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Chalk Talk Checklist

Module by: The Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication. E-mail the author

Summary: This checklist summarizes how to approach content, delivery, white board management, and question handling in preparing an effective chalk talk.


  • Introduce self
  • Motivate audience’s interest in problem/issue
  • Provide overview of presentation
  • State objective(s)
  • Identify key point(s)
  • Organize material logically
  • Use transitions to introduce and summarize sections of talk
  • Provide sufficient detail/examples to support discussion of key points
  • Plan concluding remarks that summarize key points/significance (not just "I guess that's it")
  • Choose appropriate material/vocabulary for audience
  • Manage time well

Board Management

  • Maximize use of space on entire board
  • Proceed from left to right across board in an orderly fashion
  • Use adequate white space to make organization of information clear
  • Use headings
  • Do not obstruct audience’s view of material on board
  • Write large, legible text
  • Use color, underlining, or boxes to highlight important terms
  • Label figures and graphs clearly
  • Identify variables
  • Ask whether audience has finished copying information from board before erasing it
  • Erase errors instead of crossing them out


  • Speak loudly enough to be heard, esp. when facing board
  • Speak while writing on board (not in silence)
  • Avoid fillers ("You know" and "Uhm")
  • Use falling intonation at the end of sentences
  • Vary pace and inflection of voice for emphasis
  • Look at all portions of the audience
  • Focus attention on audience (not board) to communicate intro, key points, conclusion
  • Turn around periodically to see if anyone in audience has a question
  • Use concept-related gestures to show relationships
  • Avoid nervous hand movements
  • Stand straight

Questions and Answers

Handling questions

  • Wait a sufficient amount of time after soliciting questions/comments from audience
  • Listen to questions without interrupting
  • Restate questions so that whole audience could hear them
  • Do not evaluate questions ("That's a good question.")

Answering techniques

  • Answer questions without merely denying the need to consider the issue
  • Challenge definitions or criteria presented in questions that are not relevant
  • Begin answers with general statement of overall answer to question then add details or explanation
  • Use other strategies to answer question if unsuccessful on first attempt
  • Transition smoothly back to presentation after responding to questions
  • Appear open and confident (no cover-up gestures)
  • Step toward questioner or hold position
Figure 1: Chark Talk Checklist
Download PDF version of Chalk Talk Checklist
Media File: ChalkChecklist.pdf

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