Flip Chart 101 – Designing Professional Looking Flip Chart Pages

Flip Chart 101 – Designing Professional Looking Flip Chart Pages

If you are going to spend time creatively drawing flip charts before the session begins, give some thought to what you will include on them. Find a large flat writing surface and spend some time writing out key points and adding any illustrations you would like on a writing tablet first. This will save wasting expensive flip chart pads when you make errors or decide to change something.Flip Chart 101 - Designing Professional Looking Flip Chart Pages

Designing Professional Looking Flip Chart Pages

The following strategies can assist in making your flip chart pages more effective and project a polished, professional image:

  • Use a straight edge of some sort.  If the paper is not lined, find a yard/meter stick, ruler or another straight-edged tool to ensure that lines of text are evenly spaced and are not at distracting angles.
  • Make sure that you use block lettering that is at least one to two inches high. Visibility is important if you want learners to grasp concepts and refer to your written materials. To help ensure that everyone can see what is on your flip charts from about 30-40 feet use block type font that has straight lines without fancy curls at the ends. This type and size of the lettering will allow a clean image and make reading easier for learners.
  • Use upper case letters or larger font size for title lines and upper and lower case for text lines. In order to help emphasize the words and help visually define the topic. This approach to writing will allow a more natural reading format. Consider the design of books and other publications. They have bold headers followed by text that is in upper and lower case letters. Extensive amounts of text in all capital letters are difficult to read and not normally used.
  • Limit the number of words to six to eight per line and the number of lines of text to six to eight (“six-by-eight rule”). This will provide a less cluttered look, and allow more lines of text to fit onto a sheet of paper.
  • Use horizontal lettering that runs across the page as opposed to vertical lettering that runs down the page from top to bottom. The exception would be if you are discussing an acronym, such as ADDIE (Assessment, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation), and wanted to the letters down the left side of the page and add a line of text for each letter.
  • Use no more than three columns per page. If you are going to use vertical columns of information leave a slight space between each column. Generally, you would only use this format for lists of words, numerical figures, or shorts points rather than sentences.
  • Limit yourself to one topic per page. This will prevent cramming irrelevant information onto the page — it will only confuse your participants.
  • Avoid using the bottom one-third of the page since some participants in the rear of the room will have difficulty seeing it over the heads of others.

For more useful and creative tips and strategies for making, using transporting and storing flip charts get a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers and Team Facilitators.

Using Fun and Novel Pointers with Your Flip Charts

Using Fun and Novel Pointers with Your Flip Charts

If you like to use pointers to help focus attention on keywords or concepts that you have put on your flip chart pages, you have a variety of options. They run from the mundane to the creative. Here are some of the types that are common and some that are not so common:

Wooden dowel pointers. Most audio-visual and art supply stores carry the wooden pointers. They are typically three feet long and often have a black rubber or painted tip. If you cannot find them at either of these stores, go to a craft, home supply or hardware store and ask for a wooden dowel rod. They are typically used to support thin curtains. The only difference in the two types is that the latter options will not have the black tip. If you want that feature, you can simply buy some flat black paint and touch it up.

 flip charts, flip chart pointers, flipcharts

Collapsible metal pointers. Similar to an antenna on some cars are another common type used by presenters.  Many even have a clip, similar to an ink pen, that allows carrying in the pocket.


Lighted infrared pointers. These are a newer “fad.” These are battery operated and project a small red beam of light, thereby allowing you to stand across the room and “point” by projecting the red dot on your flip chart page.

laser pointer 2

There are several negative aspects of this type of pointer:

  • One is that even experienced presenters have difficulty holding the light steady. This gives the non-verbal appearance of nervousness and can be distracting as the dot dances around the page.
  • A second downside is that the dots are so small and many people (especially men) have red color blindness and have trouble seeing the dot at all.
  • Finally, a more serious concern is that the laser light can cause eye damage if you accidentally look into it or project into the eyes of an attendee.

