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Seven whiteboard strategy tips for effective whiteboarding sessions

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Picture a room full of creative professionals gathering around a whiteboard and tossing around ideas. The mix of project collaboration and brainstorming slowly fills the whiteboard with diagrams and bits of text. The contributed concepts develop throughout the session. 

That's an effective whiteboard strategy in action. It sparks conversation and leads to innovation. 

Whiteboarding sessions aren't merely group exercises. When teams complete them correctly, these sessions foster creativity and enhance communication. They're game-changers for a company. This guide explores the significance of whiteboarding sessions and presents seven whiteboard strategies to enhance your team and company.

What is whiteboarding?

Whiteboarding is a collaborative technique that involves visual brainstorming on a physical or virtual whiteboard. This approach enables teams to capture ideas and illustrate concepts in an interactive way, fostering creativity and participation. 

Whiteboarding encourages each team member to participate in the brainstorming session, enhancing team communication. It also builds a creative environment where people can further refine these ideas and turn them into actionable strategies. Whiteboarding is a powerful tool for problem solving and idea visualization. It uses diagrams, charts, and visual aids, which makes complex ideas more accessible and actionable for everyone.

Whiteboard sessions help to align stakeholders on common goals for the project. Therefore, they're beneficial in the initiation phase of the project life cycle, a crucial stage in project management where the project manager establishes scope and objectives. During this phase, the team and its stakeholders can generate ideas on how to execute the project before they flesh out the full plan.

Why do business teams have whiteboard sessions?

Whiteboard sessions are dynamic platforms for encouraging collaboration. They also help to generate ideas that solve problems or jumpstart new revenue streams. Here are the main purposes of whiteboard sessions:

  • Collaboration: Whiteboarding fosters active participation from team members. It offers a space where they can share ideas and feedback freely. People feel heard when others consider their ideas. Whiteboarding can give them this opportunity. 
  • Visualization: Writing ideas on a whiteboard helps turn abstract ideas into concrete visuals, which can help everyone understand and refine them. It can also help the group with disparate ideas. For example, if your team is brainstorming a new project design, you could use flowcharts to visualize how each stage in the project process relates to one another in sequence. 
  • Engagement: The visual nature of whiteboards helps inspire interaction and engagement from all participants. This is partly because it's so easy to contribute to a whiteboarding session. It's also because it's satisfying to add value to the discussion and see your idea on the whiteboard.
  • Productivity: Whiteboarding increases team productivity by capturing ideas quickly and allowing people to focus on the ideas written down. The act of writing down or drawing on a whiteboard stimulates creativity, which leads to productive ideas.

Seven whiteboard strategy best practices

Whiteboarding is a great way to collaborate with teams in real-time, no matter their location. It allows you to brainstorm ideas, share files, and provide feedback in a single space. 

Below are seven best practices for holding more effective whiteboard strategy sessions.

1. Set goals

Without goals, a session can quickly spiral out of control. Set objectives for each whiteboard session. Clearly outline your expectations of the outcomes and level of participation of all attendees.

2. Stay organized with an agenda

As with all team meetings, provide participants with a structured agenda. Include the meeting's objectives and schedule. For example, indicate how much time you plan to spend on individual brainstorming, sharing ideas, and exploring the most promising ones. The last section should review what the team accomplished. It should also list the next steps or action items.

3. Manage your whiteboard

A crucial element of any session is how you manage the ideas on the board. Effective board management allows you to see how ideas relate to one another. There are several ways you can go about this:

  • Create sections: Divide the whiteboard into sections using lines or shapes.
  • Color-code ideas: Use several different colored whiteboard markers. Assign a different color to each idea category. 
  • Use sticky notes: Write each idea on a sticky note. This allows you to move ideas around without having to erase and rewrite them. 
  • Build a mind map: Generate a mind map using lines to connect related ideas.

4. Encourage creative and fun ideas

If you want your whiteboard session to be fun and creative, you must establish ground rules beforehand. You also need to create an environment where creativity flourishes. This means telling participants that the meeting is a safe space where you welcome all their ideas. Ensure people understand that there will be no repercussions for the ideas they generate. 

Use an enthusiastic and dynamic facilitator. You want someone who can set a collaborative tone for the meeting and keep things moving forward. Starting the session with an icebreaker or a game can also help people feel at ease and prepare them for a creative idea session.

5. Consolidate ideas for the future

Once all the ideas are on the whiteboard, identify key themes or commonalities among them. Then, consolidate them for future action. This means seeing how individual ideas relate to each other and grouping them into similar batches. If you divided your whiteboard into sections already, simply capture and document the themes or sections.

