A good set of pens and paper makes facilitation and drawing much more fun. In this post I list all the pens, Post-Its and other workshop materials that always have to be in my toolbox, no matter if I’m facilitating a coderetreat or a retrospective, or just happen to be out to meet with some friends…
Markers and Pens
There are two kinds of pens you’d want to have in your toolbox: Those you use for sketchnotes and flipcharts, and those that participants use during the workshops.
For the latter, I always carry a bag of black Sharpie Fine Markers with me. They can also be used for nametags, even on masking tape, are very durable and it doesn’t hurt too much if you end up short of one or two after a workshop.
For drawing on a flipchart, my go-to brand has been Neuland markers ever since. Their Outliner No.One doesn’t smear after drying, so you can draw over it easily without ruining your flipchart. It’s available as a Outliner Big.One as well and you can get extra outliner ink so you never end up running out of outliners.
For colors, I recommend you pick a color you like on this color wheel and try to match all three of them to the closest color available as a No.One with wedge nib. The No.One’s with brush nib are nice too, but I find it harder to draw consistent lines with them.
And don’t forget to get a shadow color, like (101) grey or (102) light grey.
If you’re looking to get into sketchnotes, everything mentioned above holds true for the fine.One line by Neuland as well. For precise drawings, I found Staedtler pigment liners to be cheaper and of equal quality compared to the Sketch.One fineliners by Neuland.
Once you deal a lot with sticky notes, you quickly learn that there’s Post-It’s - in particular the Super Stickies - and then there’s cheap sticky notes. My advise is to never bother with the cheap ones but to buy 3M Post-It’s Super Sticky whenever possible.
You should always have plenty of Classic yellow Post-Its in 76x127mm (that’s 3x5inch) and an assortment of colored sticky notes (e.g. these or these or these)
If you care for the environment, 3M has most sizes with recycled paper as well, even though those are sadly not super sticky and will fall off from a wall after some time - something you should really take into consideration.
For OpenSpaces and other times where you need big sticky notes, 3M has these 203x152mm Post-Its - a perfect size for the schedule at an OpenSpace unconference.
They are ridiculously pricey and fragile, but I’ve yet to find a better workshop timer than a Time Timer 12”. They’re big and thus very visible, they don’t make a ticking noise and the beep is loud enough to be noticed in a productive room.
For workshops like my Pair Programming workshop, I usually need timers for each pair, for which I got the more robust Time Timer MOD. The only downside to these is the fact that you need a screwdriver to swap out the battery.
Just like with Post-Its, there’s really only one brand when it comes to masking tape: Tesa. Their Classic 30x50mm masking tape is easy to rip off, the glue is strong and the size allows for plenty of use cases, e.g. name tags. 3M Scotch has some colorful washi tape and magic tape, but those I found to be less sticky than Tesa products in the past.
Another nice tape to have is Tesa Masking Tape for Curves, as it is highly flexible and can be stretched to a degree, while you can still easily write on it using a Sharpie or a Neuland Outliner.
If you’re looking for nametags beyond the cheap masking tape + sharpie solution, Herma’s 4412 textile labels can be used with laser printers, don’t smear if you use them with sharpies and don’t leave any residue on clothing after removing them. While they’re not cheap, I found it really adds to the atmosphere if everyone has a nice professional nametag on them.
From the Toolbox is a compilation of small practices, tools and life-hacks I collected over the years.