Message Tips

Advanced Stickynoting

If you have followed this blog or read slide:ology, you know that we are huge fans of sticky notes.  We train people how to build effective presentations by writing their main points on sticky notes and then moving them around until they find a compelling flow for their message. Sticky notes are small, easily movable and readily recyclable. They are our friends!

And, we don’t just prescribe them for others, we use them here, too! They are an intricate part of our presentation creation process—for clients and for ourselves. Below is a picture from a recently completed project. As you can see, this was a massive effort–spanning eight whiteboards–where we were tasked with updating the content of one of our workshops.

Sticky Notes Galore

This was such a huge task—which involved the tightening up of a meta story, re-categorization of lessons, and addition of supporting examples—that it was virtually impossible to keep track of all the details. In addition, we had lots of people who were helping to re-shape this story, so we needed a place where everybody could view the project and add or subtract ideas in real time.

So, we turned to our old friends, the sticky notes. We used sticky notes of different colors to differentiate the varying topics and sub-topics of the story. We thought through how each particular concept should be conveyed and sketched out slides–one per sticky note–to plan out the flow of the story.

Building a Story with Sticky Notes

And we didn’t stop there. We had lots of existing slides that we wanted to use as part of the story.  So, instead of sketching them out, we printed them out. We discovered something cool, which we pass on to you for free: If you print out your slides from PowerPoint in 9-up, landscape handout mode,  they are the same size as small sticky notes!

Printed Slide vs. Sticky Note

We printed out the slides we wanted to use, and taped them up alongside the sticky notes. Now we had all the building blocks of our presentation, and the ability arrange and re-arrange until we had a flow that we knew would resonate with our audience.

Sticky Notes + Whiteboard = Awesome

So, if you’re working with large files–perhaps facing the daunting task of re-organizing a large-scale presentation–consider using an analog approach such as this. It can really help you refine your message and get group buy-in before heading to the computer to wrangle your slides.

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  • Art Johnson

    It looks like a powerful method to organize and really understand a presentation. One of the things I like most about this analog approach is that it is the only way to see the forest as well as the trees. By just paging through one slide after another there is no context. Thanks for sharing this technique.

  • Art Johnson

    It looks like a powerful method to organize and really understand a presentation. One of the things I like most about this analog approach is that it is the only way to see the forest as well as the trees. By just paging through one slide after another there is no context. Thanks for sharing this technique.

  • Chris

    What’s wrong with the slide sorter view in ppt? No need to go analogue for that…

  • Chris

    What’s wrong with the slide sorter view in ppt? No need to go analogue for that…

  • I find sticky notes a very helpful tool for organising my thoughts and the structure of a presentation. Chris is right that you can use more modern technology. However, I think there is something about the use of space and being able to step back and see the whole picture that helps the process considerably.

  • I find sticky notes a very helpful tool for organising my thoughts and the structure of a presentation. Chris is right that you can use more modern technology. However, I think there is something about the use of space and being able to step back and see the whole picture that helps the process considerably.

  • Michael D

    In many situations, the slide sorter view is a great way to see “all” of your slides at once. However, when you have more than say 40-50 slides in your presentation, you are not able to see them all without scrolling. Seems kind of crazy to go to all this trouble, but believe me, it totally helps and as Eric points out, everyone can see the overall flow at a glance (and without scrolling).

  • Michael D

    In many situations, the slide sorter view is a great way to see “all” of your slides at once. However, when you have more than say 40-50 slides in your presentation, you are not able to see them all without scrolling. Seems kind of crazy to go to all this trouble, but believe me, it totally helps and as Eric points out, everyone can see the overall flow at a glance (and without scrolling).

  • Michael D

    In many situations, the slide sorter view is a great way to see “all” of your slides at once. However, when you have more than say 40-50 slides in your presentation, you are not able to see them all without scrolling. Seems kind of crazy to go to all this trouble, but believe me, it totally helps and as Eric points out, everyone can see the overall flow at a glance (and without scrolling).

  • I love how y’all mix the analog and digital. Very often I’ll write out my presentations on sticky notes and put them on an 8.5 x 11. Other times, I’ll put them on my whiteboard and draw arrows or larger boxes around smaller sticky notes.

