Facilitators love sticky-notes! Colourful, accessible, flexible… and temporary. They allow groups to capture and manipulate their thoughts in an accessible, interactive way.
So when facilitators start to work online – assuming that they’re able to see and hear everyone clearly, and have video breakout rooms to play with – it’s sticky notes (aka Post-Its) that they miss the most.
So they reach for an online sticky-note tool… and that’s when the nightmare begins! There are loads of options. Everyone has their favourite. Some are free, some are cheap, some are super-expensive. One – or perhaps more than one – may be in the officially-approved set of collaboration tools within your organisation…
Stop right there! Here are the 3 questions you must ask before choosing an online sticky note tool.
1. Is it accessible to all your participants? To peel off a yellow sticky “IRL” you don’t need to set a new password or confirm your email address. Sign-up processes are a turn-off for event participants. It’s especially annoying when the sticky-note-tool is trying to sell your participants a paid account they don’t need. So, default to using Google? Inaccessible in China. Your company’s in-house tool? Possibly inaccessible to clients and other “outsiders”.
2. Is it easy to use? Remember, a key part of the magic of sticky notes is their simplicity. Tools with extra bells and whistles may look whizzy to you as a facilitator, but they may leave your participants struggling. If you choose a tool with a significant learning curve, you’re going to restrict participation in your online meetings.
3. Can it do what you need it to do? One of the most accessible, and simplest-looking, online sticky-note tools is http://linoit.com. It’s brilliant, and it’s free. But while everyone can post stickies on boards there, they can’t move each other’s, and that really matters when you need the whole group to be hands-on.
To solve that problem (if I don’t have any participants in China), my secret superpower is Google Jamboard. Jamboard is actually the name of a piece of hardware, a clever screen. But you don’t need one of those to use the online sticky-note tool – just a Google account.
Of course, sometimes I do need tools that do more fancy stuff. For those occasions, I tend to use Mural. Miro is grand, too. But when I use these sophisticated tools, I know I have to build in extra time to set up the board the way I want it, and to teach people to use it. From experience, I’ve learned I need to introduce it to people ahead of the event itself, to avoid “losing” curious participants who want to play with the clever functionality. Some people won’t be able to sign in. Some people won’t like it. It definitely won’t “just happen”.
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