Flip charts as visual enhancers
April 22, 2007
Presentations enhanced with effective visual support are usually better than presentations given without visual enhancers. But no one says you have to use PowerPoint or Keynote or any other form of digital multimedia for that matter. Before there were projectors and computers — even before there were overhead projectors (remember those?) — there were flip charts and large pads for presenting your ideas in visual form to your audience. While I spend most of my time working with people who are using multimedia and new media, I actually am a big fan of the ol’ “large pad and marking pens."
Advantages of the large pad
I really like the idea of "getting off the grid," stepping away from the computer and “going analog” in the preparation stage of the presentation process. Large sheets of paper and marking pens — as “old school” as they may seem — can be wonderful, simple tools for presenting your ideas or recording the ideas of others. When I was at Apple, I used to lead brainstorming sessions by sticking large “Post-its” on the wall. I wrote the ideas down or others would step up and sketch out their ideas the old fashioned way while arguing their point or elaborating on ideas by others. It was messy, but it was a good mess. By the end of the session the walls would be filled with these large “Post-its” which I then took back to my office and stuck on my own walls. As I (and others) developed the structure and visuals for the future presentation, we often referred to the myriad sheets on the walls which were on display for days, weeks, and months. I know many people plan their presentations right from the start using software tools, but I don’t recommend it. There’s just something about paper and pen and sketching out rough ideas in the “analog world” in the early stages that seems to lead to more clarity and better, more creative results when we finally get down to representing our ideas digitally.
Large pads for live presentations?
During my training as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the ’80s, flip charts and marking pens were ubiquitous teaching aids. A great advantage of these tools, of course, is that they require no electricity. This was a powerful advantage since there often was no electricity. But for live presentations in modern offices and schools today, is there still a place for flip charts and marking pens? Absolutely there is. And since slide presentations — especially poor ones — are common place, keeping the lights on and using only paper and pen for your visuals may be a much appreciated differentiator. Below are two on-stage presentations by comedian Demetri Martin who uses flip charts (“large pads”) to visually enhance his messages. These clips are a good follow up to the last post on PowerPoint humor; I guess you can call these "flip chart humor." Enjoy.
Demetri Martin uses flip chart to display "findings"
Below: Just for kicks, I took two of Martin's crude "large pad" visuals and put them in the form of Keynote slides, which are equally crude in their own way. (Click for larger view.)
LEFT: Pie chart about procrastination. RIGHT: Ability to draw mountains over time.
Demetri Martin: Material Enhancers
Tips (etc.) on using flip charts
Here are a few links where you can learn more about the art of presenting with flip charts.
• Using flip charts (an entire website on flip charts)
• 11 tips for using flip charts more effectively from 3M
• Make the Most of Flip Charts (3M site)
• Flip Charts: Low Tech Powerhouses (from LLRX.com)
• Post-it Meeting Charts (product info from 3M)
• 10 Tips On Using Flip Charts And Whiteboards
• Cool flip chart easel
• Libby trial jury quibbles over flip-chart paper (CNN)
Books on using flip charts or Post-its
• Flip Charts: How to Draw Them and How to Use Them
• Post-It Ideas That Stick! 222 Ingenious, Creative, Practical and Simply Preposterous Ways of Using Post-It Notes
• Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes
• The Big Book of Flip Charts
• Flip Chart Magic!