The Problem with Whiteboard Presentations

Presentations, Whiteboards, WhiteboardingNow that we have taken a look at just a few of the Problems with PowerPoint presentations, let’s take a look at three of the problems whiteboard presentations can present if not intentional in design and approach.

Let’s be honest. When we see the work of masters at whiteboarding like RSA, whose work is pictured to the left, we think, “That’s cool!”

The way they marry the work of incredibly competent whiteboard artists, with a compelling story is second to none. But notice the two requisite points necessary for a compelling whiteboard presentation – 1.) Competent Artists and 2.) A Compelling Story.

The absence of either one of the two can compromise the whole presentation. For example, trying to deliver a compelling story with poor whiteboard skills, merely becomes a distraction. This distraction compromises the story by shifting focus from the story, to the clutter on the board (See picture below). On the other hand, even with an incredibly competent whiteboard artist, without having a compelling story, the value of the presentation is merely tied to watching an artist work. The takeaway from this kind of presentation is, “Wow, s/he can sure draw!” This is the wrong outcome.

Three Warnings on Whiteboard Presentations

To be clear, I am not against whiteboard presentations at all. I am quite the fan and personally use them for certain types of presentations, but my use of whiteboards has to meet the criteria I defined in my post on the Wrong Question: PowerPoint or Whiteboard?. Let’s take a brief look at two areas to consider before presenting by whiteboard.

Warning #1: Skills. This should go without saying, but it is amazing how often this point gets overlooked when a sales professional approaches a whiteboard presentation. In fact, it would appear that very little thought is given here at all, as if the rep’s thought is merely, “What’s there to think about…I will simply write on the board whatever I am talking about.”

You do not need to be as talented as the team at RSA to use a whiteboard, but you do need to have competency…and practice…telling your prospect’s story via whiteboard. The team at Corporate Visions have done some great work in helping people think through communicating stories with simple images via whiteboard.

WARNING!!! Without forethought on what to whiteboard and specifically how to present that thought, you are setting yourself up for a poor outcome!

Warning #2: Proficiency. This one is important. If you are not proficient at telling your prospect’s story through whiteboarding, you are likely to compromise the presentation in one of two ways. Either you will take too long to draw the ideas on the board, which creates some really awkward dead air, or you will be too quick to be effectively represent your point in the drawing like you see below.

Bad Whiteboarding | Whiteboard PresentationRegarding my previous point on taking too long, think of it this way. Imagine showing up to your prospect’s meeting with your laptop connected to a digital projector and saying to them, “I am going to build this PowerPoint on the spot while I present to you.”

WARNING!!! Without being proficient at whiteboarding, whiteboard presentations are analogous to creating a PowerPoint real-time in front of your prospect!

Warning #3: Message. The last area of caution is with regard to the message. Of course, this is critical regardless of what method you choose for presenting, but the criticality increases with whiteboarding quite simply because you are  developing the presentation ‘real-time.’ At least with PowerPoint, people have an image or slide in which to direct their empty stare while they think about what they need to get done once the presentation is over. Therefore, you need to make sure your message is spot on and finely tuned to the prospect’s story, and their focus should be squarely aimed at disrupting their status quo.

WARNING!!! Without proper attention to delivering a compelling message, your prospects will likely remember your whiteboarding skills…or lack thereof, since that is where you are directing their attention!

Repeatable Success Tip

Whiteboarding can be an incredibly effective way to lead prospects to the center of their own story in a visually compelling way. Like anything in life in which you want to improve, it takes practice. ‘Practice’ falls under the category of being Intentional, which is one of the three characteristics of the Repeatable Success model.

Our profession of Sales is a noble one. Great intentionality must be given on the front end of your presentation…from preparation through delivery. Those that have consistently repeatable success in presentations aren’t scripted, but choreographed. Prepare in a manner worthy of the outcome you are working to achieve. You are worth it…and so are your prospects.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.


8 thoughts on “The Problem with Whiteboard Presentations

    • Thanks for the compliment in your previous comment, Brian. I had a chance to read your blog post, and that was a great…and fun…read, with great examples of the problem. As always, I appreciate your comments and contributions.

  1. Great article!! I see its from a few months ago but this part:
    “the two requisite points necessary for a compelling whiteboard presentation –
    1.) Competent Artists and
    2.) A Compelling Story.
    The absence of either one of the two can compromise the whole presentation. ”

    Is the most important thing to know when you create or pay to create a whiteboard animation, owning a company that offer whiteboard services ( ) I can testify that sometimes its hard to explain to the client that their story/script is not compelling enough and we recommend they work on it a bit more before we create the illustrations.
    The best whiteboards start with the story/script and then the illustration comes into place.

    Will add a link to this on my new blog.

    • Thanks Adam. I appreciate your comments. Additionally, I commend you for doing the hard thing…but right thing…for your clients in communicating candidly about their need to rework their story. You clearly are demonstrating whose best interest you have in mind, and your customers benefit as a result. Well done, Adam, and thanks again for your comments and insights.

  2. Mark Modesti says:

    This is helpful – thanks! Was wondering if you can share an example where someone has used a whiteboard effectively, or more along the lines of ‘how to’?

    • Thanks for your feedback and question Mark.

      One of the examples I like to share, while professionally produced, is an excellent example of communicating a compelling story…or reason for change…with some strong visuals to represent their point.

      The example I’m referring to is one produced by TaylorMade addressing how to get more distance from your drives.

      As you look at this example, where I would like to draw your attention is to the 90-second mark (actually 1:26) where they are representing trajectory using the example of a person throwing a football and another example of a person watering with a hose.

      When watching the clip, think how you might represent that same concept on a whiteboard. I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me, that your whiteboarding skills aren’t to the same level as those depicted by RSA or TaylorMade.

      But being great whiteboard artists isn’t the point. What we care most about is what our prospects will remember as a result of using the whiteboard. Despite the great artwork from TaylorMade, I was personally compelled by and remembered the simple arc they drew to depict trajectory. It resonated with my inner desire to hit the ball farther and they provided a plausible explanation of why that’s not happening with my current driver.

      That may not have completely answered your question on how to, but as you might imagine, the answer is a bit complex. Perhaps the best advice I can offer to the ‘how to’ question is this…

      Determine what the most important thing is that you want them to remember from your presentation, and then determine what the most efficient and effective way to draw that would be. Then practice in a few dry rehearsals to make sure you are able to execute the same way you see in your mind. The last thing you want to do in your presentation is show your audience your backside for extended periods because you are drawing. That will kill your engagement. Hope that helps.

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