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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Want effective audience engagement without technology? Try mini whiteboards.


Woman holding a mini whiteboard.

Audience engagement is essential for effective communication, especially in presentations.


As described in Chapter 20 of Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, audience participation strategies help the speaker capture and maintain attention, enhance learning, increase retention, and promote self-efficacy and potentially, behavior change.


Speakers who engage an audience are provided with ongoing and real-time assessments of the audience’s interest and understanding. Additionally, engagement promotes stronger connections with and between audience members.


How can speakers facilitate effective audience engagement? There are numerous approaches, with one of the lowest-tech options leading to positive results being simple dry-erase whiteboards for each audience member.


Benefits of using mini whiteboards:

  • Participation is facilitated for all audience members. When a prompt is given or a question is asked, all participants are expected to write a response on their personal whiteboard and hold it up facing the speaker.

  • Speakers can easily identify who is confused or needs help versus those who have an appropriate answer.

  • The same people who most often raise their hands will not be the only ones to be called upon to elaborate on a response on their whiteboards.

  • Whiteboards require no power or Wi-Fi connections, whereas electronic polling devices require technology that may or may not be available.

  • Although whiteboards may lead to doodling, using cell phones or tablets for responding often leads to more distracting uses such as texting or email.

  • Whiteboards allow for many varieties of answers including creating illustrations. Research in college physiology classes found the use of whiteboards to draw complex concepts led to deeper learning.

  • Writing responses long-hand aids in learning and retention over typing responses. 

  • Whiteboards are effective for individual, partner, and small group activities.

  • Whiteboards can be reused hundreds of times with minimal maintenance for cleaning and periodic replacement of markers and erasers.


My experiences using mini whiteboards:

In the past, I have used whiteboards successfully for small-group brainstorming in adult workshops. Their use is much like writing on flipchart paper, but more compact and reusable. A photo of a finished collaboration can retain the answers for later.


I have also used mini whiteboards with classes of young children who cannot read or spell but can draw responses to prompts or questions. Whiteboards provide a productive way for busy hands to stay occupied. Children appreciate everyone getting to participate.


I recently used individual whiteboards with a college audience. Each of the 30 students was given a whiteboard, marker, and eraser at the start of class. The whiteboards were used to collect polling responses, answer questions, and share ideas.


I was struck by how much more evenly the class participated than in past classes covering the same content without whiteboards. I had a much better idea of what they knew and thought, and I perceived a greater degree of engagement and enjoyment of learning.


More ideas for using whiteboards:

  • Virtual platforms such as Zoom have virtual whiteboards. Do you take advantage of this option?

  • Smartboards and large whiteboards are the norm in classrooms and have replaced chalkboards. The uses are endless. See below for specific ideas…

  • Whiteboard hacks from teachers.


Need other ideas for engaging your audience? Check out Chapter 20 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide as well as Tip Sheet #3.


Utilize multiple methods for engaging your audience. Give whiteboards a try.


“All whiteboards are magical.”

~ Leigh Bardugo


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