We’ve all been in this situation before: you’re sitting in a meeting and the person in charge stands in front of the whiteboard—marker in hand—taking feedback from everyone sitting around a table; you can feel the friction in the room build as ideas are tossed aside one after another by the person leading the charge. Meetings like these are designed to be collaborative but oftentimes serve as a motivational killer, driving employee moral right into the ground. As a company that specializes in creating whiteboards that are designed to visualize communication, we cringe at the thought of meeting like this. Whiteboard meetings should be explorative and collaborative, not demoralizing! After completing a bit of research on what many business experts define as best-practices for brainstorming sessions, we created a set of guidelines that have changed the way we brainstorm in our office. Here at Magnatag, we internally refer to these guidelines as “the rules of whiteboard etiquette”. Below you’ll find the complete list of what you need to know before heading into your next meeting, and how you can improve communication with the help of whiteboard etiquette.
- Pass The Marker Around The Room
The first rule of whiteboard etiquette is that no-one person should be in charge of writing notes on the whiteboard. In talking with many of our customers and surveying some of our own employees internally, we found that people feel most comfortable sharing ideas when they’re invited to participate. Simply handing the marker off to a coworker creates a welcoming environment that encourages ideas to be shared on the whiteboard. We like to treat the marker like a microphone: when it’s in your hands, it’s your time to share—or even better yet, give a marker to everyone!
- Avoid Checking Email While in a Meeting
There are few things more disheartening to a presenter than looking out to a roomful of coworkers with their eyes glued to their phones. This rule may seem like common knowledge to some, but many of us still have trouble setting down our phones. When you check your phone during a meeting or conversation, you are unintentionally sending a message that the meeting—and by association, your coworkers—are not deserving of your attention and respect.
- Be Mindful of What You’re Erasing
The thing about whiteboards is that regardless of how big they can get—and trust us, they can get very, very big—their surface area is limited. For this reason, it’s important to be mindful of where and how you write on your conference room whiteboard. One big rule is that the only work you should be erasing is work you created. Establishing this simple rule is a great way to guarantee everyone feels like they have contributed to the meeting, without conveying one idea is more important than the other. If you absolutely must erase someone else’s work, we recommend checking with the creator beforehand and make sure their work is no longer needed.
- Stick To Your Schedule
The moment a meeting goes longer than scheduled, you instantly lose the attention of your coworkers. This largely has to do with the way the human body reacts to new information; as the brain processes new material, our bodies require additional glucose, oxygen, and blood flow to keep the mind sharp. Research indicates there is a direct correlation between mental fatigue and the brain’s ability to withstand and comprehend excessive periods of mental challenge. It’s for this reason many cognitive experts recommend meetings last no longer than an hour. However, if you go over an hour, we recommend taking a couple breaks throughout the meeting to help your coworkers reset their minds and digest the topics of conversation.
- Clean Up After You’re Done With The Whiteboard
No one wants to clean up a mess that a coworker left behind. In our office, we believe that every room should be left in the same condition it was found in. You never know when someone from outside the office will be visiting your building, and as such, you need to be prepared at every moment.
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