Glenn Smith, Leadership Trainer

Photo of Glenn Smith from Gherkin Associates & The Living Leader preparing flipcharts on table using Neuland marker pens from Inky Thinking UK Shop

This story starts with a trip down memory lane. It probably goes back 15 years but it’s still something I remember today. I want to take you back to a health and safety training session I attended, delivered by a guy called Eddie. Now hold on…I know that when the topic of health and safety comes up, watching paint dry could seem more thrilling. But this was different. Very different…so hang on in there, keep reading...

Picture this, someone reluctantly attending a health and safety training program. That someone was me. My interest and excitement level, somewhere close to zero. But that was all to change, and in no time at all. As soon as Eddie got going, I knew this was going to be different. I was immediately drawn to every word, and the next three hours of health and safety talk, was interesting, thought provoking and memorable.

Why I hear you ask? Why was it different this time?

It was simple. There were no PowerPoint slides, fancy videos or gimmicks. Just a bloke, two flip charts, a good set of marker pens, and some great questions to draw out thoughts and ideas from the delegates. As the session went on, Eddie captured the thoughts from the room on the flip charts, in a way that the delegates felt they owned the flips - that they’d built them together - well that’s what it felt like to me anyway.

At the time, I remember leaving the room saying that was one of the best training sessions I’d ever attended. Others agreed. We laughed sharing that we couldn’t believe we were saying that about a health and safety course. I also remember thinking to myself, I wish I could run engaging training sessions like that. At the time I was that other bloke, the one with the amazeballs PowerPoint slides. When I look back, they were good, but not great! They definitely weren’t as engaging as two flips and a set of marker pens in the right hands.  

So, why did I think Eddie’s session was so good - well the guy clearly knew his stuff, but it was more than that – it was the human connection he created with us all. All thanks to those trusty flip charts and pens. Fast forward to today, and guess who's shamelessly stolen that magic recipe for success? Yep, that’s right yours truly 😊

These days, I’m very fortunate to be working with amazing groups of people all over the world, delivering personal leadership training programmes on behalf of The Living Leader. The format of the programme allows me to replicate what Eddie did. No fancy PowerPoint presentations or videos. Just me, some great content, two flip charts, and a set of Neuland marker pens.

But let me reveal a little secret - for us trainers, the pen struggle is real. Those standard markers have a knack for drying up just at the wrong time, causing a marker crisis right in the heart of crucial training points.

So, what did I do? I became the ultimate marker pen hoarder. Black, red, blue, green - you name it, I had it. Picture me travelling all over the UK and beyond with a bunch of markers. I was like a one-person art supply store. When I went abroad, they’d be wrapped tightly in my suitcase, a great big, huge bundle of them. The 23kg luggage allowance was being pushed to its limits thanks to my collection.

And then, about a year ago, like a ray of sunshine, a colleague introduced me to the game-changer. Refillable Neuland marker pens, designed and manufactured in Germany. Because it's German, it's got to be good, right? That’s exactly what I thought, and I was on it immediately. 

So, I ordered a bunch of pens from the Inky Thinking UK Shop, Neuland's official UK reseller, in my favourite chisel tip style, covering all the essential colours - black, blue, red and green. Oh, and let's not forget the Neuland BigOne – Neuland’s extra-large markers that are perfect for shading and highlighting borders, enhancing my flips by getting key content to jump off the page.

Now, let's jump forward to the present day. Delegates regularly comment on the colour and clarity of my flips. Just like when I attended the health and safety session way back, they tell me it’s a great way to learn, by building the flips together. The secret - without doubt, those magical Neuland markers. They bring my flips to life, and they've become my trusty sidekicks, never letting me down. I refill them religiously before every session, avoiding the disappointment of dried-up markers mid-flow.

And here's the kicker – sustainability is the name of the game. No more drowning in a sea of disposable pens, carting them around and binning them all over the world. Instead, these days I've got a few of each colour, and better still each of them has an interchangeable nib, so they last forever.  Sure, refilling and changing the nibs can be a little messy for someone like me, but cue the rubber gloves, and I’m contributing to saving the planet one marker at a time.

So, the point I’m trying to make with this little story is this.

In a world dominated by all things digital, there's something undeniably human about connecting through a set of flip charts and marker pens. When 1000’s of pixels and screens is the norm, the act of flipping pages and scribbling thoughts on paper, live and in the moment, brings a touch of authenticity to the training experience. Regardless of what the training is about, it makes it memorable. It helps make the learnings stick.

So, if you're out there, drowning in boring PowerPoint presentations, consider this your sign to flip the script. Embrace the flip charts, use those refillable marker pens (from Inky Thinking) like a true leader, and turn your training sessions into a compelling and human learning experience.

It’s not health and safety, it’s more interesting than that!

(Disclaimer 😉 Health and Safety is very important and is not dull at all. It’s just sometimes presented by people who use boring slides. Remember Eddie, and get your flips and pens out).

Glenn Smith, Leadership Trainer and Coach, Gherkin Associates.

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