With so many great online workshop facilitation tools out there, it’s sometimes hard to know which one to choose.
Comparing the features and prices of the various tools isn’t an apples-to-apples affair. Not only that, it’s likely you will need multiple tools depending on the audience and how you wish to engage with them.
So where do you start?
Well, we’ve put together a list of different online workshop facilitation tools our team has used and popped them all in one convenient spot. Right here!
Online tools that build virtual spaces
Virtual space tools are a logical place to start when you’re exploring online workshop facilitation tools. They let you build a virtual room for your workshop. With these tools, you can create virtual events and conferences that recreate that sense of navigating a festival ground or moving from keynote speeches to breakout rooms. You might even create a virtual office where people can gather, work and have chance interactions.
Virtual spaces such as those below can help create a sense of wonder and excitement in participants, though they do often require more set-up and overhead than a simple virtual meeting.
SpatialChat is a relatively new online workshop tool. It combines video conferencing and online space curation so you can build flexible, virtual office or event spaces for synchronous activities.
This product stands out with features that look to recreate real interactions within the virtual environment. People can, for example, move their avatar around the office and chat with each other as you would a physical space. The proximity feature mimics reality; as you move away from someone their voice becomes softer. This means it’s very easy to have one-on-one and close group chats.
Spaces are easily customized to help establish a tone, reflect a purpose, or meet event branding requirements. Meetings can include your favorite online collaboration tools with breakout spaces managed and meetings recorded.
Workshop facilitation tools
Once you have a virtual space defined, the next thing to consider for your online workshop is the collaboration tool you will use.
Good collaboration tools do more than simply capture input. Good collaboration tools support the evolution of ideas. They facilitate informed, equitable decision making while ensuring all voices in the room are heard. Importantly, good collaboration tools support positive user experiences for both facilitators and workshop participants. This means they are easy for everyone to use.
This type of online workshop facilitation tools can be applied to a huge range of event types. They can also be used for online, face-to-face and hybrid sessions.
It will come as no surprise that GroupMap is our favorite online workshop facilitation tool given its flexibility, ease of use and effectiveness on group decision making.
Designed by facilitators for facilitators, it offers a wide range of templates with features that make it much easier to facilitate workshops. There is less emphasis on participants having to learn a tool and software, yet it gives facilitators the flexibility they need to run a range of brainstorming and group decision activities.
GroupMap includes the ability to:
- Create polls and surveys
- Use different templates to run brainstorming sessions from canvas, templates, lists and charts.
- Allow different styles of brainstorming, including anonymous
- Vote on ideas independently
- Prioritise decisions by position, ratings or score.
- Add actions to ideas
- Produce summaries, word clouds and reports of the session
GroupMap lets you easily guide people through a workshop from step to step. You can also create workspaces with different activities.
Video conferencing tools
Video conferencing tools proved to be our go-to tool during the pandemic. Not only did they help us work from home, they helped us to connect socially. These tools have evolved dramatically over the past couple of years with more popular software including a wide variety of features and integrations. Users expect this type of workshop facilitation tool to include built-in features such as chat, screen sharing, and recording.
These are a very cost effective way of engaging with people without the expense of travel. They have also shaped how we work.
Zoom is probably the most popular cloud-based video and audio communication platform on the planet. During the pandemic, Zoom-related words (Zoombombing, Zoom-friendly and Zoom-ready) reshaped how we spoke and were acknowledged by the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Zoom has thousands of integrations so its range of offerings is impressive. From Zoom Room collaboration workspaces all the way up to hosting 50,000 people in a live webinar along with 1,000 interactive video panelists. You can also share a webinar recording or live stream it to YouTube or Facebook.
Sessions can be transcribed, there’s screen sharing, all sorts of customisations, chat is included, and, of course you can share files. At the time of writing this piece, Zoom had mail and calendar in Beta.
These tools usually have members of the audience access their mobile devices to respond to different questions. Those questions can take the form of a poll, survey, quiz and similar short-form activity. The results are then shared by the facilitator with the group as a whole.
Polling tools are also a good way of engaging large in-person groups, such as conference plenary sessions. They make it possible to quickly capture and share feedback without the awkwardness of singling out individuals to answer questions in front of everyone.
Mentimeter is a web-based polling tool offering word clouds, real-time polls, Q and A’s and quizzes. It includes a number of templates to get you started. Mentimeter also offers a spinner wheel to take the bias out of decisions or just make things fun.
Online communication platforms
This category of online workshop facilitation tools offer another layer of engagement. They can be used during the workshop and continue to be used afterwards. These platforms are really helpful when groups are working asynchronously and collaboratively.
Slack is a well-known messaging platform with features that help groups to connect and share in a virtual space.
Slack is generally an asynchronous communication platform but can be used to gather input from teams using channels. You can also post questions, links and use bots to help stimulate conversations. Built in meeting tools called Huddles let people jump into a meeting to clarify questions.
This is a tool that works to support your processes so it has a lot of integrations. In fact, Slack’s website references over half a million customized applications! It’s also possible to create your own solutions; either with or without code.
Online design tools
Design software can support online workshop facilitation in three key ways.
Firstly, the graphics made by online design tools enhance the workshop experience. They create visuals that are eye catching, engaging and fun. They can help create visuals that evoke feelings, set a mood and spark curiosity.
Secondly, when visual assets are being workshopped, online design software can save time and ensure everyone is on the same page. These tools streamline the creation process. They help reduce errors when making the designs with easy-to-use templates. They also support shared access so a group can have input into a process rather than limiting that input to a single individual.
Finally, online design tools can help engage visual learners. They can help a group ‘picture’ a process. They can map out steps or a design. They can support an asynchronous approach with people inputting feedback, comments and suggestions into a design before a meeting.
Canva helps people create an incredibly broad range of social media images, presentations, and other digital content. There’s no need for any prior experience as a graphic designer to get a lot of value out of this online tool. Facilitators can use Cavna to level-up presentations and digital materials.
Canva is very team-friendly. Links can be sent to easily share files and work spaces. This means corporate templates can be designed, shared and accessed with ease.
It includes many great, time-saving features. From drag and drop functionality to the inclusion of an image bank.
Final tips for choosing online workshop facilitation tools
Choosing the right tool for the job really makes a big difference.
The right tools for you will depend on your unique workshop requirements –
- Your workshop deliverables
- Your audience size
- Your budget
With multiple features often included in a single tool it’s important to take the time to thoroughly explore what each offers. Book in a demonstration with the provider to tour you through the product. Sign up for free trials making sure you have the time to explore the tool (before the trial expires).
Looking for for a tool to facilitate your next online workshop? Sign up now and give GroupMap a try (no credit card needed).