Whiteboard Tips For Kick-Ass Presentations

SUMMARY POINTS

> Don’t rush, write clearly, neatly and big enough for easy legibility
> Use mostly black ink but apply size and colors for selective emphasis
> Incorporate simple icons, symbols and shapes to add variety

You’re standing in front of the conference room, with dry erase marker in hand, wondering exactly how to take what’s in your head and put it on the whiteboard in a way that everyone can understand.

You’ve got the thought fairly well sorted out for yourself, but now, your mind is racing around to figure out where to begin and how to draw this whole thing out.

All eyes are on you and everyone’s waiting.

You think to yourself…

How do you draw a person using a computer?

What’s the symbol for a transaction?

How do you show the product?

Is there a way to draw the internet?

At this point, you aren’t even sure that you can even draw a circle.

Drawing isn’t your thing. In fact, drawing stick figures is about the only real artistic skill you have...and that’s pushing it.

Your palms are getting sweaty and you can feel the nervousness start to build up quickly.

As your mind is scrambling around to pull together the key bits of information, you resort to the easiest way to do this - just use rectangle text boxes with line arrows in between.

It’s simple, quick and easy.

From one text box to another, you show the flow with arrows in between. It’s only marginally better than just writing it all out in a bulleted or numbered list of steps.

It gets the job done but it’s about as inspiring as reading a privacy policy.

It’s time to step outta the text box and up your whiteboarding skills to the next level.

The Goal & Purpose Of Using A Whiteboard

Whiteboards. They’re a ubiquitous office meeting and collaboration tool. They adorn the walls of most every single conference room in the world.

The invention of the whiteboard has gotta be right up there alongside the sticky note. In fact, you’ve probably been in brainstorming or training meetings where sticky notes were used on a whiteboard.

Using a whiteboard to draw out your thoughts with the group is a great way for you to visualize what’s in your head for others to see in the meeting.

However, for a lot of people, whiteboarding is just a way to translate your thoughts into a bunch of text boxes with arrows and maybe a few other simple shapes with the ultimate goal of getting the other person to understand your thinking.

But, it’s more than that.

Whiteboarding is a very interactive and collaborative process that invites others to join in and provide their input, either verbally or by adding to the imagery.

The ultimate goal of whiteboarding is to get a group of people thinking cohesively and sharing thoughts clearly for others to understand and process.

We humans get the majority of our information visually. In fact, 90% of all the information our brains process come from visual input. We respond to and process visual data better than any other type of data. In fact, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text.

Just imagine seeing a lion versus reading a description of that same lion. We can instantly process a ton more detail just from looking at it than reading it. It’s where the cliche “a picture is worth a thousand words” is based upon.

With that said, we’re not asking you to become dry erase artists. It’s okay to be mostly text-based because it’s what we all know and understand. What we’re after here is to make it better.

Tips To Make Your Whiteboard Presentation More Impactful & Clear

We’re realists here. We know that 99% of us can’t draw for shit. And frankly, not being able to draw detailed images on a whiteboard isn’t going to get you fired - unless you’re working for Disney or Pixar. 😉

Taking your mundane and sometimes, illegible chicken-scrawl to a cleaner and neater level along with a little pop-n-pizzazz can go a long way in helping you get your point across quicker and clearer.

So, to that end, we’ve put together our most fundamental whiteboarding tips that every office athlete needs to follow for more successful info-sharing sessions. 

1) Black Never Goes Out Of Style 

Okay, nobody writes as neat as that guy - that’s insane. He’s like a laser printer. But, it gets the message across.

High contrast is one of the most important factors in ensuring that people can actually see what you’ve scribbled on the whiteboard. And the best way is to always use a fresh or nearly new black dry erase marker.

Yes, there are other colors laying in the marker tray like blue, red, green and maybe even yellow (most worthless color of the bunch). However, save those colors for emphasis and highlights.

Black is the color you need to use for the core content of your whiteboard information. It’s the mainstay.

But, on a curious side note - ever wonder if there’s a white dry erase marker? Or, is there such a thing as a black whiteboard? Just thinking out loud here. 😉

2) Pump Up The Text - Bigger Is Better

Have you ever been in a whiteboarding session and sat in the back of the room? If the presenter isn’t writing large enough, you can’t read it.

Don’t be that guy.

When you’re writing things out on a whiteboard, give the audience the finger - three fingers to be exact.

Your handwritten text should be three fingers width in terms of font height. At that size, it should be very legible for those even in the back of the room. If they still can’t read it, tell them to get their eyes checked or move up to the front of the room.

Use the slightly smaller two-finger width font size for sub-points under main headers. And for big emphasis, go bigger with four-finger width for titles and main points.

And if anyone is still giving you grief, then give ‘em the finger.

3) Forget Cursive - Simple Print Is The Way To Go

Remember practicing cursive handwriting in elementary school?

Back then, you were standing at the front of the classroom blackboard scripting out letters in cursive format with a piece of chalk. Today, you’re at the front of the conference room whiteboard with a dry erase marker.

A lot of us still use cursive today but more like a hybrid cursive and print combination. Our bastardized handwriting works for us (mostly) because we’re the only ones that have to read it.

