Financial advisor Karl Hicks is using a Livescribe “smartpen” to take notes at his client meetings. Livescribe records your conversations and digitizes your handwritten notes, automatically synching your notes with the audio. Does it really work?
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LiveScribe smartpens cost from $129 to $199 at Best Buy and they write like regular pens. But these pens are equipped with a digital recorder.
Simply click the “record” button on the special Livescribe paper and the pen records audio of conversations or lectures while you take notes. So everything your clients tell you during a quarterly review meeting is captured in audio as well as in your sketchy notes. After the meeting, you can play back exactly what the client said.
Say during a meeting with a client, you cover four important issues: Alimony payments, using a Schwab money market fund to cover expenses for her child’s camp, speaking with her attorney about a testamentary trust, and using her Citicorp account to fund the tax liability on a Roth IRA conversion. During the meeting, you want to be in the moment, able to concentrate on what she is saying and be able to ask questions about it. You don’t want to be distracted with taking notes.
With Livescribe, as each of these issues come up during the meeting, you simply write down the keywords: Alimony, Schwab account, trust, and Roth. Later, just tap on your keyword notes to hear exactly what the client said about each topic.
Livescribe is not creating a written transcript of the conversation. That would require really sophisticated voice transcription software. But it is giving you an audio record of exactly what was said in conversations.
Notes and audio can also be uploaded to a computer where they can be replayed, saved, searched, and sent.
Livescribe has two models of smartpens – Echo (8GB) and Pulse (4GB), which record more than 400 and 800 hours of audio respectively. The special pads and notebooks come in a variety of sizes, and you can add a charging cradle and carrying cases.
Livescribe paper has lots of micro‐dots. Livescribe has a camera, located at the tip of the smartpen, that takes 72 photos of the dots, spaced 0.3mm apart, creating images of 1.8 x 1.8mm grids of 36 dots. That recreates your handwriting. Each picture of the dots is decoded by software in the smartpen to tell the smartpen exactly its position on any given page.
So you can understand how an advisor uses Livescribe, I asked Karl Hicks of Leonard Financial Group in Riverside, California, a series of questions. Here’s what he says:
Is Livescribe good?
Good is a relative term. The pen writes very well and the document capture is good. But if your handwriting is bad, the accuracy of the recorded document would be bad, too.
How long have you had it?
I got it last year.
How many times a week do you use it?
I use it several times a week. I write with it most of the time without recording, but I record our weekly office meetings and all of my client meetings, and I have used it at a few other meetings, committees, and workshops.
What is the best use for it?
Reviewing the conversation around a particular line of notes.
How hard is it to get into the habit?
As hard as it is for someone to learn to start the recorder and take notes. The biggest problem might be to remember to charge it.
How long did it take you to figure it out?
Pretty darn simple. It’s not at all complicated. The hardest thing is getting the software loaded on your computer, if you want to be able to upload documents.
What do you like and dislike about it?
As a pen, it’s as good as any pen I’ve ever used. I like being able to review the audio recording form a meeting "linked" to a line of notes. The drawbacks are the integration of the computer “documents” with other documents in your system. LiveScribe has its own software and, even though the documents can be saved as PDF files, I don’t think the audio travels with the file. And for me the linked audio is the main reason I bought the Pulse Pen.
Is it just another gadget that you’ll eventually tire of or really sticky?
I won’t tire of it. I use it in all my client meetings. I could see a huge value for students taking notes as well. Even if I stopped using the recording function (which I don't foresee), I would still use it as a pen--although it would be an expensive pen.
Who is the type of person that would like it the most? Who would not like it?
Note-takers who use their notes to define actions and next steps, or someone who often looks back at his notes to figure out exactly what was said to prompt a particular note. Because the pen is a little bulky, it might not be ideal for someone who travels from site-to-site and does not want to hassle with the pen or deal with having to use the special paper. There are several different sizes to choose, however.
Why not just get a tablet?
I had a tablet. It’s a different tool with a different purpose. Also, the pen and accessories are less than $250. A good tablet with the proper software is minimum $1,000. The battery on the pen lasts much longer as well.