Success can look like a lot of different things. It can look like a businesswoman with an expensive watch driving a Ferrari. It can look like growing the world’s longest mustache. Or, it can even look like getting Tom Hanks to take a picture with you holding a volleyball. But, sometimes, it looks like a whiteboard. Not just any whiteboard — the most organized, well-thought-out whiteboard you’ve ever seen.
Whiteboarding can be a bit tricky at first, but if the perfect whiteboard is your idea of success, too, you’re in luck. We’ve put together some tips and tricks so you can start leading successful whiteboarding sessions in no time.
Ready to get started? Of course you are!
What is whiteboarding?
Let’s start with the basics. Even if you’re already whiteboarding, you’ll have to master the foundations before you can be even more successful.
Whiteboarding is the practice of using a whiteboard in your team meetings to jot down, discuss, and organize thoughts as they come up. It is especially useful for brainstorming as a team. You can easily mark down everything as it’s suggested, loop back to each item without the worry of forgetting, and walk away with a physical copy of every team meeting to reference after the fact.
What’s better — you can do all of your whiteboarding on the same whiteboard in a room together, or (as is often the case) you can gather online to complete the session virtually. Using Cacoo, our own tool, you can do all of your whiteboarding virtually in real-time.
If you still have questions, never fear! We’ve already put together another blog introducing you to the ins and outs of whiteboarding. So if you haven’t already checked it out, definitely give that one a read before going too much further.
Common ways to use whiteboarding
You’re welcome to integrate whiteboarding into almost any facet of your work or home life. That being said, there are a few places where people most commonly find a whiteboard to be helpful. We’ll go over those and why they make for routinely successful whiteboarding sessions.
Without further ado, let’s take a look:
Brainstorming sessions can be messy and full of ‘heat of the moment’ inspiration. As soon as the heat is gone, you’re left with an absolute tangle of ideas. To better sort them out, add a whiteboard to the room (or the online meeting). This way, you can add thoughts when they pop up, drag and drop them to stay organized, and delete them when they stop making sense. By doing all of this work during the session, you save everyone a lot of hassle afterward.
In the end, you’ll have an exact image of everything that was discussed and what ideas resulted from the discussion. This is great not only for making decisions but for having ideas to go back to if you end up “back at the drawing board.”
Meetings that focus solely on talking can present a particular set of challenges. Usually, you’ll hear the same voices piping up louder than the rest presenting their same point of view again and again. By adding a whiteboard to your meeting, you’ll be better able to keep track of who’s spoken and give those who prefer to write down their ideas an equal chance to contribute.
Adding this visual element makes it a lot easier for teammates to take turns talking, writing, and ultimately solving a problem cohesively.
Some problems are visual, and there’s no way around that. Wireframes, customer journey maps, or any sort of diagram creation all benefit from adding a whiteboard. It’s almost impossible to discuss what a design layout will look like without actually sitting down and throwing together a mockup. In this case, your whiteboard session takes the place of the solo mockup phase.
Everyone can work together, accumulating concepts and expertise to start the problem-solving process as soon as everyone sits down. You’ll be able to tell you’ve had a successful whiteboarding session when everyone has reached a conclusion or design that universally makes sense.
Although PowerPoint has been the go-to for presentations since practically the invention of the home computer (only maybe dethroned by Prezi for a year), studies are increasingly showing that they aren’t sufficient in holding the average audience’s attention. The static, pre-produced presentation doesn’t connect with audiences or excite them the way they used to. That’s why whiteboarding is more “in” than ever for pitches and sales.
Whiteboarding during a presentation gives your audience the illusion that you’re all working your way through a problem together. There’s the opportunity to pause and explore a side route if a spectator brings something up. You can easily add highly personal details to each presentation without having to go back and edit a handful of slides every couple of hours. Ultimately, you’re more likely to land the business or make the sale.
How to know if you’re having successful whiteboarding sessions
So those are some of the more common uses for whiteboards, but how do we define success within them? Depending on the goal, success can look like a lot of different things. There are binary questions like, “Did I make the sale or not?” which is easy enough to answer. Or, you can look at it quantitatively, “How much money did I make?” or “How many units did I sell?”
But then, there are some more nuanced ways to look at the idea of success. We’ve chosen to highlight a few qualitative signs that you’re conducting successful whiteboarding sessions.
Everyone having the chance and feeling comfortable enough to participate is extremely important when it comes to any group project. All of these people are on your team for a reason — if there’s someone too shy or drowned out to speak, you’re losing an important voice.
If participation seems like a consistent issue, try going around the room and taking turns. You can also send out information about the meeting ahead of time and ask members to bring a few ideas in with them.
It may sound simple but, did you solve the problem? If the answer is ‘no’ more often than it’s ‘yes,’ there may be some issues preventing you from having successful whiteboarding sessions. If the problem is complex and you’ve planned a few different sessions to explore solutions fully, that’s one thing. But, if everyone walks out of the room no closer to the solution time and again, you’ve started wasting time.
It could be anything from communication to groupthink to lack of participation to not having enough details before the meeting. To solve this, take separate notes during your next meeting to see if you can find where the breakdown is happening. Take the time to ask your teammates where they think the sessions are going wrong. Finding this solution is integral to finding solutions to more problems in the future.
When everyone leaves the session, they should know exactly what to do by the next meet-up. The meeting should end when you’ve reached one (or more) conclusion(s) and you’ve assigned tasks moving forward. Those tasks could be research, design mockups, reaching out to another department, or your own task of delegating tasks. If you’ve had a successful whiteboarding session, it should be clear what everyone will be doing next.
If you aren’t doing this naturally, consider adding five or ten minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss what everyone can personally do to move the project forward.
Successful whiteboarding sessions start with a great team and end with a great plan. In between, there are some great ideas and great tools. Our own online whiteboarding tool, Cacoo, has the power to take your team where it needs to go from session to session. Add in this list of tips, and your team will be achieving successes left and right. We hope this has helped to unstick you and your team, and, as always, happy whiteboarding!