How to Drink From a Fire Hose


I traveled to Atlanta this past week to attend the Catalyst conference. The speakers included Dave Ramsey, Andy Stanley, Malcolm Gladwell and Reggie Joiner. It was a fantastic time. I look forward to attending again in the future.

A conference like this is so full of information that to take it all in is sort of like trying to drink from a fire hose. How do you drink water when it if gushing out of a fire hose? Fire Hose

I received so much great content during the conference that I now need time to properly process everything I heard.

The good thing is that I took a lot of notes. This has allowed me to capture the best of the content I received. This will allow me to digest this knowledge in a way that will lead to sustained absorption.

It’s important to take good notes

The value of good note taking is being able to capture what you are hearing, so that it’s available at a later time. Think of it like you’re filling one cup at a time, and that cup will be ready for you to use when you need it.

To take good notes you must:

Pick how you will capture your thoughts.

Choose what you are going to take notes with. This could be your iPad, tablet or the old school note pad and pen. Whatever you choose, pick the one that works for you. When you are listening to a live speaker, you need to be able to write fast because there is no pause button.

Learn to write short hand notes.

Also known as point form notes. You don’t have time to write word for word, so learning to write point form notes will help you capture what is useful.

Remember, you won’t remember what you are hearing.

We have all thought this before about something “I don’t need to write this down, I will never forget”. Almost always, you forget. Guaranteed.

So if you think it’s important, write it down.

Taking notes has another benefit. It allows you to stay engaged in the content you are receiving. When you take notes not only are you listening, you are also writing. This allows you to stay focused on what the speaker is sharing.

Becoming a life-long learner is essential if you want to grow in your leadership and influence on others.

Attending conferences is one way to do this. Taking notes makes your investment in these events worth-while.

What advice do you have on taking notes?

For more information on Catalyst.

Paul Jolicoeur

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Husband, Father, Disciple, Blogger, writer, author. Learner & desire to make an impact on others. Each one of us have influence on the world and this influence is a gift. We can continue to grow and increase in our influence.
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6 responses to How to Drink From a Fire Hose

  1. Paul, your analogy to a fire hose of information is exactly what Catalyst feels like. And it’s refreshing.

    Another way to get great notes is to see if the conference offers audio/video recordings of the event. With Catalyst, I’m able to take home the experience, relisten, and recapture the notes.

    • Thanks Joe! The conference was very refreshing for sure. Having the ability to re-listen is a great added benefit to Catalyst. So weather you re-listen or re-read your notes, its important to review for you can really take it all in.

  2. Great blog Paul! (Btw, Great name..! 😉 ) I’m a friend of Joe and I also atteded Catalyst last week. I love your metaphor of drinking from a firehose. I think writing notes is great. The hardest part for me has been coming back to my notes. I try to maximize the experience by writing my thoughts in a journal based on my key learnings. It helps me internalize key lessons and make it my own. If the insights are worthy to share, I generally write a blog post on it.

    • Great to hear from you Paul (and yes a fantastic name!). It was good to meet Joe at the conference, too bad we didn’t get a chance to meet up. Its alway good to take notes, but even better to revisit them afterwards. That one of my goals this week for sure!

  3. I hope you had a great time at the conference. When I’m able, I record what I need to remember then go back to it later. During a speech, I record but still take notes and usually star important points that I want to remember. Great post!

  4. Why would one drink from firehose, if there is spring of clean fresh water?

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