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I had a former boss who was famous for jumping up in the middle of meetings, heading to the whiteboard and starting to write. He always said it was a great way to capture important parts of a discussion, focus people’s attention and—most importantly—get them aligned on next steps and agreed-upon decisions.

And it worked.
Yellow circle icon on a blue background with images of people at a whiteboard, a pointer icon, and file icons

Though much-maligned in movies and TV mocking corporate culture, whiteboarding is a great way to bring teams together and move decision-making forward.

Our team often did live whiteboarding sessions with clients to map their digital ecosystems—learning how prospective customers, students, patients and others interacted with them. This meant studying customer actions with a client’s advertising, on their website, through their CRM and beyond. We captured the systems they touched, the messages they received, the challenges they faced, etc., all with the goal of creating a seamless experience that was enjoyable for customers—and successful for our client.

During the pandemic, we took these whiteboarding sessions virtual, using tools like Miro, Zoom and Slack to approximate the in-person experience. And while they aren’t the same as being in a room together, we’ve found them to be enormously helpful for mapping ecosystems, developing shared understanding and building camaraderie.

Here are five things you can do have a successful virtual whiteboarding session at your workplace:

1. Pick a virtual whiteboard software that works for you

At Primacy, we use Miro and have found it efficient, easy to use and visually simple—all of which are critical during fast-moving whiteboard sessions. But there are many other options, including InVision, Canvas, Jamboard and Lucidspark. Try out a few that seem appealing and see what works best for your team.

miro boards with notes and stickies

2. Plan ahead and stay focused

Go into the session knowing what you hope to accomplish, set an agenda and keep the conversation moving. Whiteboard sessions are most successful when there’s a clear goal in mind and you can keep the discussion out of the weeds.

3. Assign a virtual software guru

Tracking the flow of a conversation and capturing the salient points on a virtual whiteboard in real time is a skill. The person in this role is more than just a scribe; they’re documenting the ecosystem in a way that is clear, simple and focused on the needs of the customer. Experience with the chosen whiteboard software before they get into a meeting is a must!

4. Choose a facilitator

Critical to a successful session is having on person responsible for facilitating the conversation. This person should be knowledgeable about the topic being discussed, keep the team focused on the goal and help convey critical points to the whiteboard guru. These sessions are best when everyone is engaged, but having one voice to guide the conversation is essential.

5. Give yourself enough time, but don't overdo it

Capturing the critical details of your digital ecosystem takes time, but having a deadline keeps everyone focused on the most important aspects of your customer’s experience with you. Our virtual whiteboard sessions are usually one, two or even three hours. We tell our clients the goal is to capture the most important elements, then we can fill in the details later.

Done well, these sessions can be an eye-opening look at your customers’ experience with you. They can reveal ways that your brand is being inconsistently conveyed, how competing messages are being delivered, where data flow is being interrupted, where there is redundancy in your systems and much more.

And once mapped, your digital ecosystem can help you set priorities and provide a clear roadmap for the work that will have the most positive impact on your customers—and your bottom line.