Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Don’t be a “Flip Chart Charlie”

Flip charts are so simple to prepare and use that no thought is required. It’s quick and easy! Just pick up a marker and start writing. Nothing could possibly go wrong!

But wait a minute. How can you give your audience a truly memorable flip chart presentation?

1 Use flip charts only when you will have more than twenty people seated more than fifteen feet away from the easel. Some of the audience should see a chart that looks no larger than a postage stamp.

2. Start preparing your charts in the last hour before your presentation.

3. Make sure that your lettering is too small to read easily. Less than two inches tall is good, and less than one inch tall is even better.

4. Cram your entire message on your flip charts. Don’t just list the main points.

5. Make sure to use more than seven lines (with more than seven words) on each and every chart. People just love details.

6. Put the most important information on the bottom third of the page so people in the back of the room cannot possibly see it.

7. Keep reducing the size of your letters to indicate the headings, sub headings, sub-sub headings, sub-sub sub headings etc. With enough levels you can give your audience a free eye exam.

8. Be sure to use whatever markers are lying around. Light orange is good, but yellow or pink highlighters are even better.

9. Use every page on the pad. Bleed through from magic markers adds attractive little clouds of color that will accent your words.


11. Print illegibly and let your words flow gently downhill towards the nearest river or ocean.

12. Flip to the next chart before your audience can read to the bottom of the current one.

13. As you point to your chart, be sure to turn away from the audience. Mumble so softly that even the front row can’t hear you.

Of course, the thirteen points listed above are purely tongue-in-cheek. Flip charts are excellent visual aids for presentations. There is no projector bulb to burn out. There is no fancy software to worry about. There is also no complicated hardware to connect. Where can you find out about using flip charts effectively?

Lenny Laskowski has an excellent web page on
11 tips for using flip charts more effectively
If you’d prefer a prettier version of the same information, it can also be found as an Acrobat .pdf file

Barry Weissman wrote an excellent article in Industrial Safety and Hygiene News
about flipcharts

Marie Wallace also discusses flipcharts in her Guide on the Side series

Robert Lucas wrote the Big Book of Flip Charts. He has several interesting articles posted on his web site:
Successful flip chart usage

Five super tips for enhancing flip charts with color

Using flip charts to make your message visual

Spicing up your flip charts with graphic images

Transporting flip charts effortlessly

This post was inspired by two articles Glen Kerfoot wrote in Training & Development magazine way back in 1966, “The search for flip chart charlie” and “The cure for flip chart Charlie”

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