Let's get visual!

 I can't say let's get anything without hearing this song.

I can't say let's get anything without hearing this song.

The alternate (boring) title for this post would probably be something like "how to take effective notes at a conference." As many of you know, and some of you may not, Tech Forum and ebookcraft are so close (March 30 to April 1, 2016) we can taste the nerd cookies already. For many attendees, aside from the revelry, the cake, the pub quiz, and the awesome networking opportunities, Tech Forum is an educational experience for learning about all the ideas percolating out there that can be brought back to the office and put into action. If you're hoping to learn something at the conference, being present and engaged are your top priorities, but what if you want to jot down some useful notes so you can remember all the great ideas you had once the post-conference haze wears off and the reality of the first day back to work is smacking you in the face? We have tips:

Know why you are taking notes

 Don't be this guy.

Don't be this guy.

Are you jotting down musings and reflections to write up a stellar blog post or presentation at work? Looking to record actionable points and innovative ideas that you can bring back and disseminate among the members of your team back at the office? Scribbling down notes for your own future reference? Knowing why you're taking notes will help you determine the best way to organize your thoughts and which tools you want to record them with.

Use the best method of note-taking for you

 If your hand is prone to cramping consider bringing a tablet.

If your hand is prone to cramping consider bringing a tablet.

Are you more comfortable recording things with your trusty pen and Moleskin or do you find you're more efficient using a laptop or tablet? Do you like to record the talks with your phone for easy recall or take photos of interesting slides? Position yourself in the room to facilitate your preferred method of note-taking. Sit next to one of the many outlets in the MaRS conference room if you're using a laptop, or near the front if you're recording so your audio is crisp and clear. If you're going the ol' pen-and-paper route, utilize shorthand to cut down on any potential cramping. 

Don't worry about trying to capture presenter slides word-for-word, though. We always make the slides from both Tech Forum and ebookcraft available to anyone who wants them (check out last year's here) or you could watch the videos if you want to relive the magic.

Don't be afraid to get visual

 You don't have to be Bob Ross to inject some visual interest into your notes.

You don't have to be Bob Ross to inject some visual interest into your notes.

Mind maps, diagrams, charts, and colour coding are all great ways to organize your information visually for easier recall. Iris Amelia Febres, who is also speaking at ebookcraft, will be taking sketchnotes during the conference, which is an uber cool method of note-taking that combines text and illustration to turn your notes into a visual roadmap for success. Not to mention it's really fun. You don't need to be an illustrator to take sketchnotes; things like arrows, charts, or simple shapes can help enhance the organization of your information, and mindfully hand-lettering will help you retain information. Plus, it's the perfect excuse to go wild and buy some new pens, something that greatly appeals to the stationary nerd inside of me.

Check out this cool guide to sketchnotes here, or take a look at Iris's sketchnotes from last year—she does hers with her tablet! She'll also be around doing caricatures throughout this year's conference, so pop over and get a fun self-portrait or ask to have a peek at her notes. Maybe she'll give you some tips while she's capturing your likeness. 

Summarize what you've learned

 A strong summary is helpful to future you.

A strong summary is helpful to future you.

At the end of each session and workshop, make a list of five bullet points to capture things you want to remember. They can be actionable points, reflections, positive or negative feedback, or helpful resources the speaker mentioned. Brief summaries will help jog your memory when you're going back over your notes later.

Swap notes

 Two heads are better than one.

Two heads are better than one.

Don't be afraid to swap notes with other attendees. They could have captured some valuable insight that you missed, plus it's a great networking opportunity. Comparing notes on what you've just learned is a good icebreaker and you could walk away with a valuable new contact or even a friend. This means offering up your own notes for their perusal as well, though—sharing is a two-way street!

Not only is there still lots of time to register for Tech Forum and ebookcraft, but there are oodles of pricing options as well so you can select which days you want to attend to get the most value. And don't forget to check out the announced speakers and sessions. We hope to see you there!