Archives For white board

The Mighty Flip Chart

February 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

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

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I was somewhat embarrassed when one my long time friends and business associates contacted me last night to comment on yesterday’s white board post.  “I never use Power Point”, was his first comment…and I know he closes some very big deals.  But his second comment was a correction, and he’s absolutely right!  “Your competition will likely see your notes if you leave them there.”

I was reminded of one of my first big deals at the start of this business.  The meeting was set to be held in the decision maker’s office, and I had spent several hours deliberating over the scope, sales call plan, and of course, pricing.  The price was the hard part.  I didn’t want to lose the deal to price, I didn’t have a reputation that justified a big price, and I didn’t want to undersell this, leaving me with a great project for no money.  I finally settled on a price I thought would work, but when I entered the office my competitor’s notes were on the board.  Their price was far higher!  So when the time came to give a price, I confidently put forth a price 60% higher than my original estimate.  The deal was agreed to the next day, and I was the winner.  Bottom line…don’t leave anything on the board for your competition to see.  (Another strategy might be to put some wrong information up their in an effort to lead them astray…said with a chuckle).

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

Continuing on with the topic of white boarding – this is something someone should probably write a book on.  It’s one of the most used tools in the sales process, but often misused by ill-equipped sales people.  A few practical pointers:

1.     Always carry our own markers.  I started doing this about twelve years ago.  Many of my prospects thought it was funny, yet they appreciated my preparedness and the quality of the colors that brought my pictures to life.  You can’t close the million-dollar deal with a dead marker.

2.     There is no reason to recreate the wheel on every new sales call.  You use the same brochure wear, why not use the same illustrations.  Back to my comments on chalk drawing, I can think of several speakers that use chalk drawings as part of their gig.  It’s highly effective and the pictures look great every time.  Why?  Simply because they have practiced.  Get your storyboard together, learn to draw your diagrams, and use them often.  You can adlib as needed.

3.     Learn to draw while you talk.  There is nothing worse than watching someone draw with their back to you.  Practice drawing without thinking about it so you can put your attention on the client.

4.     Learn to write neatly.  It always amazes me when, in an interview, I ask someone to whiteboard something.  While writing in a falling arch format, they turn to me to explain that, “They aren’t very good at white-boarding.”  My response is, “You must be an expert if you want this job.”

5.     Use the entire board – I don’t mean the entire wall of the war-room…but I do mean, don’t make your pictures so small that no one can see them.  Spread things out so that the room can see what you’re talking about.

6.     Don’t call your white-boarding process a presentation.  One big advantage of white-boarding is that it gets you away from the canned presentation.  So even if it is well rehearsed, you can do it in a casual, ad hoc way.  This invite collaboration and interaction.

7.     Always ask if they would like for you to leave your information, or if you should erase the board when finished.  It’s the courteous thing to do.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Mastering the White Board

January 31, 2011 — 2 Comments

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

Last week I wrote several posts on Power Point.  Here are some thoughts on White boarding: I love the white board.  Unlike Power Point, white boards allow for collaborative thinking.  I remember one of my sales managers coming back from an appointment with great excitement, recounting how he and a perspective client had been up at the white board together, adding to a diagram, interactively creating the solution to a problem they were having.  They went from one-way broadcasting to collaborative brainstorming.

Earlier in my career I came up with a powerful story I now refer to as The House & the Cloud ( the Title of my first book).   Every time I was called upon to share my team’s progress with partners or management, I used the House & the Cloud.  It became a brand over time.  People in other regions who had never met me, began referring to me as The Guy with the House!  This is what you want; a personal brand or a signature story.  It won’t happen over night, but as you begin thinking about it, using illustrations on your sales calls, and reviewing the results, your story will evolve over time.  As it grows, don’t be surprised if people are wanting to meet with you just to hear about your “House”.

Start here. Learn the presentation you meant to give in Power Point, strip out the boring statistics, and recreate the message using a more informal white-boarding style.  Look for ways to make your sales story interesting and compelling.  There is something powerful about watching someone draw.  If you have ever seen a speaker use chalk drawings to illustrate their message, you know what I mean.  If not, check YouTube.

Creating knowledge gaps, interrupting ones thinking, and by filling in the blanks in an interactive drawing session, you can magnify the energy in the room, drawing people into your story as you unfold it.  This takes preparation, creativity, and practice.  But once again, it is not something people are just born with.  Anyone can do it.  It just takes some upfront planning and practice.  Start thinking through your presentation.  How can you make it great?  How can you create a story that can be told through pictures and colors, in fifteen minutes, using a white board diagram?

© 2011, David Stelzl

The Movie-Star Experience

January 17, 2011 — 3 Comments

Growing up, I thought like many young boys, that being a movie star meant they actually experienced what we see in movies.  In case you still think that, it’s far from true.  On my recent trip to Australia, I had another opportunity to watch a motion picture in the making.  If you’ve never done this, it’s incredibly boring.  The same simple scenes are shot over and over.  I was on my way to the harbor area when I stopped to watch a scene depicting two businessmen greeting each other in front of an office building.  An entire crew of extras sat on the sidewalks waiting for the producer’s call to action.  Once called, the “stars” would walk toward each other and shake hands while dozens of extras crossed the brick patio in a seemly-unarranged pattern.  But everything was choreographed, and it had to be perfect.  I stood there well over forty-five minutes as they executed the same steps over and over.  It all looked the same to me, but somehow it just wasn’t right.  After moving on, I returned to that same area over an hour later and guess what?  You’ve got it…they were still working on the same scene.  I didn’t bother hanging around this time.

The director knew what he was looking for, and when the film hits the theatres it must be perfect.  They only have one shot at profitability.  Presentations are similar; you often get just one shot at the top players.  If it’s not great, you won’t see a profit either.  So why are so many presentations thrown together at the last minute, or prepared in a vacuum by a marketing department that has no selling experience?  Busy slides are delivered to the sales team, and then brought to stage without any real critic or practice.  This is not the way to reach predictable success.

© 2011, David Stelzl