I need my tools. Where are they?

One question I keep being asked is what the best tools to use in online meetings are. I also hear complaints about companies’ IT not allowing the use of certain tools. First, let’s be clear about what tools we are talking about. There are different kinds of tools, e.g. collaboration, communication, etc. In this post, I’m specifically referring to collaboration tools, like Mural, Miro and Google Jamboard. Those tools are fun to use for occasional virtual meetings and helpful in some ways. However, after being in non-stop virtual meetings for the past few months, I found that they can be rather challenging unless:

  1. You have a fast internet connection to access all those tools while on a video conference with the video on.
  2. You have a computer that has enough memory to support running those tools, on top of having video on, and perhaps also connecting to a second monitor.
  3. You don’t join the meeting via a mobile phone.

Also, IT departments may not allow their employees to use cloud based applications due to security reasons.

So, instead of having tool envy, I would recommend we get creative. It’s not about the tools. It’s about how to construct a meeting that is engaging and useful to all participants. Here are a few tips on how to construct such a meeting to allow the most participation:

  1. Look for low-tech ways. You can have participants use pen and paper during meetings, have them write or draw something on paper and use the webcam to show the rest of the participants. This is also friendly for people who join meetings via their mobile phones.
  2. Minimize the number of online tools used and don’t forget to count the video conferencing tool itself. So, utilize the chat box in the video conference tool.
  3. Look for tools that have on-premise solutions instead of cloud based. E.g. Google docs can be just as effective as Mural or Miro templates or Google Jamboard.
  4. You can also do Liberating Structures online using Google slides, Google docs and chat boxes in any video conference tools.

In my latest newsletter “Ready to go back to the office, anyone?”, I recommended letting the employees choose whether to go back to the office or to work remotely in the new normal. I listed several things to consider. Another one is tools. Your employees need effective tools if your company goes fully remote or hybrid (i.e. some employees are remote while others go to the office). There are new tools coming out frequently for collaboration and communications. So, for the security conscious IT departments, I would recommend you find a way to allow employees to try new tools, and a way for you to test these tools and approve them quickly. This would include you working with the procurement department to get some deals on the tools (e.g. free trials, or corporate deals once the employees find the tool useful). Otherwise, you’re forcing the employees to use outdated or clunky tools which hinder their remote collaboration and decrease their agility.

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