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The Top 25 Digital Facilitation Tools for Virtual Workshops and Events

By Hanna Liimatainen on Jul 1, 2020 7:30:00 AM

As a digital facilitator, it’s important to know what technologies are available to you, and how to effectively use them. 

It’s critical to find the right tools that will help you effectively facilitate your virtual meetings, workshops, and events while ensuring your technologies are aligned and work cohesively together. There are a plethora of options, which makes it difficult to cut through the noise. 

To help, we’ve done all the hard work of researching and testing out many of the popular tools available. We rounded up a list of the top digital facilitation tools and listed each of their pros and cons to help you decide which tools are best for you. 

Navigate this post:

Video Conferencing

Zoom

Zoom is a cloud-based audio and video communication platform.

✅ Pros

  • HD video and audio, record and transcribe any session, screen sharing and co-annotation, chat, and share files
  • Supports up to 1,000 participants and integrates with Outlook & Gmail
  • Can upload images as backgrounds

⛔️ Cons

  • The free plan only has a 40 minute limit for meetings of 3 or more people
  • There have been a couple of bugs that compromised security, but Zoom has actively made updates to address these issues

Teams

A video conferencing and collaboration tool which is part of Microsoft Office 365

✅ Pros

  • Full unified communication and collaboration platform made up of video conferencing, instant messaging, file storage, and application integration
  • Seamlessly integrates with email, allowing access to contacts, emails, and shared calendars.

⛔️ Cons

  • The fie structure is confusing. Files uploaded to conversations are saved in the channel root folder. If someone tries to organize the files and move them into different folders, then the file links in the conversations break.
  • The building blocks of Teams aren’t’ very flexible (you can’t move channels between teams). This sometimes leads to time wasted doing manual replications.

Google Hangouts

Hangouts is Google’s communication platform. 

✅ Pros

  • HD video and audio calls, instant messaging, share screen, and integration with G-Suite tools
  • End-to-end encryption within Hangouts

⛔️ Cons

  • There is no grid-view to see participants unless you download a 3rd party plug-in
  • You can record your meetings, but it’s relatively complex via private Hangouts On Air with YouTube Live (There is an enterprise G-Suite version, where recording is included.) 
  • The sound quality and network can be unreliable.

Communication

Slack

A real-time messaging platform that brings all your communication together in one place.

✅ Pros

  • Simple interface, great for 1-2-1 or small group chats, eases the email inbox overload and speeds up discussions
  • Over 800 integrations are available from Twitter, Dropbox, Google Docs, Asana, Trello, GitHub, and dozens of other services.

⛔️ Cons

  • The free plan only allows video conferencing for up to 2 people and has a limit of 10 integrations
  • The paid plan is one of the most expensive ones out there.
  • It’s easy to get distracted and lose or miss messages in a barrage of discussions and channels

Flock

Flock is a communication app for teams.

✅ Pros

  • Unlimited integrations (with 40+ integrations overall in Flock)

⛔️ Cons

  • The interface is overloaded with icons, controls, options, features and information which makes it difficult to understand where to focus.
  • Lack of privacy in Flock. It seems like everything you do seems to be visible to your colleagues.

Whiteboarding and Post-Its

Miro

Collaborative whiteboard platform

✅ Pros

  • Ideate, organize insights, design flows, and collect feedback in real time
  • Pre-loaded templates can be converted into a presentation or saved as a PDF.

⛔️ Cons

  • The interface can be confusing, it’s easy to confuse leaving a post-it instead of a comment
  • Sometimes, there are hiccups when navigating around the canvas

Mural

Digital workspace for visual collaboration

✅ Pros

  • Create digital sticky notes that you can organize in lists, flowcharts, diagrams, frameworks, methods and drawings 

⛔️ Cons

  • Even though the interface is very similar to PowerPoint and generally user-friendly, there are a few quirks, such as moving a lot of pieces without moving the mura and on mobile, there is no landscape view.

