9 Tips for Better Flip Charts

While PowerPoint often dominates the visual scene during presentations and training sessions, flip charts are ever-present. Learning how to make flip charts can add an important visual element to your session.

One of the many advantages that flip charting holds over PowerPoint is that when a slide is advanced, it’s gone… but your flip charts can hang on the wall for as long as you need them to!

Here are 9 ideas to up your flip chart game:

Preparing to Make Great Flip Charts

1. Choose the Best Flip Chart Markers

Readers of this blog know I’m partial to Mr. Sketch markers. They have fun smells, they write smoothly, they don’t bleed through the paper and they’re the longest lasting markers I’ve ever used. Regular Sharpies are too thin (and they do bleed through the paper). Perhaps the worst choice of markers are dry erase markers – they’re not meant for paper. It still baffles me why I see them so often used on a flip chart. They fade quickly on paper and they’re kind of stinky.

good flip chart markers
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Flip Chart Examples: The Art of the Flip Chart

Before you read this, you may want to check out 9 tips for better flip charts. This is a great introduction to improving your flip charts and also includes some great flip chart examples.

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?

flip chart created on the fly

Flipchart created in the moment

flip chart prepared in advance

Flip chart example prepared in advance

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Flipchart vs. PowerPoint: A Visual Aid Royal Rumble

Kaboom in the Training Room

Over the past year, I’ve delivered a series of train-the-trainer sessions to various groups of non-training professionals.  I intentionally designed these sessions without a single PowerPoint slide in order to demonstrate that you don’t need PowerPoint to facilitate a presentation.

I cut my teeth in training and facilitation as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Recently, an old Peace Corps friend of mine remarked with surprise that I still use flipcharts when there are so many other technologies to make a presentation look and feel more professional.

Here are the four reasons why I will never abandon flipcharts:

1. Flipcharts are forever (or at least for the entire presentation).  Once you advance a slide, the learner can no longer look at it.  The image is gone and attention has shifted to something new.  When I facilitate a train-the-trainer session, I spend an entire day referring to a 4-step training design model.  I find myself pointing to the following flipchart when I’m introducing the concept, later when participants are asked to design a practice lesson plan and yet again later when feedback is given during practice facilitation sessions.

Four Training Design Steps

2. Flipchart is dynamic.  Yes, you can annotate slides while you are presenting (Tamara Bloom gives some quick tips on how to do this).  My personal preference, however, is to pop the cap off a marker at any point without worrying about right-clicking and selecting a drawing tool.  Have you ever tried to write words using a mouse and a drawing tool?  I find it easier to simply walk up to and write on any visual aid posted around the room.  I’ve also found this helps keep a natural flow of conversation and participation.

3. Flipchart shows I care.  Below are two different welcome messages.  What kind of tone do you think each one sets?

PPT Welcome       Flipchart - Welcome

One of my participants described the difference between PowerPoint slides and flipcharts this way: “I really feel a PowerPoint presentation is similar to getting an email. I get them every day, and they look pretty much the same.  Flipcharts are a little like a hand-written letter you might get in the mail.  A little more unique.  And someone obviously took some time to write it out.”

4. Flipchart spreads session ownership.  When I use PowerPoint, I like to be able to walk around the room and advance slides using a wireless remote.  The fact of the matter is, however, that when I use PowerPoint, I’m really the only person in the room who owns the presentation.  When it comes to flipchart, everyone in the room can have access to it and can contribute and write on it to create new content.  Flipchart can be a portal that transforms the session from sole proprietorship to true partnership.

 Flipchart - Socialism

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