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The Global Flipchart is IAF's quarterly magazine about the power of facilitation – made by members, for members. Contact the editorial team by email: globalflipchart@iaf-world.org

Global Flipchart #12

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June 2018

Tools to incorporate technology into facilitation

By Van Lai-DuMone

I recently attended the TEDxLA talks. One of the speakers - Jonah Stillman - said something to the effect of, “Get ready, because the robots are coming.” I initially met his words with anxiety of the unknown. But then I thought, ‘Good, let the robots come. And let that make us uncomfortable enough to get back to what we do best as humans: adapt, create, and innovate.’ As facilitators, we have the ability to use these technological tools to our advantage, and more importantly, to the advantage of our clients, by creating more engaging and impactful experiences.

But what technological tools are out there? What technological tools are facilitators currently using? We asked the IAF community about the tools they are using to streamline their business processes, improve communication with their clients, and engage their audiences.

Business communication and project management platforms

Emails are becoming a thing of the past. A new wave of communication tools allows for group conversations to be categorised by project and teams. No more searching through dozens of emails for relevant information. These online workspaces can be used internally, or to share projects with clients - making it easy to communicate and share files.

Slack - Slack markets itself as a collaboration hub that ‘moves work forward’. IAF facilitators have been using this platform as a communication tool for their internal teams and for client communication. The service is limited to online messaging and file sharing.

Basecamp - ‘Basecamp organises your communication, projects, and client work together so you have a central source of truth.’ This tool allows you to share files, make assignments, and tracks due dates, similar to Slack. It is also limited to online messaging and file sharing, and happens to be the communication platform of choice for your IAF Global Flipchart team!

Similar project management and communication tools: Podio, Sococo, Stride.

Online conferencing

Traditionally, facilitation happens face-to-face. But more and more, companies are turning to online training tools to adapt to distributed and remote teams. Here are some online conferencing platforms that IAF facilitators are using to accommodate clients who require online facilitation and meetings.

Zoom - Zoom is designed exclusively for hosting webinars, teaching online courses, conducting online training, and video conferencing. Uniquely, it allows for recording MP4 and M4A video formats which can be stored, and makes it a cost effective method of recording meetings without the heavy price of video equipment.

Skype - Skype offers similar video conferencing and can also be used to make standard phone calls from your computer or mobile device. Their newest features include SMS text messaging and chat bots!

GotoMeeting - While most video conferencing applications do not require participants to register, GotoMeeting participants need the meeting ID code to enter online, and a PIN to participate by phone. This adds the benefit of additional security.

Blackboard Collaborative - This virtual conferencing platform is built particularly for traditional student/teacher educational settings, but can easily be adapted to the work we do as facilitators. It allows participants to answer polls, share documents, and brainstorm using a virtual whiteboard.

VoiceBoxer - Doing international facilitation? Voicebox offers live voice and text translation for  webinars, virtual meetings, web presentations, international trainings, and online conferences.

Other video conferencing programs: Adobe Connect, Google Hangout.

Facilitation and collaboration tools

Engaging audiences is a large part of what we do as facilitators. Finding new ways to do that with technology is one way for us to introduce new tools to our audiences. These collaboration tools are primarily designed for internal organisational collaboration. But with a little creativity, we can adopt these tools to work with our clients.

Powernoodle - Powernoodle’s software helps organisations make better decisions by creating a platform that leverages what they refer to as Stakeholder Intelligence™. The platform aims to drive problem solving by creating an environment where everyone can participate by sharing ideas. In its review, GetApp says of Powernoodle: "Powernoodle effectively guides the decision-making process while eliminating ‘simple' barriers like physical distance, and complex ones like personality differences, gender, work styles, culture, and generations. Powernoodle helps guide new leaders to successful stakeholder engagements while acting as a powerful tool for internal and external consultants and facilitators."

Stormboard - Stormboard markets itself as a free online brainstorming and collaboration tool. With it, you are able to create brainstorming sessions by adding sticky notes and sketches. You can also turn these into PDF files to share the workflow and reports with your clients.

3D immersive collaboration tools

The future is here. 3D immersive experiences are accessible to us now, and allow users to feel like they are right in the room with lookalike avatars and real-time idea sharing. This is a powerful tool for facilitation as teams become increasingly distributed.

Protosphere - Protosphere offers 3D virtual learning and training environments. In Protosphere, a facilitator can create customised virtual meeting or training rooms, and participants are able to easily design avatars that look like them. This environment makes it feel like you are physically in the room with other participants. Two IAF members, Janet Danforth and Bob Moir of Facilitator4Hire have been using Protosphere to conduct 50% of their facilitation skills trainings, meetings, and workshops. Janet Danforth states: “This 3D immersive environment allows participants to engage as though they are face-to-face through the use of customised avatars that look and act like the participants themselves.” Bob Moir adds that through these avatars, “People adopt behaviors that they would normally use, creating higher levels of engagement for online learning.” In their experience, the barrier to entry has been getting facilitators and clients equally to adopt this new way of working. And they suggest that for adoption of 3D virtual learning to be successful, there needs to first be an onboarding process to help people feel comfortable in this environment.

According to Bob Moir, the beauty of 3D immersive learning is that it is as close to face-to-face facilitation as you can get. In this environment you are able teach skills in a way you would in real life, for example create break-out teams who can work in discrete preloaded spaces, then bring everyone back together to share ideas. Bob adds, “Nothing is better than face-to-face, but if you need to train remotely, 3D immersive is the way to go.”

Other 3D immersive settings worth exploring: SecondLife, Terf.

Just for fun

Kahoot! - Is a technological tool used to administer quizzes, discussions or surveys. Mainly used to play games in groups where a question is projected on a large screen and participants answer questions from their mobile devices. This can be used to administer polls and surveys, but there’s nothing wrong with using it just for fun!

This is a lot. There are so many technological tools available to us right now. You are not alone if you are feeling a little overwhelmed. This is a list of what is available, not a ‘to do’ list. As facilitators who have different business styles and techniques, we will individually need to decide which of these tools, if any, we want to incorporate into our toolbox as we step into the future of facilitation.

Special thanks to all the generous facilitators who contributed to my research: Jo Nelson, Nel Mostert, Gilbert Brenson Lazan, Janet Danforth, Bob Moir, Sunny Walker, Bill Staples, Ann Epps, John Butcher, Lawrence Philbrook, Gilbert Lazan, Carol Sherriff, Lise Hebabi.