I was speaking in Cancun last week and just before my session started, one of the hotel staff members ushered in a flip chart that I had not requested. Then a familiar head popped in with a knowing smile. I really like flip charts. Sure enough, I did use it!
While white boarding is great for sales meetings, the mighty flip chart stands out as one of the best tools for facilitation. It’s absent from most training centers and boardrooms these days, and when I do request one, it creates a sudden emergency like ordering a special meal at McDonalds (also something I am known for).
When the chart and stand arrives, I am not surprised if the tripod cross bar is missing – the one that holds the flipchart in place. Most easels come with them, but they are quickly misplaced, leaving only the tripod, which is now only useful for supporting marketing posters. Invariably the chart is presented with white board markets, not flip chart markers. Most don’t know the difference. Another possible attempt to differentiate results in permanent markers, which are not a great substitute for the mighty flip-chart market!
Why do I like these so much? Here are several reasons:
1. Strategy and training both require interaction. The flip chart allows me to move the working space closer to the audience or meeting attendees, and to angle it in such a way as to allow the audience to view my illustrations or bullet points more easily.
2. Posting notes around the room. White board space is usually limited and cannot be reorganized. I especially like the Post-it charts. Whether training or facilitating strategy, I find that posting key ideas in different colors, and then reorganizing information is extremely helpful. This really matters when spending an entire day or several days together. No white board can keep track of this much information.
3. Others may contribute. When using a white board, things get messy when multiple people contribute. The organizational abilities of flip chart paper make this much more manageable.
4. Flip chart markers! I carry my own, so I always have good ones. White board markers quickly become hard to read, smudged, etc. Flip chart markers are bold, don’t smear, and look crisp even after a day of moving papers around the room.
5. Permanency. At the end of the day someone has to keep this information. When it’s on a white board, you have no choice but to erase or leave it for the next group. Flip chart paper can be collected, organized and handed to someone to save. I know there are white boards that print, but most are very small, generating one small sheet of paper for each print; this is useless to a group of 8 or 10 people.
© 2011, David Stelzl