How to Make Flip Charts More Effective

How to Make Flip Charts More Effective

Flip charts are a great tool for anyone who needs to capture information and ideas on the spot. In this article, you will read how to make flip charts more effective so that you can maximize the visual impact for your learners or attendees.

If you are like me, you love to use flip charts in training and educational settings and in meetings. They are definitely low-tech but are so versatile and useful that I recommend every manager have one in his or her office to capture key ideas during meetings during mind-mapping or brainstorming and to make concepts visual and more memorable. The same applies to any learning event. You can add color, flip chart art or graphics, and virtually all sorts of effective enhancements to your charts to make them “speak” to learners.

The following are a few things I have learned about preparing effective flip charts throughout my four decades of experience as a trainer and facilitator.

Each Word Should Be Legible From the Back of the Room

How to Make Flip Charts Effective

To ensure that those at the far reaches of your room can read your text, be conscious of where you position your flip chart easel or flip chart stand and — keep the layout simple and avoid “data dump.” Too much information makes reading difficult or impossible and can frustrate or anger participants who cannot read or follow what you have written.

Remember that your goal in using a flip chart is to highlight keywords and concepts, not show your entire presentation outline on paper. Focus on enhancing the clarity of your message and reinforcing your presentation.

I can recall one business presentation that I attended recently where I am convinced the speaker did everything she could to make the information unreadable. There were no title lines used; numbers were haphazardly spread around the page; she added more in the small margins as she spoke; and, she selected only a red marker even though she had an entire box of assorted colors to choose from.

I had to keep telling myself, “Bob, don’t be so critical just because you know the ‘rules’ of flip charting.” However, after the meeting, I asked someone else what they thought of the marathon meeting we’d just attended. Her reaction was, “I have a headache from looking at all those numbers and trying to follow her meaning.”

No more than 6-8 lines per page

One of the more common mistakes I see presenters and facilitators make with flip charts is to jam too much information on a page. This cluttered look is typically ineffective and frustrating for the reader. As with overhead transparencies, I recommend limiting the number of lines per flip chart page. A good rule of thumb is six to eight words per line; using two to three-inch (appx 5-7.5 cm) lettering size, and having a maximum of six to eight lines of text per page (including your title line using approximately four-inch [appx 10cm] letters).

There are actually three good reasons for limiting the amount of information you put on each line and page:

1.  Aesthetically it looks better since you eliminate unnecessary detail and clutter.

2. It aids the reader’s flow across the page since they do not have to read as many words and can now focus their attention on what you are saying.

3. Most importantly, research shows that the human brain can effectively retain seven units or chunks of information (plus or minus two).

Like any rule, there are going to be exceptions. For example if you are writing a long list of items or capturing ideas during participant brainstorming or mind mapping, and it is obvious that you will run on to a subsequent page. In such instances, you might go to the bottom of the page, tear it off, and have someone tape it high enough on the wall where you can add a continuation when finished. You can then continue on the next page. Once finished, you can tape the second page at the bottom of the first providing a continuing list.

Limit information

Putting just one idea or concept on a page helps participants follow your presentation. When you complicate the page with too many or unrelated details efficiency is often lost. This is especially true when showing columns of numbers. Limit yourself to about 25-35 individual numbers on the page. If you have a lot of information, I suggest that you consider summarizing your flipchart, then give a handout with the details. Simpler is better, with flip charts.

How to Make Flip Charts Effective

Fixing Your Mistakes

You do not have to throw away a page or obliterate a word with a marker when you make a spelling or grammatical error on a pre-drawn page. You have a variety of options for correcting errors or misspelled words.

One technique is to quickly cut a piece of blank flipchart paper large enough to cover the error, put tape on the back of it, then attach over the mistake. You’re now ready to continue drawing, and the correction probably will not be noticeable to most people in the room.

If you are preparing a fancy flip chart for a presentation and make a mistake, place a blank sheet of flip chart paper over the mistake you’ve made. Using an artist’s Exacto knife or single-edged razor blade and cut out the misspelled word through the blank page. You now have a blank section exactly the same size as the section where the misspelled word was earlier. Place the blank piece into the opening on your original sheet, tape it from the rear with scotch tape, and even the people in the front row will have trouble seeing the correction.

