Flip Charts

What We've Found

If the focus of a large meeting is to collect information and discuss ideas, recording notes on flip charts is essential. Large, posted notes allow everyone to visually see what is being discussed and help ensure that everyone has similar understanding of the discussion. After the meeting, the write-ups can be mailed to attendees. The meeting notes can be used for content in newsletters and project publications to reach an even larger audience.

Just the Facts
Capturing notes on flip charts usually involves summarizing every speaker’s statements and/or group decisions. This is not the same as taking formal meeting minutes as minutes can tend to generalize or only record highlights. But like minutes, these recorded notes become the official record of what transpired.

Flip charts and ink markers are one medium to use. White boards, overhead projectors, or a computer with a projection unit are others.

How To Do It
1. Get the supplies
Purchase a set of good quality washable markers. Avoid colors like yellow, red, and orange which are harder to read from a distance. If the smell is bothersome, get scented pens. You also need flip charts, at least one stand, and a means of posting sheets once they are filled up. It is important to check with personnel at the meeting facility as some have very stringent rules about posting. Tape may be an option; some rooms have cork runners along the walls to tack up paper (that means thumbtacks need to be on the purchase list). For a bit more money, you can buy pads of poster-size self-sticking paper.

2. Announce the intent
At the meeting, before the discussion starts, tell participants what will happen to the notes that are captured. Tell them if, after transcription, they will be mailed out, posted online, filed for future publication, or a combination of these possibilities.

3. Record the quotes
  • Print LARGE and neatly in short, understandable phrases.
  • Use the speaker’s exact phrasing, or if summarizing, the facilitator should verify with the speaker that the summary communicates the original intent.
  • Write each idea on the flip chart in alternating colors such as green and blue.
  • Number each page and also write the date of the meeting or workshop.

4. Post the pages
Determine before the meeting if the facilitator will also be the recorder or if there will be a person for each job. If one person is doing both, ask a volunteer from the audience to post the completed sheets. That way the flow of conversation is not stopped if the facilitator has to hang up each sheet. If you are using a white board, some electronic models are attached to a printer so that the notes can be printed before the board is erased. If the model is not electronic, or if you are using an overhead projector, you can take a photograph of the board or capture the notes on video for transcription later. Alternatively, someone in the audience will need to be copying what is captured. White boards and overhead projectors are not the best tools if a meeting is expected to generate a volume of notes. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to refer back to previous statements. Even using a computer and a projection unit can be unwieldy to scroll and find specific comments.

5. Transcribe the notes
After the meeting, the notes should be typed out verbatim. Do not expand on the thought or even turn a phrase or fragment into a complete sentence. It is important that what people saw at the meeting is exactly the same as what gets printed. Doing this reveals how necessary it is for the recorder to print neatly and not use abbreviations that may be understood at the meeting but cannot be remembered a few days later. These transcribed notes will be a good reference for future discussions and decisions.

A means of recording people’s comments, opinions and ideas for purposes of group discussion.

Use It If..
  • You want a group to work towards a consensus by first understanding each other’s opinions or meeting to determine priorities.
  • You want to create a project history: what was accomplished, decided upon, and when.
Forget It If...
  • You do not have plans to make use of the notes.
  • You are leading a small, informal meeting and the participants are meeting each other for the first time.
Timing is Everything

Use flip charts throughout a project at any appropriate meeting.


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