Cardsmith

Tool for visual collaboration

✅ Pros

  • Simple and straightforward software for using post-it notes
  • Create system mapping using post-it notes

⛔️ Cons

  • Limited to post-it notes

Surveys, Polls, and Data Collection

Google Forms

A simple way to create forms.

✅ Pros

  • Easy to create and edit questions
  • Decent in-built analytics of responses

⛔️ Cons

  • Limited customization of visuals and formatting

SurveyMonkey

A survey tool to ask, collect, and analyze data.

✅ Pros

  • A trusted platform that collects over 16 million answers every day
  • Always free guarantee on their basic plan

⛔️ Cons

  • With the free plan, you are limited to 10 questions per survey and 100 responses

Typeform

An intuitive and easy way to collect data.

✅ Pros

  • An excellent UX that makes forms, surveys, and data collection fun and conversational
  • There is a wide variety of templates to help get you started

⛔️ Cons

  • Limited functionality with only 10 questions per form and 100 responses per month on the basic free tier

Audience Engagement

Mentimeter

Web-based polling tool for workshops, conferences & events

✅ Pros

  • Get real-time input with live polls, quizzes, word clouds, Q&As and more
  • It can make presentations more interactive and fun 

⛔️ Cons

  • The free version is limited to two questions
  • There is no import option, which means you’ll have to start from scratch.

Sli.do

Live QA and polling for meetings and events

✅ Pros

  • Integrates both QA and polls.
  • Ease of setting up different questions, and having the results either live or hidden until the reveal.

⛔️ Cons

  • No way to 'close the loop' automatically for unanswered questions.

Note-taking and Productivity 

Evernote

A hub that brings all your ideas in a single place.

✅ Pros

  • You can store all your ideas and notes in a centralized place from links, checklists, tables, attachments, and audio recordings 
  • Teams can also use Evernote to collaborate on projects and work together

⛔️ Cons

  • Some users have reported delays in syncing updates

Wunderlist

A super simple to-do list to manage your personal and professional tasks.

✅ Pros

  • It’s just extremely simple to use and helps you keep on top of your personal and professional life
  • Wunderlist syncs across multiple devices and platforms from Windows to Android and Kindles to Apple Watches

⛔️ Cons

  • This is more optimized for individual productivity rather than team productivity

File Storage and Sharing

Dropbox

A simple way to store and share files in the cloud.

✅ Pros

  • Organizing, finding and sharing your files is very simple and easy
  • Strong security features where you can quickly recover deleted files and restore previous file versions

⛔️ Cons

  • It’s primarily for storage so collaboration is more challenging than when compared to Google Docs & Drive

Google Drive

A hub to access, modify and sync all your documents from anywhere.

✅ Pros

  • Real-time collaboration and access to all your docs anywhere without a VPN is extremely useful
  • It works across all platforms and devices, whether that’s the Android, Apple or Windows

⛔️ Cons

  • Assigning sharing rights to view, comment and modify can be challenging as it’s not too intuitive for new users

Presentations, Videos, and Graphics 

Canva

A design tool to create eye-catching graphics in minutes.

✅ Pros

  • If you’ve ever dreamt of becoming a designer but don’t have the time to master Adobe Illustrator, then Canva is your new best friend - anyone can use it
  • A huge collection of templates coupled with a simple UI make it easy to create images, graphics or illustration for your presentations, reports or blog posts

⛔️ Cons

  • The site can be slow, laggy and occasionally a bit buggy - but for a free tool, it’s great!

Loom

Video recording tool where you can record your camera, microphone, and desktop simultaneously.

✅ Pros

  • Simple and intuitive to use
  • Ideal for “how-to” videos without the need to be a video editing expert

⛔️ Cons

  • Limited editing options and no annotation features

Prezi

Alternative presentation tool to PowerPoint

✅ Pros

  • Much more dynamic than PPT. You can move around the entire presentation, jumping from one place to another, entering images, moving the background, making turns, and even add music.

⛔️ Cons

  • The free version doesn’t work offline
  • Lack of templates

Project Management

Asana

Versatile task management software

✅ Pros

  • Efficient project coordination, project projections, milestone projections, and convenient set up of personalized profiles for assigning projects
  • Customizable Dashboards help track only the desired elements to be tracked.