Using Fun and Novel Pointers with Your Flip Charts by The Creative Trainer 

If you really want to add some pizzazz and break the monotony of a learning environment, here are several options:

Long pencil. Purchase and use one of these for use as a pointer. These are over five feet long and can be obtained from Great Big Stuff!

Long pencil

Squawkin’ chicken. These loud and hilarious rubber screaming chickens are great as pointers to attract attention and add a bit of humor to your sessions. They are also perfect for regaining attention following small group activities. Simply squeeze them to hear a loud scream that attracts participant attention.

Sqwakin Chicken

Plastic Finger Pointers. These novel 24-inch rubber fingers mounted on colored plastic handles are perfect for pointing at ideas on flip charts and projection screens.

Novelty finger pointers

For additional creative ideas on how to make, use, transport and store flip charts and how to add fun and creativity to your learning events, get copies of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers and Team Facilitators and The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

Engaging Adult Learners with Icebreaker Activities Using Flip Charts

Engaging Adult Learners with Icebreaker Activities Using Flip Charts

Brain based learning research and adult learning theory  (andragogy)point to the value of actively engaging participants in activities throughout a learning event. Doing this early in a session helps them to claim ownership for the learning process, overcome potential hesitance about getting involved, and potentially get to know one another. It also allows you to identify introverts and extroverts and leaders and followers, and to encourage active participation by all learners throughout the session.

Engaging Adult Learners with Icebreaker Activities Using Flip Charts

Here are two easy icebreaker activities involving flip charts that you might use in your next session:

1.    Get participants involved in a self-discovery activity at the start of a session. I do this in a program on behavior styles. I have participants group in threes. I then ask them to write the first names of group members at the top of three columns on a flip chart page. They are given a total of five minutes for each person to think of three characteristics (adjectives) which they think describes their behavior as it relates to the session topic. For example, in a session on supervisory training or leadership, someone might offer goal-oriented, assertive and decisive as their choices. Through such an activity, people become actively involved early in the session, share information, get to know something about others, and begin discussing the program topic. Later in the session, you can conduct an additional activity in which participants explain how the characteristics they identified during the icebreaker might be applied in a given situation related to the program topic

2.   Group participants, then show a flip charted statement related to the program topic. Have participants introduce themselves within their group, then discuss and flip chart their thoughts on the statement they read. For example, in a session on customer service, you might state, “Customers today are very impulsive and in a hurry.” After a specified period of time, go over the group responses as a class. This type of activity provides a vehicle for discussion of a program relevant topic, gains active involvement, and gives people a chance to get to know one another and share how they think.

For additional ideas on creative ways to create, use, transport, and store flip charts, get a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers, and Team Facilitators. For additional creative games and activities to energize your learning events, check out Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage People.

Use Flip Chart Icebreakers to Engage Your Adult Learners

Use Flip Chart Icebreakers to Engage Your Adult Learners

As learning and performance professional for over four decades, I have found that in most learning environments I have to give adult learners a reason for listening and participating in the program. To do this early in a program, I have to help tune their internal “radio station,” from which they get their life experiences, into station AVAR FM — Channel 1. AVARFM stands for Added Value And Results For Me — #1. In other words, I have to give them a reason to listen by showing what they will gain or how they will benefit from participating.

Use Flip Chart Icebreakers to Engage Your Adult Learners

One of the easiest ways to show value is to get participants involved as soon as possible in their learning. There are numerous ways to accomplish this. And, with each, you can have them flip chart their responses or ideas to share with the group. Here are two simple techniques you may have seen or wish to consider:

  1. Pair participants and have them interview each other. Give them a list of things to find out about each other and have them flip chart the responses using a “T” chart format. This type of simple activity allows participants an opportunity to network and learn about their peers through active involvement. It also ties into brain-based research by getting them actively engaged and tapping into past experiences as they generate their lists.
  2. Group people and have them develop a list of questions that they have heard or want to be answered related to the program topic on a flip chart? For example, in a program on interpersonal communication, they might ask, “Why do people sometimes read into the non-verbal cues of others?” Once each group is finished, review the questions and either answer them at that time or state that as you go through the program you will be discussing the topics raised (assuming you plan to do so). By using this activity, you can uncover the needs of your group while determining what is important to them while getting them involved in the program.