    Also, I find it pretty amazing that y’all have eight whiteboards lined up. I have three 4″ x 6″ whiteboards and I felt cool. Not anymore!

  • I love how y’all mix the analog and digital. Very often I’ll write out my presentations on sticky notes and put them on an 8.5 x 11. Other times, I’ll put them on my whiteboard and draw arrows or larger boxes around smaller sticky notes.

    Also, I find it pretty amazing that y’all have eight whiteboards lined up. I have three 4″ x 6″ whiteboards and I felt cool. Not anymore!

  • I love how y’all mix the analog and digital. Very often I’ll write out my presentations on sticky notes and put them on an 8.5 x 11. Other times, I’ll put them on my whiteboard and draw arrows or larger boxes around smaller sticky notes.

    Also, I find it pretty amazing that y’all have eight whiteboards lined up. I have three 4″ x 6″ whiteboards and I felt cool. Not anymore!

  • All great comments! As for the slide sorter mode, that is where we started, but it was hard for us to get the big picture since we had so many slides. So, we opted for this method which, though a bit more time consuming, ended up helping us create an effective solution. I do dream of the day where we could do this in a software package—one that would allow us to fluidly move slides around, group them, write comments on them, zoom in and out of the whole presentation to see the bigger picture and then try it out.

  • All great comments! As for the slide sorter mode, that is where we started, but it was hard for us to get the big picture since we had so many slides. So, we opted for this method which, though a bit more time consuming, ended up helping us create an effective solution. I do dream of the day where we could do this in a software package—one that would allow us to fluidly move slides around, group them, write comments on them, zoom in and out of the whole presentation to see the bigger picture and then try it out.

  • All great comments! As for the slide sorter mode, that is where we started, but it was hard for us to get the big picture since we had so many slides. So, we opted for this method which, though a bit more time consuming, ended up helping us create an effective solution. I do dream of the day where we could do this in a software package—one that would allow us to fluidly move slides around, group them, write comments on them, zoom in and out of the whole presentation to see the bigger picture and then try it out.

  • JDML Designs

    I love it. I love sticky notes and have been a fan since seeing Nancy at HOW 2009 in Austin. Thanks for the tips, I”ll be working on a very important (aren’t they all) presentation that will go to the entire Senior Leadership Team this month. This is the push I needed. 🙂

  • JDML Designs

    I love it. I love sticky notes and have been a fan since seeing Nancy at HOW 2009 in Austin. Thanks for the tips, I”ll be working on a very important (aren’t they all) presentation that will go to the entire Senior Leadership Team this month. This is the push I needed. 🙂

  • JDML Designs

    I love it. I love sticky notes and have been a fan since seeing Nancy at HOW 2009 in Austin. Thanks for the tips, I”ll be working on a very important (aren’t they all) presentation that will go to the entire Senior Leadership Team this month. This is the push I needed. 🙂

  • The ultimate tool might be a large, gesture-based touchscreen. I found a new iPad app called “Stickyboard”. It’s a good proof of concept, but be warned that it is very buggy and limited in features.

  • The ultimate tool might be a large, gesture-based touchscreen. I found a new iPad app called “Stickyboard”. It’s a good proof of concept, but be warned that it is very buggy and limited in features.

  • The ultimate tool might be a large, gesture-based touchscreen. I found a new iPad app called “Stickyboard”. It’s a good proof of concept, but be warned that it is very buggy and limited in features.

  • I really love this approach and do the same when crafting a presentation http://yfrog.com/j5m7vrj. It is a very powerfull “tool” to use if you craft a presentation with multiple people. Everybody can be sure their point is recognized somewhere on the notes. Afterwards you can group and rearrange them.
    A problem I have with the slide sorter view is the fact that I like to have the varying topics as first slides in the view. Just like the green sticky notes. This is (for I know) impossible in the slide sorter view if you have topics with a different number of slides “behind” it. Only option is to place slides which are hidden. But then we still have the problem of making the view size so small it is not readable anymore.

