If you do an Internet search on presentation skills, you will find not only tons of guides and tips for “professional and effective” presentations, but you will also find some very humorous ones. Sometimes we can get so involved with making a good presentation or showing our audience how “good” we can be, that we actually forget that we are supposed to communicate with other people rather than talk to them. We all too often forget that even if we are supposed to be the experts in something or other, we are also supposed to have a bond and interaction with our audience, clients, colleagues, etc. But you and I know . . . well . . . that rarely happens.
One area that causes amazing amounts of frustration, especially among users and clients is when a consultant works with clients to get requirements for . . . well . . . anything!!! As a consultant my job is to try to get the client to engage my firm and services, but more importantly, I should be trying to get the client to feel comfortable enough to want to talk with me about his/her issues, desires, objectives, goals, and dreams as far as his company or business goes. So . . . what’s the use of all the technology in this case.
What Works is . . . Well . . . What Works!!!
I’ve tried PowerPoint — and still use it to introduce some basic introductory stuff. But when it’s time to engage. I will generally ask for a flip chart and some markers, preferably with broad tips so people in the back of the room, or at the other end of the table can see what I write, especially when I’m writing so fast, that even I won’t be able to understand what I wrote when I go back to synthesize the content!.
But flip charts work! And they work wonderfully!
In my client engagements, I spend a lot of time trying to get clients to describe their current processes and then their desired outcomes for improvement. In such a scenario, ideas will spring up, or at the least, there will be a lot of correction and you get the “Wait a minute! We forgot the …….!” or “Hey what about the …..?” That in turn will require a lot of erasing, crossing out, and moving to a new page because we wrote so much on the current page that we need to go to a new page to figure stuff out.
Therefore my trusty flip chart . . . Simply turn the sheet over or just tear it off if you don’t want to see it again.
Immediacy and Spontaneity
That’s what a flip chart brings to the discussion. You have direct interaction with your collaborators in about a real a time as you can get! No, it’s not a pretty glitzy way to present ideas, but using a flip chart is an effective way – at least in my book – to bring out ideas with an audience who might need a little motivation. And one great thing about it is that you don’t lose time trying to erase or back space or copy & paste . . . just keep moving to the next page . . . and if necessary . . . the next flip chart pad!
Added Value – Flip Chart & Technology Bridge!
Okay, so where’s the catch? All this talk about ease and flexibility and spontaneity . . . blah, blah, blah! What kind of technology can you use with a flip chart besides a really slick pen. And by the way, like I said above, I go for the wide tip pens. I can’t really get into the enjoyment of the writing exercise with those fine tip markers . . . I mean, what’s a marker if it’s not that much broader than a medium point ink pen? Right?!
Sooo . . . where’s the technology here? Well to keep up with my copious (read sloppy) notes on my writing pad or my flip chart that I will eventually have to put into some humanly understandable prose for reporting or summation, I turn to my reliable smart phone and that neat little built in camera. In this way I can take a photo of each page for review later. I generally upload to Dropbox, just to make it easier to handle on my laptop. And I’m off to the summaries! I’m not really going to bust out any particular brand of smart phone, or any mobile phone that has a built in camera. And yes, that does include your tab or any other device that can take a picture . . . Wow even a camera, hopefully digital so you can at least upload the photos.
Some Simple Tips (Note that I didn’t say guidelines)
I’ll try to keep this simple
Make sure you have enough paper to last through your exercise or activity.
- Makes sense, right?
Try as hard as you can to write as clearly as you can.
- Somebody will have to make sense of all that scribble and produce a reasonably clear document. But don’t sacrifice time in writing perfect script that you lose track of ideas and feedback.
- That somebody will probably be you, because even if you did have a secretary/office assistant, he/she would probably go on a work stoppage before trying to decipher your graffiti.
- Don’t worry about writing in a straight line. Why do you think teachers don’t like to write on the board so much?
Don’t worry so much about the size of your words
- Just make sure that they are readable.
- That’s why you want to make sure you have enough paper!
Flip charts take better pictures than white boards.
- I like the eras-ability of white boards, but when it comes to taking pictures, you have to deal with the reflections of the overhead lights – and florescent lights are the worse – or the fact that you forgot to turn off the flash on your camera to help avoid that nasty flash spot right in the middle of your photo.
So, there you have it. My pitch for flip charts . . . it works!