For additional ideas on creative ways to create, use, transport, and store flip charts, get a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers, and Team Facilitators.

Choosing the Best Flip Chart Paper for the Classroom

Choosing the Best Flip Chart Paper for the Classroom

There are a variety of flip chart paper pads on the market. The key is getting the one that is right for you and your desired purpose.

Choosing the Best Flip Chart Paper for the ClassroomChoosing the Best Flip Chart Paper for the ClassroomChoosing the Best Flip Chart Paper for the Classroom

The average flip chart paper size is approximately 27 X 34 inches (appx .68meters), which fits correctly on most standard easels. Each has pros and cons depending on your intended use. Generally spending a bit of extra money in order to get a heavier quality paper type is worth it since some of the less expensive types are akin to the porous writing tablets often used by children in elementary school.

Such paper is more difficult to work with and often extremely difficult to tear from a pad. Additionally, it may allow ink to “bleed through” onto subsequent pages when marker ink seeps through the paper and damages or leaves marks on the next sheet. This wastes money since you can end up throwing away half of your pad due to damage.

Choosing the Best Flip Chart Paper for the Classroom by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author

You can either purchase plain white or lined paper in yellow or white. There is even one type with light blue grid lines. All three types work well but the lined and grid paper works best for those of us who have difficulty writing in a straight line and those needing to make technical presentations using graphs.

Alternative Paper

Many years ago, I needed to create a running series of images for a program I was conducting over a period of months. Initially, I tried taping pages together, side-by-side. After I put them up and took them down several times, I realized this was not the best idea. They kept falling apart, the glue on the tape failed, and after a while, I had to recreate them (approximately 8-9 pages). That’s when I hit upon an idea when I was at my local meat market. I noticed the butcher tearing white paper from a large roll — AHA! I saw an alternative to pad paper and the rest, as they say, is history! It worked beautifully.

So, if you want to use long sheets of paper to line a wall for a special activity or presentation, you may want to consider going to a grocery supply store to purchase a roll of plain white butcher paper (not the waxed kind). You can also cut the paper to any length desired so that you can create individual sheets for participants to write or draw on for activities. This is a less expensive but more labor-intensive way to get the standard-sized paper. Even so, it saves precious budget dollars. You can even create makeshift pads for your easel. Do this by cutting sheets at the standard pad size (27 by 30 inches, or appx .6-.7 meters), punch holes at the top edges, and attach them together with a clip, staple, or any other device you can think of.

Self-Adhesive Pads

Another update to the standard newsprint flip chart paper appeared on the market a number of years ago. This new format has a self-adhesive edge along the top of each page pad (similar to the Post It Notes with which you are probably familiar) and is sized comparably to standard flip charts.  These easy to use pads simplify wall posting since you just tear a sheet from the pad and can affix it to most wall surfaces without tape, and with no damage to walls. The pages can be also removed easily and relocated.

There is a downside to these pads if you plan to create your pages in advance. Since they are literally stuck to one another, they must be separated and there is often a sticky residue along the top edge which makes writing on them a slight challenge sometimes. Also, once you have created your charts, if you desire to reuse them in subsequent sessions, they are difficult to roll evenly or to store.

If you would like creative ideas and techniques for buying the right flip chart materials and using them to create impactful flip charts for your learning events and meetings, get a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers, and Team Facilitators.