However, when others have to read what we write, it’s time to simplify it to the basics of standard print. Whether you use all caps or a combination of caps and lower case letters, just be sure to print rather than get all swoopy.

Leave the fancy-schmancy calligraphy for the holiday and birthday cards.

4) Stylize & Colorize Text For Emphasis

When you’re working in any of the Microsoft Office programs, you’ll see the default text editing options of bold, italics, underline and font color. We typically use these options to bring extra attention to that word.

The same goes for your whiteboard words.

You can double-up the thickness of each letter to create a bolded font, tilt each letter for italics, underline the word and/or use a different marker color - as long as it’s got good contrast.

Doing any combination will help to bring more emphasis to that word. It will add a few more seconds to your writing, but it adds that little bit of attention to detail that will come across positively.

5) Learn To Draw Simple Icons & Symbols

Icons and symbols are everywhere in our lives. They’re on our smartphones, in our car’s dashboard display, online website menus, roadway signs, airport terminals etc.

What you’ll notice with all of these is that they’re all really super simple pictograms that convey something easily and quickly. And because they all use very simple shapes, you can use these same icons and symbols in your whiteboard sessions.

Check out Icon Finder to search for a specific icon. It’s an online searchable database of icons and symbols. You can search for free icons using keywords. Tip: filter the results by “outline” to only see simple icons that are easy to draw.

And of course, you can also do a Google image search with the term with “icon” added to whatever thing you want a symbol for (i.e. “department icon”). In either case, you’ll see lots of examples, but only use the ones that are very obvious that most people will get right away.

Icons are not only easy to draw, but also universally understood by most folks. So, pick a few and practice drawing them out in your notebook or pad. In fact, doodle practice them in your notebook at the next boring meeting. Then, when the time comes, it’ll be easy to draw.

There may even be some industry-specific symbols that your company uses. Try incorporating those into your diagrams to add some variety too.

6) Spice Up Boring Shapes

The rectangle is probably the most used shape for all whiteboarding. About the only thing that used more is probably the standard line arrow, which isn’t a shape but more like a thing or symbol. Circles, squares and triangles also get their fair share of use.

Instead of using the standard black rectangle, you can mix it up by adding in other shapes, think workflow diagram shapes. Or, spice it up by varying the sizes, making them thicker (bolded) or shadowing or highlighting them with a different color around their borders.

And instead of the lame thin line arrow, try making block arrows with different fills for more visual emphasis on important flows or directions.

7) Slow It Down, Dude 

A lot of times, our hands can’t write fast enough to keep up with what our minds want to put down on paper or in this case, the whiteboard.

So, we write and draw as fast as we can so that our thoughts can be put up on the board before we lose our train of thought or ideas. But rushing through the process results in a brain vomit of unrecognizable diagrams and chicken-scrawl handwriting.

Instead, stop, take a few deep breaths and think through how you want to draw things out. Take it one step at a time and work your way through your mental diagram.

Slowing down the pace will not only organize your thoughts better, but will also make your whiteboard writing and diagrams much easier to see and understand.

8) Check Ahead or BYOM - Bring Your Own Markers

If your company’s conference rooms are anything like ours, chances are pretty good that if there are any dry erase markers available, they’re nearly all dried up and/or barely usable.

And erasers? Yeah, they’re usually nowhere to be found. And please, don’t use your hands and fingers as erasers. Dry erase marker powder does present some health concerns.

If you are scheduled to lead a meeting or presentation, go check the meeting room for working markers ahead of time. And if there aren’t any, it’s time to start scavenging from other conference rooms or hunt some down from elsewhere in the office.

Or even better, keep your own set of markers at your desk and bring them with you when you’re presenting. It may seem a bit office snobbish, but it’s worth it.

Up Your Whiteboarding Skills & Get More Kudos

Okay, that’s some crazy whiteboard artistry shit right there.

How the hell could you have the willpower to erase that?!

The point is this: you don’t have to be a Picasso or Rembrandt when you’re up at the whiteboard. Nobody expects that. But, when you step up your game, just that little bit, people will start to notice.

Instead of the usual drab rectangles with text and a bunch of line arrows, you can add a bit of visual flair to give your work some real value.

Getting your message across clearly with a bit of creative imagery and punchiness can take your work and ideas beyond the conference room by implanting it your group’s minds. And before you know it, it’ll spread throughout the organization.

Soon enough, you’ll begin developing a positive reputation for your presentation and collaborative skills - all from just improving the basics.

You can even go as far as becoming a whiteboard trick artist if you wanted to.

VIDEO: Whiteboard Animation Trick
YOUTUBE: BuzzFeed Nifty
LENGTH: 0:43

You’ve worked hard to develop your ideas, thoughts and plans. So, don’t sell yourself short with a boring text-based diagram. Instead, in the words of Chef Emeril Lagasse, “Kick it up a notch!”

As you get better with your whiteboarding skills, you’ll have less and less anxiety about drawing out your thoughts for everyone to see.

So, grab a marker and start doodling and practicing a bit. It’ll pay off sooner than you think.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]