    So, sticky notes rule!!

  • I really love this approach and do the same when crafting a presentation http://yfrog.com/j5m7vrj. It is a very powerfull “tool” to use if you craft a presentation with multiple people. Everybody can be sure their point is recognized somewhere on the notes. Afterwards you can group and rearrange them.
    A problem I have with the slide sorter view is the fact that I like to have the varying topics as first slides in the view. Just like the green sticky notes. This is (for I know) impossible in the slide sorter view if you have topics with a different number of slides “behind” it. Only option is to place slides which are hidden. But then we still have the problem of making the view size so small it is not readable anymore.

    So, sticky notes rule!!

  • I really love this approach and do the same when crafting a presentation http://yfrog.com/j5m7vrj. It is a very powerfull “tool” to use if you craft a presentation with multiple people. Everybody can be sure their point is recognized somewhere on the notes. Afterwards you can group and rearrange them.
    A problem I have with the slide sorter view is the fact that I like to have the varying topics as first slides in the view. Just like the green sticky notes. This is (for I know) impossible in the slide sorter view if you have topics with a different number of slides “behind” it. Only option is to place slides which are hidden. But then we still have the problem of making the view size so small it is not readable anymore.

    So, sticky notes rule!!

  • One problem I have experienced with sticky notes is…not enough “sticky”. Your team pats itself on the back Friday for mapping a very complex storyboard or process flow using stickies. They return on Monday to find 60% of them laying on the floor. That’s pretty common, but maybe it has something to do with living in the desert in Phoenix.

  • One problem I have experienced with sticky notes is…not enough “sticky”. Your team pats itself on the back Friday for mapping a very complex storyboard or process flow using stickies. They return on Monday to find 60% of them laying on the floor. That’s pretty common, but maybe it has something to do with living in the desert in Phoenix.

  • One problem I have experienced with sticky notes is…not enough “sticky”. Your team pats itself on the back Friday for mapping a very complex storyboard or process flow using stickies. They return on Monday to find 60% of them laying on the floor. That’s pretty common, but maybe it has something to do with living in the desert in Phoenix.

  • Patrick, interesting! We don’t seem to experience the same “sticky note shower” that you describe, or at least not in that volume. Perhaps it is a Phoenix thing (3M may need to do some Arizona-specific testing). Or, perhaps it varies by sticky note brand? We have found that some surfaces are better than others, but yes, that would be quite un-productive to have all of your well-placed ideas suddenly decide to “head south” and jumble themselves up into a giant pile.

  • Patrick, interesting! We don’t seem to experience the same “sticky note shower” that you describe, or at least not in that volume. Perhaps it is a Phoenix thing (3M may need to do some Arizona-specific testing). Or, perhaps it varies by sticky note brand? We have found that some surfaces are better than others, but yes, that would be quite un-productive to have all of your well-placed ideas suddenly decide to “head south” and jumble themselves up into a giant pile.

  • Patrick, interesting! We don’t seem to experience the same “sticky note shower” that you describe, or at least not in that volume. Perhaps it is a Phoenix thing (3M may need to do some Arizona-specific testing). Or, perhaps it varies by sticky note brand? We have found that some surfaces are better than others, but yes, that would be quite un-productive to have all of your well-placed ideas suddenly decide to “head south” and jumble themselves up into a giant pile.

  • Pity you can’t print your slides onto sticky notes. Using sellotape seems a bit messy

  • Pity you can’t print your slides onto sticky notes. Using sellotape seems a bit messy

  • Pity you can’t print your slides onto sticky notes. Using sellotape seems a bit messy

  • We’ve had the same problem with the ‘sticky-note shower’. Our solution has been to make it a strict rule to photograph the layouts – preferably on a fairly hi-res camera, but a cellphone camera will usually do – before anyone leaves the room.

    This also means we can do rough-prints of the overall layouts for people to take home and start preparing scripts overnight.

  • We’ve had the same problem with the ‘sticky-note shower’. Our solution has been to make it a strict rule to photograph the layouts – preferably on a fairly hi-res camera, but a cellphone camera will usually do – before anyone leaves the room.

