Recently earning a Certified Virtual Facilitator™ credential, we have spent countless hours researching and test driving online tools to really wow our clients. Some work great; some had a learning curve before delivering; and some aren’t worth the time.
When looking for new collaboration tools for facilitation, we evaluate them in the following areas:
Here are a few standouts to explore.
SessionLab is a planning tool for group gatherings that includes a curated library of all kinds of facilitation activities. We love these because they help people get involved without the standard practice of throwing everyone into a video call and then just calling out names and ideas. A few things we love about SessionLab:
SessionLab was created pre-pandemic, so nearly all the activities in the library are in-the-room exercises. They are slowly being updated with suggestions for how to do them online, and they serve as great inspiration for how to encourage participation and create the flow of a meeting that has a particular goal. Examples include creating a product, teambuilding, or co-creating a mission and vision.
*Please note, we recently became an affiliate for this tool, so we earn money when others sign up with our link. We were using and loving it prior to affiliation, though, and are proud to share it with you.
Google’s full suite of services can be powerful for group collaboration. If it’s accessible to you, but you haven’t used it yet, you should. You can create documents, spreadsheets, presentation slides, and more. They are accessible from anywhere so you can edit and change things up live, without having to download and upload documents. And with a link, you can invite others to join you.
Like Box, Dropbox, and Onedrive, Google lets you control the access others have. You can allow anyone with a link to edit the document. Or just give them the ability to add comments or suggestions that an admin could later review and choose accordingly. Or you can give read-only access. This allows you to welcome people to collaborate at the level that makes the most sense for the size and structure of your group.
A few items to note about Google Drive:
Who hasn’t used Zoom in the past 11 months? Maybe you joined a meeting someone else hosted, or your company rolled it out, or you set up a personal Zoom account for a physically distanced family gathering.
We at CM+F first started paying for Zoom because they let you create breakout rooms! Whether you’re doing a training and want to let people chat with a partner or at your family gathering you want to catch up with just the cousin you haven’t spoken to in months, creating a breakout room only takes a few minutes and is fairly intuitive to set up. You can have Zoom put people into breakouts automatically, or decide who is in each room manually. You set a timer for how long people have in the breakout. The default setting gives people 60 additional seconds in there when the timer ends - so you can finish up that thought and not be cut off mid-sentence.
Just like any collaboration tool, when used well, it can absolutely enhance group communication. Here are a few Zoom tips:
Anyone out there love mind-mapping as much as we do? When it comes to large scale, group planning projects, Mural can give everyone an opportunity to dive in and be part of the action. Think of it like a giant whiteboard, that can be accessed by remote teams who need to brainstorm and strategize together. You can prioritize, set up action plans, draw and design, use Agile templates, business planning templates, map out strategies… the list goes on.
And frankly, it’s pretty fun to use too. Here are a few things we love about Mural:
Here are two priceless blogs on how to do it well in a professional setting:
A group email that explains when you’re meeting and what tools you’ll be using is a must. If you create a Mural and share the link in your Zoom without having warned people that you’ve got a new tool up your sleeve, there will be resistance! Give people a heads up and let them adjust to the idea. It will really help alleviate some of the complaints people have when they’re thrust into something new.
These are just a few of the great tools we’ve discovered in facilitation and mediation to help move meetings along and encourage engagement from everyone. We have found these to be the most fun, and the most effective, but we’re always on the lookout for something new.
Have you used a collaboration tool that we should check out? Drop us a line and let us know about it.