Four Tips for Creating Text-Only Flip Charts

Four Tips for Creating Text-Only Flip Charts

In an ideal world, you should create flip charts that have graphic images (e.g. simple drawings, clip art, graphs, or other visually stimulating items) to enhance the written message.  However, in a training session or classroom, you may just be capturing information or quickly creating a page as a result of some point that was brought up or addressed in the session. If you are artistically challenged and typically project images on paper to trace when you prepare in advance, adding images freehand may not be an option at the spur-of-the-moment.Four Tips for Creating Text-Only Flip Charts

Four Tips for Creating Text-Only Flip Charts by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author, and Training Blogger

When creating text-only pages, consider the following points:

Leave plenty of white space with a border around the edges to prevent content from appearing crowded, and so that learners can effectively read what you have written. Generally 2 inches (appx 2.5-5 cm) is adequate.

Provide approximately 1 inch (appx 2.5 cm) or more of white space between lines for the same reasons stated above.

Avoid using the bottom one-third of the page since it typically requires you to stoop down to write and people in the back parts of the room have to strain to see what you write because of others sitting in front of them.

Try to balance words with a fairly equal amount of space on either side.  With lists of items consisting of only one to three words, you may want to center each line on the page.

For additional creative ideas on making, using, transporting, and storing flip charts, get a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers, and Team Facilitators.

Creatively Using Images on Flip Charts

Creatively Using Images on Flip Charts

People have preferences in the way they gain and process information. This is known as learning modalities or styles (e.g. visual, auditory, and kinesthetic). You can capitalize on their needs and expectations by including visual images on your flip charts and other visual aids in the classroom. This is especially important since various studies indicate that the majority of a given population prefers the visual modality. Thus, if you place images such as clip art, photos, graphics, or drawings on your flip charts, you can potentially better attract learner attention and help them better comprehend your written and spoken messages.

Creatively Using Images on Flip Charts by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

Like all other aspects of your training program design, images, and everything else you use should be directly related to session content and help facilitate the accomplishment of the stated learning objectives for the event. Otherwise, you waste time and potentially distract learners from the key concepts of the session.

When using an image on your flip chart pages, consider that the further an image (or word) appears from the center of your page, the more it seems to draw attention in that direction.  For that reason, there are two common design formats to consider when displaying your material on a page — formal and informal balance.

Formal Balance

Creatively Using Images on Flip Charts

Formal balance means that items are equally matched or displayed in a symmetrical pattern so that the participant’s attention is not pulled in one direction or the other.

Informal Balance

Creatively Using Images on Flip Charts

On the other hand, an informal balance shows objects that are asymmetrical or includes objects that are not equal in size, shape or pattern. This technique attracts attention to one area or another and can add contrast.

Care must be given not to distract from your intended objective when using this method. This can occur when the informal balance is too extreme.

To get the feel of formal and informal balance and what the concepts look like on your flipchart, draw and cut out a variety of images and shapes that you may want to continually use in the future (e.g. smiley faces, boxes, rectangles, simple people figures, or whatever). Spray them with repositionable artist’s adhesive and then practice placing them at various locations on your page. Next, try adding some lettering and move your images around.

For more creative ideas for designing, using, transporting, and storing flip charts, get a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers, and Team Facilitators.

Basic Flip Chart Layout and Design

Basic Flip Chart Layout and Design

A simple way to approach your flip chart design is to think of a phrase summarizing your topic that will grab the audience’s attention.  Next, condense the details of that concept down to the fewest words necessary to convey the thought. Finally, decide on a graphic image that will complement the words and enhance the message.

Basic Flip Chart Layout and Design by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author, and Adult Training Blogger

For example, in a session on employment law that I delivered to employees years ago, I was trying to convey the fact that a 1997 study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on Employment Litigation found the following:

  • 4,900 HR professionals were surveyed.
  • Six of ten surveyed reported lawsuits in their organization within the past five years.
  • Fifty-seven percent said that their organization has been sued at least one lawsuit during that period.
  • Of the lawsuits, eleven percent involved sexual discrimination or equal pay disputes.

To flip chart this, I selected a title line and then decided how I was going to condense and succinctly lay the information out visually to aid understanding, The chart below was the result.

