By Christine Neuberger

In an age when PowerPoint and videoconferencing are regarded as essential meeting tools, the flip chart still remains a meeting-room fixture, for several good reasons. First and foremost, anyone can carry it into the room, set it up and make it go through its simple paces. No wires, no techie experts and no pre-planning. It’s just too good to be true.

While other AV aids can help bring out the best in a meeting, the flip chart can be very useful. A good facilitator who is competent at boarding a group’s ideas on a flip chart, says Frances A. Micale, an expert in meetings, can gather the energy of the room onto one sheet of paper and get everyone involved. Micale writes in “Not Another Meeting! A Practical Guide for Facilitating Effective Meetings” (The Oasis Press, 1999)” that while you don’t have to record everything discussed in a meeting, if the group is ready to brainstorm ideas, creating a list on a flip chart can keep conversation flowing in an orderly fashion. Once a flip-chart sheet is filled up, the meeting leader can tear it off and post it prominently for reference. Micale offers these tips for effective use of a flip chart:

To ensure there are no delays, check that you have an adequate supply of paper and colored markers on hand before a meeting starts.

Use a participant’s exact words as you board her idea. If you don’t have enough time or room for every word, ask the participants to stick to a minimum. That way no one can usurp the floor to grandstand.

Make it easy to read the suggestions by alternating two different colored markers. Consider using blue with green or dark blue with light blue. The emotionally charged color red works when key issues need emphasis. But generally bright colors – red, yellow and orange – aren’t easy to read.

Once you have a list write a clarified item next to the original idea. Discard an item by drawing a line through it on the original list. This way you allow participants to think more deeply about their suggestions and solutions. Then post all flip-chart sheets so everyone in the group can view them easily.