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Learn How to Whiteboard During a Virtual Meeting

Learning Objectives 

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Optimize your whiteboard setup for a virtual meeting.
  • Use tools and tips to bring whiteboarding to your virtual meetings.

Give a Great Presentation with a Whiteboard

With so many people meeting virtually, it’s more important than ever for us to learn how to collaborate in new and useful ways. Whiteboarding, or the practice of drawing and writing on a whiteboard, can be a useful tool for explaining ideas and building a shared understanding of a concept or idea. 

The practice of whiteboarding:

  • Engages the audience: In a traditional presentation that contains a long set of slides, your audience might tune out. But whiteboarding is interactive, which increases overall engagement.
  • Builds trust:  Because you create the whiteboard design while having a dialogue with your audience, the activity feels shared, thereby building trust along the way.
  • Sparks dialogue: The informal nature of the whiteboard activity creates a space where your audience can speak up more freely.
  • Disarms even the most skeptical audience members: As the presenter, you’re drawing, writing, and speaking all at the same time, and creating the content as you go. What you’re creating is imperfect and human, and audiences respond to those qualities.
  • Ultimately, elevates your relationship with your audience: Engaging your audience, building trust with them, sparking dialogue with them, and disarming them—the end result is that your relationship with your audience gets stronger.

Whiteboarding is informal, human, and imperfect. Learn more about why whiteboarding is so effective for sparking dialogue and engagement in this short video.

Set Up and Get the Right Equipment 

When it comes to virtual whiteboarding, you can use an online tool, or you can keep things simple and point your webcam at your whiteboard. For the latter, position your webcam to point at both you and the whiteboard. The whiteboarding session is as much about you as it is about what you’re writing on the whiteboard, so both should be visible. Just keep in mind that you need to write largely enough on the whiteboard for people to read your handwriting.

If you plan to whiteboard on a regular basis, invest in the equipment you need to set up your space. 

Classic Whiteboarding

  • A standing whiteboard (preferably, 24 inches by 36 inches or larger in size)
  • A dry erase marker
  • A dry erase board eraser

Whiteboarding with Online Tools

  • If you’re already using web conferencing software, see if it includes whiteboarding options, or consider a tool like Jamboard .
  • Practice with the software before you use it for an important meeting.

Select a Whiteboard Topic

Maybe you need to explain a complex concept, like blockchain or how to integrate different systems together. Or maybe you’re sharing a set of best practices on how to be a better communicator. Perhaps you’re revealing the backstory of something, like the origin story of the Caesar salad. 

When you’re selecting a topic, look for one that has interesting details you can draw, diagram, or list out in short sets of bullets. And always consider your audience carefully. The best content is tailored specifically for your audience.

Prepare for a Whiteboarding Session

With whiteboarding, it’s just you, a marker, and a big white space. You have to provide all of the content, and you can’t rely on a set of glossy slides to make your point. So if you plan to whiteboard, you need to prepare carefully.

Review these whiteboarding preparation tips:

  • Clear your mind: As you start, take a deep breath and clear your thoughts. This helps prepare for planning.
  • Design the right message: You’re taking people on a journey, so make sure there’s a destination. Make sure your message has an outcome, and that it’s tailored to your audience.
  • Eliminate buzzwords: As you design your whiteboard content plan, look for and remove jargon, both on the whiteboard and in your talk track.
  • Plan your words and images: Make sure you practice drawing the images you’re going to use. You don’t have to be a great artist to whiteboard! Keep your images simple, and choose words with impact.
  • Practice with a layperson: Do a run-through with  someone who’s not familiar with  the topic at hand. Their feedback can help determine if you’re on track.

See these tips in practice in this short video.

Collaborate with Online Whiteboarding Tools

If you do choose to use an online whiteboarding tool, you can collaborate with your audience directly on the whiteboard. Your meeting attendees can draw and notate with you in the online space. This has both benefits and drawbacks, but depending on the size of your meeting and the goals, it can also be an effective way to share ideas and build consensus. Check out this short video for a demonstration of how it can work.

Use a Whiteboard to Maximize Audience Engagement

Ultimately, the practice of whiteboarding is a way to get your audience engaged with your ideas. To make the most of it, follow these best practices while you’re whiteboarding.

  • Pause throughout: This lets the audience internalize what you just said, and think about what it means for them.
  • Tee up with teammates: Prep your teammates to ask a question or two at the start of your session to get the conversation flowing.
  • Confirm with your audience: Keep your audience visible on your screen, so you can see their faces and check back in with them on what you’re sharing.
  • Ask follow-up questions: Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing. Tip: Open-ended questions often start with “why,” “how,” or “what.”
  • Create a “parking lot”: Have a place where you can place follow-up items or discussion topics that can potentially derail the overall session.

Give virtual whiteboarding a try at your next virtual meeting!

Resources