6. Summarize the whiteboarding session

After consolidating the ideas into groups, recap the session's main points and outcomes to ensure everyone understands how the results can impact the team or the company. Wrapping up helps participants recall the important points of the conversation. It also ensures everyone is on the same page with the results of the discussion.

7. Discuss next steps

At the end of the session, determine the action items from the whiteboard discussions. Assign these next steps to the appropriate team members. You can then place these tasks into project management software to track and monitor the work. 

Improve your whiteboard strategy with Confluence whiteboards

With the above best practices under your belt and a clear understanding of why whiteboarding is such a beneficial activity, you need to bring it up a notch and improve the effectiveness of your whiteboard sessions.

One of the best ways is to use a collaborative visualization tool. Choosing one that team members can access regardless of their location is helpful.

Confluence whiteboards are virtual whiteboards built into Confluence that bring flexibility to your projects. You can easily import Jira issues into the board or turn ideas directly into Confluence pages. You can even edit Jira issues and Confluence pages without leaving the whiteboard.

With an infinite canvas, Confluence whiteboards become the most collaborative place for your team to create and brainstorm. Team members can move quickly from idea generation to execution, bridging the gap between thinking and doing in cross-functional teams. Because the whiteboards exist within Confluence, you never have to leave your single source of truth. All your ideas, plans, and tasks are there in one hub.  

Try Confluence whiteboards

Whiteboard strategy: Frequently asked questions

How do you lead a whiteboard session?

Before the session, set the whiteboard's goals and agenda. Then, give everyone access to the tools needed (such as your virtual whiteboard software). Provide sample ideas so the team understands the expected output. 

Begin the session with an icebreaker or game. This helps set everyone at ease and creates a relaxed, collaborative atmosphere. To brainstorm, split large teams into smaller groups, which gives everyone a chance to participate. 

Assign each member a time limit when presenting ideas to ensure every idea gets a fair amount of attention. Remember not to weed out ideas in the brainstorming stage–you can refine them later. Keep the discussions on the topic at hand. Finally, document and save all the ideas on the whiteboard to use for a future decision-making process.

What is whiteboard brainstorming?

Whiteboard brainstorming is a collaborative process involving several people generating new ideas. It uses a whiteboard as a visual canvas for capturing ideas via lists, drawings, sticky notes, or attached files. Teams can complete the process in person or virtually using a software whiteboard tool. The goal is to create a visual representation of ideas that a team has generated and refined. Teams can then refer to the ideas for future work sessions.

Why are whiteboards so effective?

Whiteboards are effective because they’re simple to use. They're also highly effective for quickly capturing ideas. Having a visual tool to document ideas is key to any creative endeavor. This includes thinking up new product features, estimating due dates on a project timeline, or building an email marketing funnel. 

Whiteboards can reinforce any concept with a simple diagram or illustration. They also link ideas using lines and other visual cues. Overall, whiteboards help enhance team communication by providing a space where you can visualize ideas and concepts, which prompts a more focused discussion around those ideas.

What are the potential challenges of implementing whiteboard strategies?

As with any creative brainstorming session, whiteboarding poses challenges to any team or facilitator. For example: 

  • There is a very real possibility of information overload. With too many ideas crowding the whiteboard, you may find it difficult to figure out which ones to prioritize and the visual clutter alone might be enough to cause confusion. Ideas may be lost beneath the volume of ideas captured. And if you’re not keeping track of the session, it will be a headache trying to document the results of the session.
  • Another challenge you will face is member participation. Like any meeting, there will be people who will want to dominate the discussion while other members stay quiet. If the facilitator doesn’t give each member a set amount of time to speak, everyone may not be able to contribute to the session. 
  • Then there are the technical difficulties. With traditional whiteboards, you don’t have the capability to screenshot and digitally manipulate ideas in real-time. Documenting the results of a session becomes a manual effort of taking down notes and taking photos of the board with a camera or phone. 

You can easily overcome these challenges with the right platform. Confluence whiteboards make it easy to conduct a whiteboarding session in person or remotely, using a tool built into the Confluence platform. You get to quickly capture ideas and use a variety of digital elements to enhance the session such as sticky notes, stickers, labels, and timers. Even better, with multi-person editing, everyone has a chance to get their ideas down on the board.   

  • Provide a few examples of potential challenges, like time constraints, accessibility issues, technical hurdles, etc.
  • Discuss how to overcome these challenges with the right whiteboarding tools (like Confluence whiteboards)

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