How to Be a Stronger Leader at the Whiteboard

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

A whiteboard may be de rigueur at a brainstorming or strategy meeting, but few leaders use the board to its full potential. Here are six tips to lead more effectively with a marker in your hand.

  1. Rethink. The whiteboard medium offers the opportunity to present information graphically. Think about how the meeting’s goals can be approached in a new way for a whiteboard, with colors and pictures.
  2. Get comfortable drawing. Learn some basic information layouts and graphics. In The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Drawings, Dan Roan posits that complex ideas can be most quickly communicated with drawings, and the book offers a tutorial on basic drawing skills. Use and combine basic shapes. Label your drawing. Use thought bubbles. Add emotion with lines.
  3. Think aloud. As you’re drawing, talk. Your narration will help clarify your message and also help you slow down.
  4. Don’t hog the board. Have other meeting participants take turns at the board to elevate the energy in the room, give experience to more junior whiteboarders, and facilitate a better mix of ideas. The simple act of handing a marker to a colleague or client can issue the invitation for them to express themselves and show you value their input.
  5. Plan for photo notes. Whiteboard notes are often recorded with a phone camera, so think about this as you go, capturing single thoughts on the board before wiping. Write large enough for these images to be legible in a snapshot.
  6. Don’t forget the digital whiteboard. Many webinar programs as well as apps for video-conferencing make whiteboards possible. Take full advantage. But be sure to prepare your graphic approach in advance because pressure and quality expectations will be higher than if in-person.

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