Should you take notes during a presentation?

It is important to take notes during a presentation because it can be difficult to remember all the thoughts you had in the moment. Even if you have access to the slides later, you want to capture the ideas the presentation gave you, and the ways you wanted to follow up.

So how should you be taking notes? It seems natural, these days, to use your favorite note-taking program on your laptop.

Yet, a 2014 study found that taking notes on a laptop reduces the amount you recall from a presentation, compared to taking notes by hand (1). People were assigned to take notes on a TED talk either by hand or on a laptop. Those who used a laptop were more inclined to write down what the presenter was saying verbatim, rather than processing it and writing down their own highlights. Even if participants were warned about this tendency, those who used a laptop were able to remember far less of the presentation.

It seems that taking notes by hand during a presentation is the way to go. However, keeping track of paper notes can be a hassle. Luckily services such as Evernote and Google Drive allow you to snap a photo of handwritten notes and make them searchable. Better yet might be taking handwritten notes on a tablet, which lets you skip the step of digitizing them.

The takeaway? Try to take notes during a presentation, and take them by hand if possible. Focus on writing down the ideas the presentation gives you, and the action items you want to follow-up on later. Digitize the notes if you can so you can find them later. Your brain will thank you, and so will your laptop battery.


1)    Mueller, Pam A., and Daniel M. Oppenheimer. “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.” Psychological Science 25, no. 6 (June 1, 2014): 1159–68. doi:10.1177/0956797614524581.

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