Mind Mapping Your Notes in a Seminar

Most of my professional time is spent standing on a stage speaking to audiences about how to use tools like Mind Mapping to help them become more effective, efficient and productive.

So I am used to delivering content to a room full of professional people.

So on the rare occasion I get to sit as part of the audience, it is always a great opportunity to walk the talk and use Mind Mapping to take my notes.

One of the beauties of this amazing tool is that it allows you to capture the essence of what is being said rather than trying to capture everything you hear.

Mind Mapping has been recommended for years as a great note taking strategy but many, even those who teach the topic, rarely understand how to use it properly as a tool for that purpose and why it is so effective.

How to Take Mind Mapping Notes

First of all lets look at how you use it to take good notes.

Simply whipping out a blank piece of paper, turning it landscape, putting a central image down that represents the topic and then adding main branches and sub-branches using colour, key words and images is one way of describing it.

Yes of course you would choose the main branches to represent the main sub-topic areas of the speaker’s delivery and then use smaller sub-branches to add the detail.

All of this is done in real time and in the end you have a capture of what YOU thought was important.

That pretty much describes the mechanics of what you in creating your map of the speech but the most important aspect is the process rather than the outcome.

The Problem With Traditional Note Taking

Traditional note taking strategies have focused on copying the content.

We were taught to write in this way by copying letters of the alphabet, then short words, then small sentences and finally paragraphs.

We were used to capturing the CONTENT in this way and over the years we might have got a little more sophisticated by focusing on key words and sentences instead of copying everything but in essence we still copy if we take traditional notes.

And then enter stage left the wonderful Mind Mapping tool invented by Tony Buzan.

Now we have a tool that requires us to shift our thinking into a higher gear if we want to use it effectively.

No longer do we have the luxury (and security) of capturing everything by copying the CONTENT.

The Benefits of Taking Notes Using Mind Mapping

No, now we have to think a little harder because we have to analyse the content, synthesis what it means, summarise that meaning and then organise those thoughts in a format that stimulates more of our brain.

By simply applying Mind Mapping and following its guidelines when we take notes (from either the written or spoken format) then we elevate our thinking to a much higher level because now we are seeking out, quantifying and capturing the MEANING.

At the end of a session of doing that you will have had to be far more engaged and absorbed in the process (thuse increasing your concentration levels), you will have undersood it better because of your analysis and you will have a better recall of what you have covered because you have thought about it rather than just capture it.

If you want to retain this new found knowledge for the long term then just having the Map you have created is not enough, even though you will have a good short term memory of it immediately after.

No, what you need to do now is to keep refreshing and testing your recall of it by trying to recreate it on a regular basis until you can always re-create the map (perhaps more of exactly how we do that in a future article).

Most people miss this step and combined with not understanding that the process is also important (rather than just having the map)is the reason why many think the tool does not work.

There is Mis-Information About Mind Mapping

I was on a blog yesterday that repeated a story about a school in the Far East (I think it might have been Singapore) that got very excited by Mind Mapping but when it came to preparing for exams reverted to their old way of taking notes because they found Buzan’s approach ineffective.

I have heard this story quoted a number of times before and it is often wheeled out as some sort of justification that Mind Mapping is no good.

In my opinion what probably happened here is that the tool was not properly explained nor was it properly used because the process I have described above is far superior in terms of processing, understanding, absorbing and recalling knowledge.

Applying Mind Mapping requires you to THINK more than conventional note taking and it is probably this that many students shy away from because they prefer the security of capturing everything thinking they are making progress.

Anyway in my experience the quality of my notes is far superior when I use Mind Mapping but more important is the my increased level of engagement and understanding.

Here is an Example of One of My Maps

At the seminar I attended recently I used Mind Mapping for my notes and I shared those with the contacts I made at the event and they were blown away by the accuracy, relevancy, conciseness and of couse the beauty of the format. 

Here is just one of the maps I created from a 45 minute presentation from the seminar:

Michael Tipper's Mind Map from a recent Seminar

 This was created in real time during the presentation on a piece of A3 sized paper and was just one of ten created that day (it was a long day with some great content).

 How To Do This For Yourself

1.  First of all have the right tools – blank paper turned landscape format, the bigger the better and ideally a four-coloured pen.

2.  Start each map with a central image that represents what it is about.  In my example it was about video production and was by Carlos so I made an image (of sorts) out of those two words.

3.  I will assume you understand the basics of this tool but if not you can get a free guide on the Tony Buzan Mind Map.

4.  Once the speaker gets going start listening out for main themes and each time you spot one, it goes down on the map as a main branch.

5.  As the speaker expands on each main theme, add detail using sub-branches onto the relevant main branch.

6.  Use pictures wherever you can (a picture speaks a thousand words)

7.  Separate theme areas by using different colours.

Don’t expect to be able to do this straight away in your first seminar because it takes a bit of practice but the rewards are really worth it.

If ever you find yourself feeling like you are missing something, revert back to your conventional method and then come back to use Mind Mapping on that later.

Over time you will do that less and less until you are able to comfortably use Mind Mapping in any seminar situation.

Try that out and let me know how you get on with that.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Matthew Lang February 23, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Great article Michael!

    Mind maps as seminar notes are only great if they are studied and you test yourself. Studying the mind map and trying to re-create the mind map from memory is a great way to soak up the notes from your mind map.

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