How to Make Flip Charts More EffectiveThere are many other ways to enhance your flip charts, but these should get you started. For more information about creating, using, storing, and transporting flip charts, consider purchasing a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts.

 

Flip Chart 101 – 4 Tips for Writing on Flip Chart Pages

Flip Chart 101 – 4 Tips for Writing on Flip Chart Pages

The rule of thumb that you should always keep in mind when writing information on your flip chart pages it “keep it simple.”  Adding too much data, information, and images only clutter the page and reduces viewer comprehension.

Tips for Writing on Flip Chart Pages by The Creative Trainer

Here are 4 tips for writing effectively on flip chart pages:

Flip Chart 101 - 4 Tips for Writing on Flip Chart Pages

1) Put only one idea or concept on a page.  Adding too many ideas on a page can detract from your message and confuse participants.

Flip Chart 101 - 4 Tips for Writing on Flip Chart Pages

2) When lettering, use block letters rather that cursive or custom elaborate and/or intricate style lettering. Lettering that resembles Helvetica or Sans Serif-type fonts found in word processing software work well.  These styles are straighter and aid readability and comprehension.

Flip Chart 101 - 4 Tips for Writing on Flip Chart Pages

3) Always leave two- to three-inch margins on each side of the paper to avoid crowding information.

Flip Chart 101 - 4 Tips for Writing on Flip Chart Pages

4) Avoid using the bottom one-third of the page if you are on the same height level as participants. Otherwise, they may either be forced to stand or strain to look around people in front of them or may not be able to see the flip chart at all.

For additional ideas on how to effectively design, develop, 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.

Learn This Blogger – Robert W. Lucas

Robert W. Lucas is an internationally-known author and learning and performance expert. He specializes in workplace performance-based training and consulting services. Furthermore, he has four decades of experience in human resources development, management, and customer service in a variety of organizational environments. Robert Lucas was the President of the Central Florida Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

Use Formatting Consistency When Writing on A Flip Chart

Use Formatting Consistency When Writing on A Flip Chart

When facilitating train-the-trainer programs, I stress the need for consistency to my attendees.  Your ability to create a “look” and carry it throughout your adult learning training programs is important to your success and what your participants will learn.

Use Formatting Consistency When Writing on A Flip Chart
Use Formatting Consistency When Writing on A Flip Chart

To ensure that your letters look the same throughout your presentation, use the same style, size, and angle for your letters. Maintaining the same amount of distance between letters and lines as you write is important and can greatly aid appearance and readability.

Additionally, as you progress through a series of pages related to the same topic and theme, repeat the color patterns and bullets that you choose before you begin. For example, if you use stars on page one along with black ink for the first, third, and fifth lines, and blue for lines two, four, and six, use the same pattern on page two. This helps you and your participants follow the theme and when referring back to pages posted on the wall, they can quickly figure out what relates.

Like any other aspect of presenting your message well to adult learners, the key to effective writing consistently on flip charts is PRACTICE!

For hundreds of different additional flip chart ideas and strategies, get a copy 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.

Effectively Capturing Participant Notes on Flip Charts

Effectively Capturing Participant Notes on Flip Charts

When writing responses from participants during a training session or meeting, be careful not to substitute for the words they offer. Many facilitators, trainers, and educators try to paraphrase to make the words fit on a page. If you do this incorrectly, you may inadvertently change their intended meaning and offend them by discounting what they are saying as your redesign their message based on your perception of what they are trying to communicate.