    This also means we can do rough-prints of the overall layouts for people to take home and start preparing scripts overnight.

  • We’ve had the same problem with the ‘sticky-note shower’. Our solution has been to make it a strict rule to photograph the layouts – preferably on a fairly hi-res camera, but a cellphone camera will usually do – before anyone leaves the room.

    This also means we can do rough-prints of the overall layouts for people to take home and start preparing scripts overnight.

  • Emily Asselin

    I recently learned the sticky note approach through my Advanced Communications course. I have come to an understanding that the visual aspect of any presentation can make or break your credibility. Slide:ology really broke it down fro me in terms of what is important to have in a presentation and how important it is to keep it simple. As with the post-its I have discovered that sometime the best thing to do is to step away form the computer and actually drawl out what you want you presentation to look like…almost like a story board.
    For my current presentation I did just that, and now have established a level of enthusiasm I did not have before. I am extremely proud of myself and how far I have come in my PowerPoint ability.

  • Emily Asselin

    I recently learned the sticky note approach through my Advanced Communications course. I have come to an understanding that the visual aspect of any presentation can make or break your credibility. Slide:ology really broke it down fro me in terms of what is important to have in a presentation and how important it is to keep it simple. As with the post-its I have discovered that sometime the best thing to do is to step away form the computer and actually drawl out what you want you presentation to look like…almost like a story board.
    For my current presentation I did just that, and now have established a level of enthusiasm I did not have before. I am extremely proud of myself and how far I have come in my PowerPoint ability.

  • Emily Asselin

    I recently learned the sticky note approach through my Advanced Communications course. I have come to an understanding that the visual aspect of any presentation can make or break your credibility. Slide:ology really broke it down fro me in terms of what is important to have in a presentation and how important it is to keep it simple. As with the post-its I have discovered that sometime the best thing to do is to step away form the computer and actually drawl out what you want you presentation to look like…almost like a story board.
    For my current presentation I did just that, and now have established a level of enthusiasm I did not have before. I am extremely proud of myself and how far I have come in my PowerPoint ability.

  • This process is a useful one and as a professional facilitator something I have used in many different approaches.

    As mentioned above, do use a high quality sticker and take photographs of the flow when you have a break or finish for the day. A bit of double-sided tape can help to keep your great ideas in the right places too!

    It’s great to see the whole system in one place and gives a great perspective to the flow and story line.

    Warwick John Fahy
    Author, The One Minute Presenter
    Certified Professional Facilitator, IAF-CPF

  • This process is a useful one and as a professional facilitator something I have used in many different approaches.

    As mentioned above, do use a high quality sticker and take photographs of the flow when you have a break or finish for the day. A bit of double-sided tape can help to keep your great ideas in the right places too!

    It’s great to see the whole system in one place and gives a great perspective to the flow and story line.

    Warwick John Fahy
    Author, The One Minute Presenter
    Certified Professional Facilitator, IAF-CPF

  • This process is a useful one and as a professional facilitator something I have used in many different approaches.

    As mentioned above, do use a high quality sticker and take photographs of the flow when you have a break or finish for the day. A bit of double-sided tape can help to keep your great ideas in the right places too!

    It’s great to see the whole system in one place and gives a great perspective to the flow and story line.

    Warwick John Fahy
    Author, The One Minute Presenter
    Certified Professional Facilitator, IAF-CPF

  • Dean

    Fast Company ridicule the process of using ‘stickynoting’ in design development

    http://tinyurl.com/2egbb6c

  • Dean

    Fast Company ridicule the process of using ‘stickynoting’ in design development

    http://tinyurl.com/2egbb6c

  • Dean

    Fast Company ridicule the process of using ‘stickynoting’ in design development

    http://tinyurl.com/2egbb6c

  • Interesting.

    Have you ever used collaborative Mind Mapping software for this?

    One benefit is that by doing it on the computer or in the cloud, there can be links to URLs, documents, and other Mind Maps.

    It’s also very easy to edit and rearrange everything.

  • Interesting.

    Have you ever used collaborative Mind Mapping software for this?

