“Changing the world one flipchart at a time!” That’s the motto of a dear friend of mine who has been a trainer for many years.
Just like my friend, I’m partial to using flipcharts as a visual aid during my training sessions. They are low-tech, easy to create, and can be produced and customized right on the spot.
Conversely, I’ve encountered many trainers and other professional speakers who feel they can’t deliver an effective presentation unless it’s accompanied by a glitzy visual aid. Thanks to all the glitz and glamour, I’ve seen many presentations unnecessarily upstaged by an endless stream of sophisticated animation, sound, and special effects.
I believe a visual aid is meant to aid the presentation, not be the presentation. Thanks to its simplicity and versatility, I usually opt for the flipchart as my preferred visual aid medium.
There are a few tips I’d recommend to use your flipchart effectively:
1. Use Appropriate Colors. I suggest using dark, bold colors that contrast well with the white paper of the flipchart pads. I prefer black and blue markers to print the wording on my flipcharts, however, I will also use purple and green.
The reason for using dark, bold colors is visibility. Dark colors seem to “pop” off the page and can be seen from a distance. Light colors (red, orange, yellow, etc.) are a bit more difficult to see from a distance. Light colors can be used for highlighting your flipchart content, for example, circling, underlining, or creating bullet points.
2. Incorporate Artwork. Never underestimate the power of a graphic. I’m a big fan of incorporating graphics or other types of art on my flipchart. I find graphics allow you to communicate your message more effectively. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The use of graphics may also help with retention and understanding of your training content, as well as spicing up dry, boring material.
I like to draw pictures of people or things on my flipchart paper, although I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no Michelangelo! My version of artwork usually consists of stick people. Or, I’ll draw something as simple as a pair of eyes which are positioned toward the heading of my flipchart page to convey a message of significance or importance.
When I want to make my flipchart artwork a bit more sophisticated, I will trace pictures onto the page. This is an easy process. Simply find an appropriate picture that conveys your message and is large enough to be seen from a distance. Next, tape it behind the page in which you plan to draw on. Taping the picture allows you to anchor it and keep it straight. Then, trace the picture onto the page you plan to show your audience. Voila! You now have instant artwork and you didn’t have to draw a thing.
Lastly, I’ve even cut out pictures from magazines, catalogues, or coloring books to use as artwork on my flipchart. I usually apply some sort of adhesive on the back of these pictures to affix them to the flipchart pages. I joke that I’m dangerous with a pair of scissors and a glue stick!
3. Write Notes to Yourself. When delivering a presentation for the first few times, I often need help remembering what I’m going to say. Granted, I usually have my instructor manual or an outline from my lesson plan. However, once I step to the flipchart, I’ve left the safety and comfort of those instructional job aids. In the past, I’ve nervously found myself standing next to a flipchart with a page full of key points that I couldn’t remember exactly how to explain.
As a way to jog my memory, I write myself a few notes next to each key point or bulleted item. These notes are short (usually 3-5 words) and are always lightly written in pencil. The notes become a secret tool in my toolkit to help me formulate my thoughts and ideas. Because the notes are written in pencil, most people can’t even see them, and I, in turn, never miss a beat as it relates to the flow and continuity of my presentation.
4. Practice the Touch-Turn-Talk Format. The Touch-Turn-Talk (TTT) Format is an easy three-step process to help you present your content in a more polished and professional manner while standing near your flipchart.
The first step of the TTT Format is “touch.” Touch the written item(s) on your flipchart to draw attention to that information. The next step is to “turn.” Always turn toward your learners, as you want to vocally project in the direction of your audience. The last step of the TTT Format is “talk.” Based on what you are explaining or clarifying, talk about the information in a concise and conversational manner.
The next time you want to elevate your training sessions, consider using a visual aid (and attending our Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop). More specifically, consider using the tried-and-true workhorse of any visual aid, the flipchart. You’ll find it is a cost-effective and easily-executed way to convey your ideas and information.
For those of you currently using flipcharts, what tips or best practices can you share?
Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!