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This 1 Change Will Make Your Meetings Run Like Elon Musk’s

By using technology to take care of the note-taking, you can be present to what’s actually going on around you.

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BY Heather Wilde - 09 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I'll admit it. My handwriting is atrocious. My hand aches just thinking about having to write something down on paper.

No matter how many times we tell our coworkers "I'm just taking notes" on your phone or your computer, they suspect you're really checking your ex's Facebook status or Donald Trump's latest Twitter rant. (After all, that's what we think they're doing, right?)

According to a research study, people who take notes via computer instead of handwriting are significantly less likely to retain the information. Additionally, people who multitask in meetings are 50 percent more likely to make errors, which can lead to over $450 billion in loss per year. Another study showed that "two out of three users will interrupt a group meeting" to answer email, phone calls, instant messages, tweeting or update their social network status.

Elon Musk reportedly -- and rightly -- demands the full attention of his colleagues, requiring anyone meeting with him to be prepared to answer any questions that come up so as not to waste anyone's time.

Many companies have come up with solutions to combat this, such as blocking access to social networks, tracking internet usage, offering relaxation classes, or simply giving up entirely with broad Bring Your Own Device policies that make it a free-for-all. In the long run, this decreases productivity and workplace morale from the increase in perceived rudeness and lack of attention.

There is a delicate balance between being attentive and capturing relevant information. I am no stranger to this phenomenon in my own workplace, and because of my aversion to handwriting, I needed a solution.

In large corporations, often there are secretaries who take notes (sometimes more than one.) In courtrooms, there are court reporters capturing the proceedings. Doctors have medical transcriptionists.

So why should entrepreneurs be left out?

Thanks to tools like Google's Speech API and Watson Speech to Text, smaller companies are able to create reasonably good, quick audio transcriptions from audio files for little to no money.

To get in on the action, when starting a meeting, you have your phone or computer (upgraded with a fairly good microphone) centrally located and set to record in a program that can output to MP3 format. For remote meetings, using something like FreeConferenceCall or Zoom will allow you to automatically record. Make sure you alert everyone in the meeting that the proceedings are being recorded.

Once the meeting is over, you have some great options:

1. VoiceBase

This is my favorite, as it produces are near perfect results -- you will rarely have to correct any mistakes. Rates are only $.02 a minute after your first 50 hours, and they also automatically tag content based on sentiment and context analysis.

2. HappyScribe

If you have non-English audio (they support 119 languages) and you want it automatically transcribed, these guys are great. At $.10 a minute for audio, you aren't going to break the bank.

3. Deepgram

If you'd like a completely free solution, look no further than Deepgram. It works more like a traditional transcription tool in that you will have to train it in the beginning, but once it starts to know your voice pattern, its recognition gets much better.

4. Trint

In my tests, Trint's transcription is on par with VoiceBase, but they offer monthly pricing that ranges from $.10 to $.25 a minute. They do have the best UI of the bunch, and their customer service is excellent.

5. SpokenData

While not as fast as some of the others, they do support some foreign languages (including Mandarin and Russian), and give you 60 minutes of free credit to try them out. Results in my tests weren't as immediate as the others, but for $.12 a minute it is still a great option.

6. BlueText

Using a phone? There's a solution for that too. BlueText uses Microsoft's AI to do the transcription, and everything is done directly on your device.

Don't want to trust your important information to an online service? You're not left out of the fun! Once you have your recording, you can go old-school and transcribe it manually with the help of Transcribe (or have an intern do it for you.)

Bridgewater Associates, a $150 million hedge fund, not only video records the majority of their meetings, they go one step further. Any time employees mention a colleague not present, they send the recording to that person. They also keep all recordings available for the entire company use.

While that type of radical transparency obviously isn't for everyone, sending the meeting audio and transcript to attendees can go a long way to making meetings more productive. By not worrying about the tech, you can spend more time focusing on what really matters.