    One benefit is that by doing it on the computer or in the cloud, there can be links to URLs, documents, and other Mind Maps.

    It’s also very easy to edit and rearrange everything.

  • Interesting.

    Have you ever used collaborative Mind Mapping software for this?

    One benefit is that by doing it on the computer or in the cloud, there can be links to URLs, documents, and other Mind Maps.

    It’s also very easy to edit and rearrange everything.

  • Warwick, thanks for the great perspective! Cool!

    Fred, yes, we have used it. It works well and even allows people in other locations to participate, which is nice.

    Dean, yes, we saw that article (thanks for posting the link!). It appears his main gripe is using “Post-It portraiture” to represent the whole of the design process. While we can sort of see what he is saying, we heartily disagree with any notion that claims that using sticky notes is some sort of inferior process. They are, in fact, a very powerful tool for coming up with ideas, trying out different sequence orders and seeing the big picture.

  • Warwick, thanks for the great perspective! Cool!

    Fred, yes, we have used it. It works well and even allows people in other locations to participate, which is nice.

    Dean, yes, we saw that article (thanks for posting the link!). It appears his main gripe is using “Post-It portraiture” to represent the whole of the design process. While we can sort of see what he is saying, we heartily disagree with any notion that claims that using sticky notes is some sort of inferior process. They are, in fact, a very powerful tool for coming up with ideas, trying out different sequence orders and seeing the big picture.

  • Warwick, thanks for the great perspective! Cool!

    Fred, yes, we have used it. It works well and even allows people in other locations to participate, which is nice.

    Dean, yes, we saw that article (thanks for posting the link!). It appears his main gripe is using “Post-It portraiture” to represent the whole of the design process. While we can sort of see what he is saying, we heartily disagree with any notion that claims that using sticky notes is some sort of inferior process. They are, in fact, a very powerful tool for coming up with ideas, trying out different sequence orders and seeing the big picture.

  • Bethany

    Two comments on sticky note showers:

    (1) go for the Super Sticky notes
    (2) tear the notes off slowly sideways from the pad, not vertically (against the sticky grain…). Your notes will lay flat and not curl up, which will help give you more direct sitcky contact!

  • Bethany

    Two comments on sticky note showers:

    (1) go for the Super Sticky notes
    (2) tear the notes off slowly sideways from the pad, not vertically (against the sticky grain…). Your notes will lay flat and not curl up, which will help give you more direct sitcky contact!

  • Bethany

    Two comments on sticky note showers:

    (1) go for the Super Sticky notes
    (2) tear the notes off slowly sideways from the pad, not vertically (against the sticky grain…). Your notes will lay flat and not curl up, which will help give you more direct sitcky contact!

  • You can use a re-stickable glue stick to make other paper stick like post-it notes rather than tape. These work great and can be found in lots of office supply stores. http://www.scotchbrand.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/ScotchBrand/Scotch/Products/ProductCatalog/?PC_7_RJH9U52300LM30I87QR3ES18H7_nid=N2TQ11C7SCgs7HSQTT8P39glQ0Z5CF1DLTbl

  • You can use a re-stickable glue stick to make other paper stick like post-it notes rather than tape. These work great and can be found in lots of office supply stores. http://www.scotchbrand.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/ScotchBrand/Scotch/Products/ProductCatalog/?PC_7_RJH9U52300LM30I87QR3ES18H7_nid=N2TQ11C7SCgs7HSQTT8P39glQ0Z5CF1DLTbl

  • You can use a re-stickable glue stick to make other paper stick like post-it notes rather than tape. These work great and can be found in lots of office supply stores. http://www.scotchbrand.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/ScotchBrand/Scotch/Products/ProductCatalog/?PC_7_RJH9U52300LM30I87QR3ES18H7_nid=N2TQ11C7SCgs7HSQTT8P39glQ0Z5CF1DLTbl

  • Marie Stark

    Thank You for the hint. This sounds like a great way to develop and organize presentations.

  • Marie Stark

    Thank You for the hint. This sounds like a great way to develop and organize presentations.

  • Marie Stark

    Thank You for the hint. This sounds like a great way to develop and organize presentations.

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