⛔️ Cons

  • UI is a bit complicated and there are a lot of features to go through and learn
  • No time tracking and file export into PDF and Excel format not supported

Monday

Task management software that promotes collaboration through visualization tools

✅ Pros

  • User-friendly interface that additionally manages ad campaigns, fixes bugs, solves issues, promotes customer relationship management, and creates videos.
  • Color coding of alerts according to priority levels

⛔️ Cons

  • Basic plan missing features like search view, messaging, and integrations with third-party vendors
  • There is no: Gantt view, version control, time and expense tracking

Trello

A collaboration tool that organizes your projects into cards and boards.

✅ Pros

  • Responsive and Intuitive Design can be accessed the same way from mobile or desktop with real time updates and notifications
  • Unlimited users allowed for just $25
  • Power-Ups (Trello’s form of integrations) let you connect with other tools to create a more robust project management solution

⛔️ Cons

  • It’s a highly horizontal tool that has not been specifically built for project management and has limited functionality, for example, there is no Gantt view
  • There is no: offline mode, ability to edit comments, version control, file uploads over 10MB

Scheduling

Calendly

Meeting scheduler app for letting others schedule meetings with you.

✅ Pros

  • Lets you share your calendar and let people book a meeting directly into your calendar — replaces never-ending email loops when trying to find a common meeting time
  • It integrates with Google Calendar, Office 365, Outlook and iCloud

⛔️ Cons

  • Not available on Android or IOS
  • Doesn’t store customer history and no analytics included
  • The free version offers only one calendar connection

Doodle

Free online meeting scheduling tool

✅ Pros

  • There’s a poll feature which allows everyone in a group to say what times they are free.
  • Automatically makes sure you don’t double-book
  • Sync with your personal calendar

⛔️ Cons

  • You can’t store frequently-used emails
  • Basic user interface
  • No customer records are kept

Digital Facilitation Platform

Howspace

Howspace is the only tool available that allows you to facilitate a dialogue. It was built specifically for digital facilitation, and you can do almost everything in the set of tools we just shared, all on a single platform.

Howspace_Workspace

✅ Pros

  • Pre-engagement: Create agendas, pre-communication, and activities
  • Note-taking and documentation
  • File storage and document sharing (videos, images, documents)
  • Surveying, polls, pulse, and checkpoint questions
  • Chat with facilitator-specific features (anonymize, voting, hide comments, etc)
  • Dialogue AI summaries (theme clustering, summary, word cloud)
  • Assignments, exams
  • Booking system and timer
  • Post-engagement through ongoing discussions and activities

⛔️ Cons

  • No video conferencing, but you can use the video conferencing tool of your choice side-by-side with Howspace 
  • No contact or calendar management, but you can book meetings directly within the platform. All users are also able to add their own profile, which helps to align user interests and skills.

PSST... If you’d like to upskill your digital facilitator skills, check out our Digital Facilitation Playbook. You’ll get a crash course on how to facilitate a virtual workshop, along with insights, benefits, pro tips, additional facilitation methods, and tools from expert virtual facilitators.

Combining tools

Many virtual facilitators combine several of the tools mentioned above. A typical combination is utilizing a video conferencing tool side-by-side with a separate digital facilitation platform like Howspace.

Zoom_Howspace

In large virtual workshops, it's advantageous to use different tools just like you would in a live setting. Perhaps answering questions through a virtual poll would be more effective and efficient, since it won’t take away time from a live meeting. How about whiteboarding on a tool like Miro, and then dropping it into your digital facilitation hub?

Sometimes writing can be more effective than talking. This is an opportunity to post ideas on a digital facilitation platform and create groups or workspaces based on them. 

Pro-tip: Create a script for yourself which reminds you when to use each tool, and clearly communicate that to participants as well. Don’t forget to test new tools and tool combinations with a colleague beforehand, so that you can start a workshop relaxed and with a plan in mind. 

If you want to try Howspace, you can set up your very own workspace today.

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