Is everyone lost in their own laptops in your meetings? Get everyone focused on what matters with 5 MORE simple whiteboarding tips
My last post about whiteboard tips seemed to really strike a chord with a lot of readers, so here for your further whiteboard mastering pleasure are 5 MORE tips. If you missed out on the first 5, don’t worry; you can read them here.
There’s no harm in saying again that writing and drawing on a whiteboard is not only a great way to visually reflect what’s being said in the meeting, it’s a great way to command the meeting. By that I don’t mean making YOU the centre of attention; I mean making the IDEA, or the QUESTION, or the DECISION the centre of attention.
So here are 5 more ways you can rock the whiteboard, to make sure everyone in the meeting focuses on what really matters.
1. Plan the structure of your whiteboard space
It’s really easy to let a meeting take your hand all over the whiteboard. Before you know it, you’ve scrawled willy-nilly all over it like a bee on Red Bull, darting from flower to flower. This might feel good, in a Beautiful Mind aren’t-we-brilliant kind of way, but it doesn’t help anyone to structure their own thinking.
Instead, plan the spatial structure of what you’re going to write and draw on your whiteboard ahead of time. Either using a dashed line, or just your mind’s eye, mark out a set of smaller areas, where each area will correspond to a particular part of the meeting or workshop, like this:
This will help everyone understand and remember the various parts of the meeting much better. Also, try to make the shapes photo-friendly, to make taking photos of them easier (see point #5 below).
2. Use colour to add meaning and emphasis
Now, I’m assuming you’ve done point #2 of the last 5 tips for whiteboard awesomeness, and you have several good-quality whiteboard markers in several colours at the ready. Choose one marker for the bulk of what you write and draw (hint: black), and then choose a colour or two to use with the black, to represent specific meaning(s).
In the example below, I’ve used red to emphasise some elements of an outcomes hierarchy that I would need the room of people to pay attention to:
In this example, the red emphasises 3 things at a glance: There’s a box in the bottom right corner that isn’t connected to anything (this could represent a project that isn’t contributing any outcomes); another project added to the left that we’ve forgotten about; and the highest-level outcome is in a warning-state somehow.
3. Breathe life into those boxes and arrows
If I had a dollar for every box and arrow I’ve ever drawn on a whiteboard, I could definitely buy an island right now, and I’m guessing you’d probably be on your way, too. Boxes and arrows are the bread-and-butter of whiteboard discussions, so why not give them a lot more life and meaning?
You’re probably used to sketching something like this on your whiteboard, or seen it done:
But what if you did something like this:
There are several extra things going on here:
- The shape of the arrows adds more meaning – The middle arrow is in a spiral, indicating something that’s either iterative, or complex, or just plain dizzy. The top arrow arcs up and over, indicating a part of the process that soars over the rest, leading to a positive outcome.
- The boxes have character – Simply adding a face to a box gives it life, character, and meaning. Depending on what you want to communicate, this sort of tip can be a powerful ally for helping people to remember certain concepts and ideas.
- Colour is used to indicate meaning – Red is used for something unfavourable, while green is used for something – well – good!
4. Give them the pen
According to visual communicator and author Dan Roam (and I’ve seen this in action myself), there are 3 types of people in the room* when it comes to whiteboards:
- The Black Pen People – they can’t WAIT to jump up and start drawing on that whiteboard
- The Yellow Pen People – they’re happy to hang back a bit, and add to someone else’s work
- The Red Pen People – they wait until the end, question it all, and might just jump up and re-draw it all
It’s really useful to know what sort of Pen People you have in your meeting, because you can use that to your advantage. For brevity, I’m going to focus on the Yellow Pen People, since they’re the ones who will give a lot of value to a meeting through visual communication, if nudged in the right way.
Here’s how. On your whiteboard, draw things that let the Yellow Pen people easily see where they can add their bit to, give them the pen, and then ask them questions. Here are a few examples:
- Sliding scales – Draw: a sliding scale, with an alternative at either end // Ask: “Is this a low-risk move or a high-risk move? Where do you think a circle should be on this risk scale?”
- Fill in the gaps – Draw: a set of circles representing the set of whatever you’re talking about (e.g. projects) // Ask: “Are there any projects missing? Could you draw any more in?”
- Make connections – Draw: a set of circles representing the set of whatever you’re talking about // Ask: “How are these connected? Could you draw lines in where you think the connections are?”
5. Capture those whiteboard drawings clean and fast
It stands to reason, the sooner you can get a good clean picture of the whiteboard into your team members’ (or stakeholders’) inboxes, the better. The more you use images that they’ve seen before to reinforce what was talked about or decided, the greater your influence will be.
Thankfully, there are some great (and free) smartphone apps out there that will take a great photo, clean it up and send it to your inbox in a jiffy. My current favourites:
- CamScanner (for iOS or Android)
- Office Lens (for iOS, Android or Microsoft).
- Adobe Capture CC (iOS and Android)
You can read a whole lot more about capturing your whiteboard drawings in this Presto Sketching blog post: Capture photos of your sketches like a pro.
Well, there you have it! 5 more tips that I hope will really improve your whiteboarding skills, as well as the meetings and workshops that you and your team have. Let me know in the comments section below if and how you put these tips into practice, and if they’ve improved your meetings.
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