Capturing Participant Notes on Flip Charts

Effectively Capturing Participant Notes on Flip Charts

It is better to ask permission than assume it is alright. If you want to modify what a participant says, ask his or her permission. Even so, this is awkward and can cause problems. Some people will say it’s okay, then feel offended that you didn’t use “their” idea or words. They may even stop contributing further. Instead of arbitrarily making modifications, ask them to condense their idea down to 5-7 words and then capture what they say. This guided facilitation approach will likely get better results and help them focus their thoughts

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

About This Blogger – Robert W. Lucas

Robert W. Lucas is an internationally-known author and learning and performance expert. He specializes in workplace performance-based training and consulting services. Furthermore, he has four decades of experience in human resources development, management, and customer service in a variety of organizational environments. Robert Lucas was the 1995 and 2011 President of the Central Florida Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

Robert W. Lucas has lived, traveled, and worked in 28 different countries and geographic areas. During the past 40 years, Bob has shared his knowledge with workplace professionals from hundreds of organizations, such as Webster University, AAA, Orange County Clerk of Courts, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Martin Marietta, all U.S. military branches, and Wachovia Bank. In addition, Bob has provided consulting and training services to numerous major organizations on a variety of workplace learning topics. To contact Bob visit his website at www.robertwlucas.com or his blog www.thecreativetrainer.com.

Capturing Flip Chart Notes in Meetings and Adult Learning Sessions

Capturing Notes in Meetings and Adult Learning Sessions with Flip Charts

Capturing Flip Chart Notes in Meetings and Adult Learning Sessions

In situations where you are participating in an ongoing project or series of meetings, I have found it helpful to capture information on flip charts. This provides participants attending the subsequent meetings with a visual reminder of what they did in previous sessions.

Capturing Flip Chart Notes in Meetings and Adult Learning Sessions by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Brain-Based Training Author

Tied to this idea, you may want to facilitate the creation of a list of meeting rules that will be posted in each session to remind participants of agreed-upon behavior or rules for listening to others. This technique can sometimes help ensure that agenda and meeting objectives are met. By referring to the “rules” that the participants created, you can help maintain focus.

Additionally, if you have ever wished that you had an 8 1/2 X 11-inch (approximately 21.2 X 28cm) copy of your flip chart pages for yourself or participants, there are products on the market that allow a connection to your computer printer. By scanning your flip chart page through the machine, you can produce as many small copies as you need. Of course, you can always do this the old-fashioned way and enter the flip charted ideas from a brainstorming session into your computer for later distribution.

As a reverse approach, there are also printers that allow you to enlarge documents created in your PC and print them in flip chart size.

For more creative ideas on using flip charts in adult learning events, get a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers and Team Facilitators by Robert W. Lucas.

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.

Avoid Problems When Writing on Flip Charts

Avoid Problems When Writing on Flip Charts by The Creative Trainer

Flip charts are incredibly handy for posting content and graphics to make information and data available in classrooms and meetings. You can share and gather ideas, comments, and other important content as needed by simply having a flip chart pad, easel, and markers available during a presentation, training session or group meeting.

To ensure that you maximize the benefits of flip charts without wasting time or money, consider these two simple tips:

Avoid Problems When Writing on Flip Charts

Always use water-based markers specifically designed for flip charts since the ink in them is less likely to “bleed” or soak through the paper and ruin the next sheet of paper. This is especially important if you are preparing charts in advance. Since the flip chart paper is expensive, you likely do not want to waste every other sheet because of ink spots coming through a page.

To prevent ink bleed through your flip chart paper, either put a second sheet of paper underneath the one you plan to write on (especially if you have a sheet posted on a wall that you plan to write on) or tear off a sheet that you are preparing, flip the pad over and use the cardboard backing as a writing surface to absorb any leakage.

Avoid Problems When Writing on Flip Charts by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author, and Training Industry Expert

For additional ideas on effectively 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.

Three Tips for Writing Effectively on Flip Charts

Three Tips for Writing Effectively on Flip Charts

Three Tips for Writing Effectively on Flip Charts

Some trainers and educators struggle when writing on flip chart paper mounted on an easel. With a bit of planning and practice, most people can quickly master this classic visual aid for gathering and presenting information to a group.

Three Tips for Writing Effectively on Flip Charts by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Training Author

The following are three tips that can help you become master flip chart use in no time.

  • Choose your words carefully.  Limit the use of jargon, which may not be familiar to all participants, and when using acronyms and abbreviations, be sure to fully explain any unfamiliar terms applied.
  • Always write across the pages in a level horizontal line.  If you tend to have difficulty with this, consider buying flipchart paper with lines or grids on them or drawing faint lines on the pages with a ruler and pencil at three to five-inch intervals.
  • Ensure that your lettering is large enough to be read. One and one-half to two-inch letters are usually visible for most people. A rule of thumb is that by increasing the height of your lettering size 1/4 inch, you will be increasing visibility by approximately 8-10 feet. See the following chart to get an idea of how this can increase visibility for attendees.