Basic Flip Chart Layout and Design

Two Keys to Flip Chart Success

Two Keys to Flip Chart Success

Two Keys to Flip Chart Success

I have found two things, in particular, to be very helpful in presenting a professional image as a trainer and making presentations with flip charts easier.

Two Keys to Flip Chart Success by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

And these are things most of us were taught as children:

The first — gather and organize all your toys.

Translated, this means to ensure you have the materials and information you will need for the session before participants arrive. I cover the concept of a trainer’s toolbox in another article, but in brief…think about what you will need to communicate your message effectively and arrange to have it for the session or meeting. This includes handouts, additional audiovisual equipment, accessories, markers, rulers, posters, or whatever else will use to help participants understand concepts that you are trying to share with them.

The second thing I believe is crucial — if you are going to play with the toys… read the instructions first.

Effectively training adults and presenting information using a flip chart are relatively simple tasks, if you take the time to prepare in advance. They can be done well or poorly, depending on the degree of effort that you exert. Spend some time to learn the “rules of the game” and practice your skills. You’ll be surprised at how a little investment of time upfront can pay satisfying dividends during your next learning event.

Be Creative with Your Flip Charts

Be Creative with Your Flip Charts

Be Creative with Your Flip ChartsIn my forty years of experience of facilitating training programs and teaching at the university level, what separates good flip charts from the bad (and in some cases, the ugly!) is always the ability of the facilitator to use creative techniques to share information. It is also their willingness to go beyond simply writing words on the flip chart paper.

I don’t know about you, but when I take the time to create professional-looking flip charts to support a presentation or learning event, I somehow feel more fulfilled as a facilitator. Maybe it’s because I don’t consider myself artistic or creative, so when I have a finished product that I think looks good, I feel a sense of accomplishment. This is amplified when someone else comments on the quality of my flip charts.

Also, in creating a series of pages for a session, I get to practice drawing simple characters and using some of the techniques I have learned over the year,s and to experiment with new ones. This practice enhances my skills even more. These, of course, are just side benefits. The main reason for using flip charts is that they help me communicate better.

Be Creative with Your Flip Charts by The Creative Trainer 

Research is done by the Wharton School of Business to determine the effectiveness of using visual aids when presenting found that using visuals in a presentation can cut meeting time by 24%. Here’s what they found:

  • When visuals were used, audience members perceived presenters to be more effective. Some comments following presentations were “better prepared, “more concise,” “clearer,” “more interesting.”
  • Following a visually supported presentation, 64% of participants were able to make a decision. Those in the non-visual group took longer to make a decision.
  • Of those audience members in a visual presentation, 79% reached a consensus, compared to 58% in a group with no visual support.
  • Of the participants in the visual presentation, 67% found the presenter convincing, compared to 50% in the group without visual support.

Notes + Flip Charts

If you have ever tried to take notes in a session as the facilitator rattles on, seemingly oblivious to the people in the room, you will understand the value of flip charts. Since participants can refer to a posted flip chart page without interrupting the facilitator to ask him or her to repeat a point, they are able to review material or catch up at their own speed. Additionally, the flip charts that the facilitator creates provide a vehicle for reinforcing what participants heard, or thought they heard.

Even though flip charts are not high-tech pieces of equipment, and have been around for decades, they are extremely flexible tools and can be surprisingly complex—and powerful, if used thoughtfully. As such, a degree of knowledge, ability, and creativity are required to use them effectively. What that means is that you must spend a bit of time reading books and articles about how to effectively create and use flip charts to get better at the skill. Once you have learned tricks for making your flip charts more colorful, visual, and professional-looking, spend some time practicing on pieces of copy paper. After perfecting the layout, language, and images you plan to use on your final flip charts, beginning transferring them to your flip chart paper. This method saves a lot of money that you will spend on expensive flip chart pads.

Be Creative with Your Flip Charts