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Issue #80: The benefits of iPads in meetings

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When I’m not writing books, newsletters, and blog posts about iPads and other things, I spend my time working with clients at Divide & Conquer, my digital agency. As anyone who’s ever done client work knows, it involves meetings. The pandemic years have made those meetings mostly video, but the physical meetings are back now, so I figured I’d talk a bit about the benefits of using an iPad in meetings, rather than a laptop.

Now, me, I take countless notes. I take notes to remember things later, but it’s also how I process things. Most people take notes in meetings, so that’s not anything new, but how you do it matters.

Imagine a scenario where you’re four people around a table, each one with their laptop open, eyes glued to the screen, keys smattering, as the meeting starts. The keys continue to smatter, and you can’t really tell if it’s note-taking, or if people are just checking their email. It’s a wall of laptops, with unknown things happening behind them.

Now, compare that to an iPad with an Apple Pencil. That isn’t a wall between you and the people you’re in the meeting with, it’s no more so than a traditional paper notebook on the table. You’re not blocking people out with an iPad like this. You could, if you stuck it in a Magic Keyboard or similar laptop-like contraption, but that’s what we’re avoiding here.

People are used to note-taking using pen and paper. You don’t have to see what the participants are taking down in their notebooks, you assume that it’s notes about the meeting. With a laptop-like device, that’s no longer true because what’s to say that they’re not just squeezing in a bit of work, thus not giving the meetings their full attention?

It’s not just note-taking, iPads are more inclusive thank laptops because of the form factor. Let’s say you want to show something on your screen. You’d turn a laptop around, making it hard for you to operate as you show whatever it is you wanted to show off. An iPad is a slate not stuck to a keyboard, it doesn’t have to sit on the tabletop at all. You can hold it anyway you like, and thus it’s easier to show things off. In fact, you might’ve drawn a quick sketch to explain what you mean. Hand the iPad over, or just show it. Someone has another thought, you pass iPad and Pencil to them, and they scribble it down. The iPad, as a tool, is a lot more versatile than a laptop, and more inclusive, if you want it to be.

(Me, personally, never hand my iPad to anyone else in a meeting, but I will show off my mad drawing skills to drive home a point, for sure.)

As for the actual note-taking, that’s something I’ve written a lot about before. For me, taking notes is a thought process. Being able to alter the notes, to move things around, is tremendously useful. It makes me come to a conclusion faster, and while my note-taking resembles scribbling on a piece of paper, I can’t very well scale, change colors, and move things around there, can I? And, if I’m in a team, I can easily share my notes when needed. They’re even searchable, thanks to text recognition, although your mileage will wary there. Once you get used to taking notes on an iPad, in an app like GoodNotes or Notability, you won’t go back.

✍🏻 Switch to iPad #30 is all about note-taking.

Having had a 24 months, or so, long break from physical meetings means that we have the collective opportunity to make them work better. Getting note-taking right is one thing, but this is a great opportunity to take control of meetings as a concept. Fewer, more focused meetings, that’s what I’m going for. And, now that everyone’s used to doing video meetings, I’m pushing for that whenever I can because travel takes time, and the social contract demand a lot more pleasantries when you’re meeting in person. When I sit down for a physical meeting, I want it to matter. I’ll be the one with the iPad, Pencil firmly in hand.

Thord D. Hedengren