Flip chart Examples: The Art of the Flip chart

As I wrapped up a day-long training session, a participant came up to me and said: “I don’t know why we don’t do more of this kind of thing.  Such little changes make a world of difference.”

She was talking about my flip charts.

I like using flip charts because they can stay on the wall for an entire session (with PowerPoint I lose my image as soon as I advance a slide), I can add to them at any point (with PowerPoint, I’m mostly stuck with the slides I’ve created in advance) and anyone else in the room can add to them at any time. Here are three major factors I’ve found to good flip chart design:

Advanced Preparation

When participants walk into the room and see flipcharts prepared and hung in advance it sends the message that I’ve invested some time in preparing for the session.  I find that my handwriting is much neater when I can take my time, so preparing the flipcharts I plan to use in advance creates a better visual experience and just seems more professional than last-minute, ad hoc creation of flipcharts.  In addition, having flipcharts prepared in advance allows me to go right into the next topic without having to use valuable class time to (sloppily) create the next flipchart.

As a participant, which kind of visual imagery would you prefer to have hanging around the room?

Flipchart created in the moment

Flipchart created in the moment

Flipchart prepared in advance

Flipchart prepared in advance

Basic Flip Chart Design

Another small addition to my flipchart design that I find makes a big impact is to illustrate my key point(s).  Below are two examples of a welcome flipchart with instructions.  If you were a participant, would you think there’s a different tone that’s set by these different flipchart examples even though they’re using the exact same words?

Flipchart 3Flipchart 4

Content Creation

One of the great things about flipchart is that it can be used to create content during a training session.  When I divide people into small groups, I’ll often have clear instructions written at the top of the flipchart to provide structure and clarity to the group discussion.  If I’m capturing participants’ thoughts on an easel at the front of the room, I’m sure to write down their exact words. And when listing various points, I make sure to use alternating colors so that each point is easily distinguishable.

Flipchart 5Flipchart 6

Have additional ideas on flip chart design?  Add ‘em to the comment section below!

8 thoughts on “Flip chart Examples: The Art of the Flip chart

  1. This is a great post! Sometimes, in our tech-savvy, PowerPoint-reliant world, people forget about the humble flip chart. What a fantastic tool! Whether you create them in advance or on the fly, or just as a blank canvas for participants to record their findings in an exercise, it’s a tool that simply can’t be replicated with technology. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Thanks Michelle. “Tool” is the keyword (and your adjective “fantastic” is right on, too!). I think it just makes for a better learning experience when the facilitator uses a variety of tools. PowerPoint (if designed and used well) can be a great tool, but it’s generally facilitator-centric. The flipchart can help return the power to the people so to speak. It’s a little more difficult as the class size grows larger, but I’ve even seen it used effectively in ballrooms at large conferences (even tech-centric conferences!).

  2. Nice post! I use flipcharts in my marketing courses and workshops, generally to capture comments from the room. I find that students like to see their input written on a flipchart by the instructor, it makes them feel important and one by one most people contribute to the discussion far more if the flipchart captures everything.
    I had not thought about bringing to class pre-written charts, I will consider this in the future.

    • Thanks Alessandra! Yes, it’s amazing – writing participants’ contributions onto the flipchart is a physical affirmation of what the participant said. And who doesn’t like to see their words in writing, in front of everyone. In some small way, it’s like they’re being published!

      I’m a big proponent of pre-written flipcharts. I’ve found it makes a good and strong first impression. They look a little nicer. They save a little time. And they allow me to concentrate on the conversation at hand.

  3. I often ask for a volunteer to capture the class’ thoughts on the flip chart so that I can managed the conversations. Always ask for a volunteer so as not to embarrass someone with a learning disability. I also state, “Mark Twain said that if you only know one way to spell a word, you aren’t very creative”. That takes the pressure off the scribe.

    • Priscilla – thanks for that addition. It’s something I always suggest in my train-the-trainer courses… I’ve seen very few people who can multi-task by scribing AND facilitating. The extra set of hands is super important to having a conversation that can flow.

      And Mark Twain was a genius!

  4. Thanks for highlighting the wonders of the humble flipchart. It certainly can help with Powerpoint fatigue and are much more interactive.

    I take your points about having the flipcharts created beforehand but sometimes I like to mix it up and to do it in the moment. Creating the materials live in class can be a good way to engage learners in certain circumstances. A great tip a trainer once gave me was to outline what you’re going to draw/write in light pencil prior to the training. To the class it looks just like a blank page but when you’re up close you can clearly see the pencil.

    This way you
    a) never have the embarassing moment of forgetting what you meant to write.
    b) any simple graphics are already there and you just need to go over in marker. I love using sketches to explain concepts but my appalling drawing skills have sometimes confused more than assisted.

    • Thanks Kevin – you’re absolutely correct. Using a pencil to sketch out an “in the moment” flipchart can help a very nice drawing to appear almost magically. Something else I like to do with flipcharts that I have prepared in advance is to write out a couple of key talking points on the flipchart lightly in pencil – that way when I’m standing next to the flipchart I can get reminders about the talking points without appearing to use any notes.

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