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Help, how can I easily collate information from a workshop?

How often have you been facilitating a workshop, whether that be online or physically together, only to get the end and realise that you’ve now got the unenviable job of having to write up all the notes from the workshop? And although you may not have received awards in school for your handwriting, we are here to tell you that other people’s handwriting can be even worse! Denise has been known to walk around the office brandishing Post-It Notes asking, ‘Do you think that’s an R or a T? Does this sentence even make sense?’. 

In today’s episode we’re going to explore a few options for e-tools in your facilitator toolkit!

The first one we’ll point you to is GroupMap. As they say on their website, GroupMap is a real-time online brainstorming tool for workshops, conferences, or any type of event. They have an online template for basically any type of facilitated meeting – or you can make your own. This means participants can type directly into this rather than writing everything down on paper. Which means you can just download it at the end of the event, instead of transcribing everything! What a great idea!

Of course it does mean your participants need devices like smartphones or tablets to be able to do this, and access to the internet which we know for some events isn’t always possible. But most times it is and so it’s reasonably straightforward to get people to type in their thoughts and comments, rather than writing them down on paper and collecting them at a traditional workshop.

We like GroupMap because it was designed with facilitators in mind, and doesn’t have to be squashed into shape! It also has the option of a free trial so you can give it a go before signing up for a subscription. Denise has used it a few times now and it has been pretty straightforward! She highly recommends it if you do a lot of work where you need to capture lots of feedback from events.

The next tool is really a suite of tools because Google does have a lot of online options for your etoolkit! Google has its Jamboard app as well as Google docs and Google slides, all of which can be used to collect notes during an event. Again, you need people with devices and access to the internet but then it’s just a matter of working out which of these options best meets the needs of your workshop.

The Jamboard app is an online sticky wall (we did an episode on sticky walls so if you aren’t sure what that is, check out our episode here!). Google docs is like a Word document and Google slides is like PowerPoint. They have some pros and cons which we will now explore.

Denise has used Jamboard for online workshops and most people seem to work out how to use it straightaway. The biggest downside is that the notes all appear in the same place, so you have to be really clear about needing to reposition the notes so they do not end up stacked on top of each other. Like all the online tools, clear instructions are the key to success!

Google docs is even more straightforward for people because most of us have used Word and are used to typing into a document. The biggest issue we have found is that it’s easy for people to write over each other or start typing into one part of the document and push others into different places, making it hard for people to keep track of where they are. Again, clear instructions are the key!

Google slides are also pretty easy and because of the format of slides, there is less of an issue with people writing over each other or pushing them around in the document. You do need to give clear instructions on which slide people should be taking notes in though!

We have heard from colleagues that they have had problems if people did not have a Google account. That is, when you share a Google tool, you can only edit it if you have a Google account. You could get around this by making sure whoever is nominated as scribe has a Google account but this could be a barrier for some people. 

Another tip is to make sure the settings are correct so that the tool can be accessed by anyone with the link. There are two steps involved: firstly to allow others to access the document via a link, and then to allow those people to then edit the document and not just view it. But one big win for the Google suite of tools is that they are all free to use! 

The final tools we want to mention are Mural and Miro – we have put them together because while they are not the same product, they do similar things. These are basically online sticky walls with the ability to do all kinds of things from drawing diagrams to typing text. Again, you need to share the link with people for them to be able to access them but mostly it is pretty easy to do this and get people started. As with all of these online tools, it’s sometimes really helpful to have an easy exercise as the first activity, which is less critical to the workshop outcomes but allows participants to get used to working with the tool. 

Of course, if you’re using a webinar platform like Zoom, you can use the chat box, polls and the whiteboard to easily capture feedback. You can save these and use them as part of your write up. Again, it pays to make sure that people are familiar with these tools and give them the opportunity to practice, and have clear instructions on what you want. 

Other tools we haven’t mentioned in this episode are things like online polls (but we did another episode on those, so check that out that information here). Also there are other options like Slack that allow you to create online communities, share documents, seek feedback and capture discussion. It really comes down what you need to successfully facilitate and be able to produce useful notes. Use the tools that best suit the job you have!

So, we’ve covered a few ways you can avoid that dreaded write up of workshop notes – by using online tools that allow you to capture this easily! But what do you use? What etools have worked well for you? Add a comment below the blog post and tell us about your experiences, including any tips and further ideas about it. We do not want this to be just a one-way conversation – join in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

We hope you’ve found this post useful, and if you have, please tell your friends so they can join the conversation!



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Graham Harris
Graham Harris
3 years ago

Thanks Denise and John – really love this series and the helpful hints you provide

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