Added Height of Lettering

¼”                    ½”                    ¾”                    1”                     1 ¼”                1 ½”

Viewing Distance in Feet

8-10ft              16-20ft            24-30ft            32-40ft            40-50ft           48-60ft

Flip charts continue to be a viable low-tech form of visual aid for gathering and presenting information in virtually any group setting if they are used effectively.  Like any tool, you should become proficient in its use before participants arrive in your sessions.

Flip Chart 101 – Basic Strategies for Effectively Using Flip Charts – Positioning Your Easel

Flip Chart 101 – Basic Strategies for Effectively Using Flip Charts – Positioning Your Easel

There are many creative ways for trainers, facilitators, presenters, educators, and meeting leaders to enhance what they put onto flip chart paper. However, before getting too fancy you should master some flipchart basics when creating and effectively using a flip chart and flip chart easel. Call this Flip Chart 101 – Basic strategies for effectively using flip charts – positioning your easel.

Effectively Using Flip Charts – Positioning Your Easel

Here are two tips for effectively using your flip charts to convey messages to learners, audience members, or meeting attendees:

Position the Easel in the Correct Location. Lighting affects the visibility of what you write on your flip chart paper.  To ensure that everyone in the room can view your message, think about where you place your easel. Overhead lighting should highlight your page, not cast shadows. This means that your light should shine directly in front of the easel and not come from behind it.

Flip Chart 101 - Basic Strategies for Effectively Using Flip Charts - Positioning Your Easel

 Stand on the Correct Side of the Easel.  If you have ever waited impatiently for someone who is writing on a flip chart page to move aside, so that you could read what they wrote and take notes, you understand the importance of positioning yourself correctly.

If you are right-handed, stand to the left of your easel and extend your arm across the page so that you do not block your participant’s view. If you are left-handed, stand to the right of your easel.

Like anything else in a learning or meeting environment, you increase your effectiveness as a trainer, facilitator, educator, or meeting leader if you use sound facilitation or presentation skills.

For more ideas on effectively 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.

YOUR THOUGHTS? – Please share any tips for effectively using flip charts in adult learning environments?

Flip Chart 101 – Choosing the Correct Flip Chart Marker

Flip Chart 101 – Choosing the Correct Flip Chart Marker

There are generally three types of flip chart markers available that you may encounter in a classroom or meeting environment: (1) Permanent ink (2) Dry Erase and (3) Water-based.

Flip Chart 101 - Choosing the Correct Flip Chart Marker

The following opinions regarding flip chart markers are offered based on my four decades of experience in delivering training and educational programs and facilitating countless meetings.

 Choosing the Correct Flip Chart Marker by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas

Ensure that you purchase and use the correct types of markers for your flip charts. The name of the first type (permanent) should give you a clue that there may a problem with using them for flip charts. The biggest challenges with these markers are that if you get them on clothing, hands, or inadvertently use them on a dry erase whiteboard, they are difficult or impossible to remove. They also “bleed-through” onto subsequent pages, thereby wasting every other page of expensive flip chart paper.

The second type of marker (dry erase) has ink specifically designed for dry erase surfaces and the ink colors are typically not as dark when applied to paper. They also tend to dry out faster, especially if you forget to recap them immediately after use and often have a pungent odor as you write.

The third type of marker (water-based) is the correct type for use on a flip chart page. They come in a variety of brands and colors and can be used to write as well as illustrate your message. Using a variety of colors and adding images to your charts ties to brain research related to the importance of adding color and making ideas visual for learners. This type of marker is also less likely to “bleed through” onto subsequent pages. Some brands (e.g. Mr. Sketch markers) even come in a variety of pleasant scents (e.g. fruit fragrances).

Like anything else in a learning or meeting environment, you increase your effectiveness as a trainer, facilitator, educator, or meeting leader if you use the correct tools.

For more ideas on effectively 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.