Writing right, right now

Sep 13, 2020

In our current digital and remote work environment, the basic task of note taking has become enormously important.

Video conferencing, video chats, Zoom, Skype, Monday.com, Basecamp, Planit. The list is long. And it was sudden. Yet here we are, all living in a remote work world. Strangely, some of us are getting more face time – albeit via a laptop monitor – than we had with our co-workers before.

Yet as we zip from one Zoom to another, what are we left with?

  • Some sense of personal connection.
  • Perhaps a to-do list item or two.
  • But often, especially when video meetings are scheduled back-to-back-to-back, an overwhelming feeling of dismay and the thought “what just happened?”

“Remote working tends to shift the emphasis from verbal communication to written communication,” according to Gapingvoid’s article “A New Remote Era Unfolds.” “As handy as Skype and Zoom are, nobody wants to spend six hours a day on them. Be ready and act accordingly.”

Which leads us to a real need – to start writing right, right now.

In our overwhelming digital and remote work environment, the basic task of note taking has become enormously important. We must all become active meeting participants during our remote meetings. This means not only contributing to the conversation, but also following all parts of the conversation.

And to make sure our meetings are most effective – in the moment and in the days and weeks to come – we need to be intentional about our writing and recording. Which is easy if you follow a few basic steps:

  • Assign a scribe. Unless someone is recording the conversation during your meeting, you are wasting time. This has always been true but is more significant now when you can’t just pop your head over the cubicle wall or saunter down the hall to ask for clarification. Therefore, the scribe or note-taker is a primary role. Allow for time to clarify points and confirm agreement. If possible, carve out 10-15 minutes, post-meeting, to finalize notes and distribute to all meeting attendees.
  • Recap fast. As soon after your meeting as possible, flex your typing muscles and record all thoughts from the meeting. This is not the time for editing – just get the information recorded, as quickly as your fingers will allow.
  • Put first things first. Next, review your notes and determine the most important conclusions or tasks. Create short statements to reflect each and move them to the beginning of your notes. Do not bury action items.
  • Review and compress. Finally, review all your notes to ensure that you have clearly stated conclusions, avoid ______ words, and write clearly. In the words of Winston Churchill, “It is slothful not to compress your thoughts.“

Welcome the change. As with so many things in 2020, this may be a new role for many people in your firm. However, if everyone is expected to step in as scribe on a rotating basis, an added bonus is you will be building a more efficient firm, day by day. And these skills will translate into whatever future work environments are to come.

From The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication: “Speaking only helps who’s in the room, writing helps everyone. This includes people who couldn’t make it, or future employees who join years from now.”

Mark Zweig’s “The Importance of Communications” outlines some resources for training and coaching. Here are a few more resources that are as witty as they are right:

Jane Lawler Smith, MBA, is the marketing manager at Derck & Edson, LLC. She can be reached at jsmith@derckandedson.com.

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.