Facilitation pro tips: Rules for sketching on whiteboards and flipcharts

If you find yourself in front of a group of people drawing on a whiteboard or flip chart, make your life easier and keep these tips in mind.

1. Label what you’re doing

When you start, write the name of the sketch at the top. Sure, when you start, everyone knows what you’re drawing. You’re having a good discussion, everyone is on topic. It’s obvious what you’re talking about. And then you’re done and move on to sketching something else. Before long the walls are littered with brilliant ideas that made sense in the heat of the moment and you’ve packed your phone’s photo library with poorly drawn cubism and dadaist poetry.

2. Write in all caps

Write in all caps. All caps makes your writing more legible. First, writing in all caps makes you write write a little slower. That’s always good for legibility. Second, while everyone’s lowercase and cursive looks a little different, everyone’s capitals look more the same. All caps is shared understanding for handwritten type.

3. Work big

The more space your sketch takes up, the easier it is to see from the back of the room. There’s another benefit as well. If you draw a teeny tiny little sketch, only one person can stand next to the board and draw and see what’s going on. The larger your sketch, the more people can crowd around and work together.   

4. Narrate while you draw

Sketches can be pretty low fidelity. That’s good. However, not everyone will key into the fact that this squiggle is a headline or that box is a button. Narrate while you draw, so everyone watching can stay on the same page.

Lead by example

With these rules, you facilitate better conversations around a sketch. You also lead by example. The more often your teammates see you do these things, the more likely they’ll copy the behaviors. Soon, everyone you work with will be making better sketches, and the entire team will facilitate better collaboration.