Whiteboards are a great way to effectively lead a discussion during a meeting. They can help you present ideas, guide the conversation, and record the conclusions as they develop. As a result a lot of startups have whiteboards dispersed throughout their offices (like Wistia, Highgroove, Swipely, and Safe Shepherd).
Here are a couple thoughts for getting the most out of using all that whiteboard real-estate during a meeting:
- Start with the big idea: To get your meeting off on the right foot, start with something compelling and energizing. Preface your discussion by extracting the problem you’d like to solve and write it at the top or center of the board. Then share a key statistic or false assumption that you cross out dramatically!
- Keep it simple: Try to work in shorthand so that you can keep pace recording relevant ideas. Take enough time to write and draw neat enough (and large enough) for others to comprehend but aim for a steady communication rate over perfect handwriting. One way to speed up your writing is to develop simple symbols that are used whenever someone is whiteboard like boxes, arrows, etc. Remember that not every detail needs to make it onto the board– try to extract key points.
- Organize the layout of thoughts: Use tools like bullet lists, numbered lists, speech bubbles, and flow charts to separate ideas. If your discussion will have a lot of moving or intertangled pieces you might consider writing on Post It Notes because then you can move them around on the board as the relationships evolve.
- Think aloud while drawing: If you’re the one whiteboarding try to recap what you just heard someone say as you’re drawing it. That way everyone can confirm they’re on the same page and relate the images to the messages.
- Encourage participation: Ask others to come up and write their ideas on the board, or hand the marker to someone and pass it around in a circle having each person take a turn at the board. This will promote interactivity and help make people more comfortable to share their thoughts.
- Bonus! Keep a record: Now that you’ve got an entire brain-dump up on the board be sure to snap a picture of your session with your smartphone. That way you can send it to folks who might have missed the meeting, and you’ll have a record including takeaways and potentially next steps.