When workshops transfer from in-person to online, they must also adapt to new tools. Figuring out which tools to use, however, can be like picking cereal at the store. With so many options and so many unique and different features, picking the right one can take ages. If you’re actively looking for the best virtual workshop tools, look no further. We’ve developed a comprehensive list of tools that will take your virtual workshops to the next level.
Virtual Workshop Tool Types
Video Conferencing Tools
If you aren’t already using a video conference program, start now. Video conferencing tools are incredibly helpful for online meetings, and if you use any tool mentioned in this article it should be one of these. Without video conferencing tools, having meetings over the phone are incredibly cumbersome and lacks the professionality inherent to work meetings. Video meetings are the closest and most common replacement to an in-person meeting, and it is required that you use it, especially because it’s free. Almost all workplaces utilize a tool of this sort because they allow for meetings of any size and facilitate conversation quite well.
The most popular tool for video calls is Zoom, which is very intuitive for users and allows for meetings of all sizes. Zoom meetings allow users to participate through an interior chat, and through visual signals, you can create next to your name like a raised hand or a thumbs up. Additionally, Zoom integrates screen sharing for the host, and participants if they choose, which is really helpful when explaining something over the camera. These functionalities make video conferencing at the top of the list for virtual workshop tools.
Zoom starts with a free plan that limits meetings to 40 minutes each, and if you refuse to splurge for the premium version you can always find a way to circumvent this time limit if needed. Both plans allow for you to have your own meeting room, so people can come to the link and join your meeting whenever you have one planned. There are multiple paid accounts and add ons available, but the free version will probably be just fine for what you need to handle.
Survey and Poll Tools
Conducting surveys can be very useful for business analytics and operations in general, and allows you yo receive important and instantaneous feedback from both employees and customers. Using a survey tool to gauge people’s experiences and feedback is a fantastic resource for any leader. Not only is this useful to a leader, but it also allows employees to speak their mind, which creates a sense of trust and source of open communication. When research is this accessible, it can prove priceless.
Two companies, SurveyMonkey and QuestionPro, are both very viable options and offer very similar abilities. With SurveyMonkey, however, some advanced features require a paid subscription where you can access the same specs for free from QuestionPro. Along with these abilities, QuestionPro allows the user to ask unlimited questions and gather unlimited answers. You can add unique branding, text, themes, logos, and even a custom-made thank you page. Especially if you are planning to use a free plan instead of a paid one, we recommend QuestionPro to conduct surveys, polls, and research. If you want to learn more, here is an article about the impactful differences between QuestionPro and SurveyMonkey.
Visual Collaboration Tools
Depending on the project you are trying to complete, adding a visual collaboration tool can be revolutionary to how your team brainstorms and operates. These tools are reshaping how we communicate in the workspace and are challenging the traditional methods of collaboration. When paired with a video conferencing program, these can completely flip the way your team operates and engage an entirely new level of collaboration.
There are a couple of really worthwhile competitors in this department, two of the best being Miro and Mural. Miro and Mural offer very similar features, and will both be very useful tools for your team, but can provide especially useful for certain projects. They both allow you to access unlimited whiteboard space and use it creatively to create any template you want or need. I would say Mural is more geared towards brainstorming and Miro is more geared towards creation. With both, you can place a template on a board and use that, create your own, or download one from a database of predisposed templates. With that board you can further create or begin editing, placing sticky notes, and collaborating.
One of the biggest upsides with using a visual collaboration tool is the versatility and flexibility it brings to the collaboration. With these tools, you can do things impossible with traditional collaboration. One of these advantages is the ability for your whiteboard to be a living document, constantly changing and growing. This is only possible through a visual collaboration tool and can increase the productivity and creativity possible from collaboration. Other benefits include the ability to carry over changes, work from anywhere, and pre-build information ahead of time.
In terms of pricing, Miro is able to offer 3 free boards before you begin a paid subscription, and Mural only allows for paid users to access the tool after a free trial. This may seem unnecessary but if you are brainstorming and collaborating from home, these tools can completely revolutionize the way you work.
Note Taking and File Sharing
We all know that taking notes is critical when in a meeting, sometimes so critical we put one person in charge of taking all notes. It can be pretty easy to miss something really quickly scribbling notes in person, so using note-taking software can be really helpful to increase your efficiency and speed. Along with Note Taking, file sharing can be really important virtually, and having easy access to files and documents can help maintain momentum in a fast-paced meeting. These abilities can’t be neglected so it’s essential they’re replaced with effective virtual workshop tools.
In terms of note sharing, Microsoft OneNote is a very helpful program and is especially good for quick notes. OneNote functions as an all-encompassing program, similar to a multi-subject notebook, allowing you to have multiple tabs, notes for different days, and different topics. It has a very streamlined structure making it great for students and avid note-takers, and has good formatting options for more creative projects.
Google Drive is also a very popular competitor because it allows for the integration of note-taking programs along with file sharing. Through Google Docs and Google Drive, you can take notes and create documents in the same folder as the rest of your work files. It also allows you to have multiple people working on the same project, which makes collaboration quite easy. Google Drive allows for quick file sharing and integrates well within Google Docs, so you could pair these to create a simple solution to both problems. The best thing about Google Drive is, it’s free! Using google drive and google docs is 100% free, and if you plan on collaborating with people it’s highly recommended you all gain access to these tools.
Creating multiple virtual workshop tools to simulate a digital workspace can be really helpful, but can also become convoluted with options. Some companies have worked to create their own workspace, which might not be as specified as other tools, but they allow for high-quality integration between tasks and tools. Despite the lack of depth, this can be equally as helpful to see projects all the way through.
Howspace is a company that has attempted to do just that. They have created a very unique digital tool that allows companies to create their own virtual workspace, brand it to be unique, and utilize many other tools within the website. You can create polls, chats, conversations, and integrate your email as well. Howspace allows for both live and asynchronous collaboration, which demonstrates their effort to provide most of these tools in one great package. This idea is a revolutionary alternative to how people work online and seeks to provide an entire digital workspace that mimics a real one.
Howspace starts with a pricing plan at its lowest tier, and can scale up depending on your needs. This might not be a great solution for small projects, but could be worthwhile for larger businesses.
If you are now working from home or participating in virtual workshops, you already understand how important properly utilizing different virtual workshop tools and technologies can be, and if you’re new to virtual workshops we recommend looking into our comprehensive overview. In order to maintain efficiency while transitioning to a virtual setting, you must be able to pivot to new technologies, while also finding ways to implement best practices. Doing this can often be free, and will always be a lifesaver.