is optimized for voice rather than music.
What is the benefit?
Now you have the guarantee that everything that is being said is being recorded. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about taking exhaustive notes. You can only note down the important points – without worrying about missing something.
Now you have much more time at hand to participate in the discussion, appreciate the music or imbibe the lecture – no more distractions of typing or writing.
Remember that OneNote is not just about typing. You can use Tags to add more meaning to notes. You can also use the Draw tab to create free hand drawings or shapes on top of the text you type.
If you have a stylus you can just write the notes.
What if we are talking something confidential?
No problem. While the recording is going on, there is a pause button.
Pause. Talk confidential stuff and resume. Simple.
Useful for many professionals
It is also useful for journalists, system analysts, psychologists, doctors, lawyers, judges, counselors, who spend a lot of time listening to their clients and take notes. Recording allows them to focus on keeping eye contact, observing body language and participating actively.
What happens next?
Remember to pause during breaks…
otherwise all the REAL discussion will get recorded!
Remember to stop recording at the end of the meeting.
Otherwise, it will keep recording on and on
So far, so good. We have few notes and a long recording.
Now what do you do? How do you share this with other participants?
If it is an informal meeting, it is recommended that you create a shared notebook on SharePoint and just send the link to other participants.
If it is a formal meeting, you will have to replay and transcribe the text.
Replaying the recording
That is easy. Just click the play button and listen. Fast forward / Rewind is also available – 1o sec or 10 min so that you can navigate large chunks of time quickly.
For a lecture which you did not attend, listening to it from start to finish makes sense.
But how often do we listen to the whole meeting recording? That would be boring and unnecessary.
Problem: How do I jump to the discussion which was going on when I wrote specific notes
This would be a good idea. Because you have noted down the important points. Therefore, if there is a clarification or dispute about it, you would like to go to that point in the audio directly.
You don’t want to waste time searching for that audio location by struggling with fast forward or rewind.
No worries. That has already been thought of.
The amazing play buttons
There is a big play button in the Playback menu is useless. Leave that one alone.
Just click on the sentence within your notes which is important to you.
Now, miraculously, another play button appears on the left side of your text.
Click on that button and see what happens.
It jumps directly to that point of time in the audio (rewinds few seconds) and starts playing from there.
Click on another sentence and its play button, the audio again jumps to the right location automatically.
Brilliant feature. Show me another note taking software which does this so well. And I have not even finished describing the feature yet!
This is for techies. Think of how Microsoft designed this feature. It is a simple two column table – objectid, timestamp. But look at the finesse with which the feature is implemented. Hats Off!
When to record video?
Instead of Audio, you can also record video using a webcam. The method remains absolutely same.
But what is the point is using the built-in laptop webcams? It will only show you in the video.
Therefore, for it to be usable, you must have an external webcam which can capture the proceedings of the meeting.
When is video recording useful?
When there is something visual going on, video is useful. Otherwise, audio is enough.
Common scenarios are – brainstorming, product design, soft skills training, demos, group activities, panel discussions, formal important meetings like Annual General Meeting, white board based activities, training which involves demonstrating physical objects… the list is endless.
There is more: Text Search
Yes. If the audio is clear, OneNote can index the audio and allow you to find words in the recording. Activate this feature by going to File – Options – Audio & Video.
Enable the checkbox at the bottom: Enable Searching for Audio and Video Recordings for Words.
The indexing of audio requires time and an idle PC. Leave it alone for some time before you are able to search for text in audio files. Larger files require longer time. For long recordings, leave it alone overnight.
Use long and unique words while searching. Common words will yield too many results. Try to put phrases (more than one word) to increase accuracy of searching.
Type pronounced spelling rather than standard spelling. For example, search for area code one five three rather than area code 153.
Following languages are supported (provided you have added the language to Windows and Office) English, Japanese, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, Korean, German, French, Spanish, Italian.
There is another method of playing the audio and the linked notes. Just click the play button to start playing the audio from the beginning. As the audio plays, it automatically highlights the related notes. As time passes, it shifts the highlighted notes / drawing area automatically.
This is useful when you have not attended the meeting / lecture and want to know all that was discussed in detail.
To activate this feature – Click the See Playback button BEFORE clicking the Play button.
Students, use this during lectures as well.
OneNote is your best friend if you are a student. Focus on listening to the lecture. Record it. Take short notes highlighting the key points or queries or important topics or likely questions. Make sure you use tags to mark them so that before the exam you can search on important / likely topics and revise them quickly.
Capture slides, blackboard contents and embed them as pictures. Annotate them while audio is getting recorded. Even the annotation will have a play button for quick recall.
Click on the play button next to an important topic to hear what the professor said. You can hear the original lecture.
Put the notebook on a shared OneDrive folder and share it with your friends. That way, if anyone did not attend the lecture they can hear the entire lecture and see your notes.
The only problem may be that many colleges don’t allow students to use laptops during lectures – because they fear misuse!
If your college does not allow laptop use, show this article to your teachers and demonstrate the power and benefit of using OneNote.
Start using it. Demonstrate it in your next meeting.
For more scenarios on using OneNote effectively, read this article.
OneNote usage: Practical Scenarios