With a week’s notice, major parts of the business world were told to start working from home. The rest have to practice “social distancing”. Neither are very compatible with old fashioned workshops or face to face conversations, the bread and butter of innovation coaching.
Faced with this new reality, we must all move our work online and remote to survive. This will be a transition, for coaches and coachees alike. We have collected a few tips to help along the way.
Adjust your delivery
As innovation experts, we know that it’s usually not a good idea to copy-paste the practices that worked offline to the online world. You will make it work, but it will be different.
One example is the size of groups for workshops and similar interactions. In an offline workshop setting, one facilitator may be able to hold the attention of 20 people and make every attendee feel special. In a video conference setting, this is challenging. Depending on your tool of choice, the individuals of your audience will be represented by small icons or text once you have a certain number of participants. With audio muted, cameras turned off and the distractions of the internet a click away, capturing the audience becomes tricky.
Start out with smaller groups. 5 participants should be fairly safe. When you go bigger, you can try to experiment with the format. Divide participants into teams, send them to breakout video conferences with assignments and move from “room to room” like you would do offline. It’s sure to be a little awkward in the beginning, but you will find your way.
Video conferencing tools
The first part of going remote with your coaching is finding a good video conference tool. Among the many, many options out there, we have narrowed down to three we have been using the most ourselves.
Zoom is the feature king of the video conferencing tools. If you pay for the right add-ons, you’ll have support for breakout rooms. This feature allows you to send your participants into different virtual rooms, a good way to organize bigger groups.
If you have a regular old training session, Zoom can be extended to cater for up to 500 active participants. In a webinar setting, you can have up to 10000 viewers and total control of who gets to speak.
Add on file sharing, polls and Q&As, and you see why Zoom is the feature leader.
The cons of Zoom are a clunky UI and the fact that you need to install a separate application on your computer to participate. There’s been a lot of controversy around Zoom lately, so it could be a good idea to pay attention to what happens in the months to come.
Google Hangouts Meet
If you’re on G Suite, Google Hangouts Meet (not to be confused with Google Hangouts) is a viable option. It’s browser based and easy to join. A video conference link is easily added to your calendar invites, making it a default choice for Google Calendar users.
The quality of the video conferencing itself is very good. The support for up to 100 participants will suffice for most needs.
It has none of the bells and whistles of Zoom, so for webinars and other special needs, Google Hangouts Meet is not the best option.
While not as well known as the previous two options, Whereby is by far the easiest to use. If you’re inviting people who are unfamiliar to video conferencing, you should consider this tool. It’s browser based like Google Hangouts Meet, so nothing has to be installed.
As an organizer, you can set up a number of “rooms” with fixed names, custom branding and a background image for setting the theme. There’s no need to “start” a meeting like with Hangouts Meet and Zoom, participants can always go to a room whenever they want to.
Depending on your plan, you can have up to 50 participants, recording, Trello integration and many more features.
On the negative side, it’s not a well known option and doesn’t have all the features of Zoom.
The default option
If your client has a standard tool for video conferences, and it’s not awful to use (hello “Skype for Business”), you should consider going with the flow. Forcing a lot of people away from their well-known tool and over to your personal favorite is going to create a lot of friction.
Alistair Cockburn, one of the creators of the Agile Manifesto, famously declared that the most efficient communication happens when you have two people discussing by the whiteboard. As innovation coaches, we love our whiteboards and our post-it notes. Is it possible to replace them with something digital?
Yes! A digital whiteboard is a must-have for your remote innovation coaching practice. We have picked out a few options for you.
Like most other Google products, the naming of this whiteboard solution is confusing. Google Jamboard is both a physical touchscreen “whiteboard” and a digital whiteboard solution. We’ll zoom in on the digital part here.
Google Jamboard is a free product, so long as you have a Google account. It’s easy to share and collaborate on. The whiteboard itself is quite basic feature wise. Pretty much like a regular whiteboard, so maybe it has everything you need?
Of the paid contenders, Miro is a popular choice. It features an infinite canvas and a whole range of templates, including Business Model Canvas and Lean Canvas. Share a whiteboard with your workshop participants and collaborate through video conferences - you can even do a video conference from inside your whiteboard.
Through the Miro Marketplace you can get integrations to pretty much everything: Slack, Trello, Jira, Zendesk, Google Sheets and much more.
Miro’s pricing is very aggressive, unfortunately. If your team size goes over 20 people, prices go up and you are forced from monthly billing to yearly. To add insult to injury, guests are charged extra through day passes.
Mural is Miro’s up and coming contender. Besides an intriguing choice of names (check out Miro’s murals), Mural is easier to use and the templates are prettier. Mural uses a room metaphor to organize the whiteboards, which is intuitive and nice.
Mural’s pricing is one notch better than Miro’s, offering a lower price and monthly billing up to 50 users. With free, anonymous guests, the sum is a lot better.
On the negative side, Mural lacks in features and integrations. Try all the tools out and see which ones you like, and fit your wallet and number of users.
To go pro, make sure that your audio and video equipment does you justice. Laptop microphones and cameras can be fine for a regular old meeting. You’re the star of the show, you should invest more in your hardware.
A good webcam will not only create better video quality, but it will also provide you with more options - you don't want to be stuck on top of your laptop screen! Set your scene - perhaps you want to stand, move around or have two camera angles?
A good microphone is even more important. Don’t let audio quality stop you from getting your message across in a clear way. There are many options here, from free standing to the clip-on variants you attach to your clothing. Do the research, but don’t save up.
Whatever you do, don’t use your bluetooth pods as microphones. You may not notice, but your audience will.
In the end, you should practice as you preach. Get started with remote delivery as soon as possible. We have nothing to offer but sweat, tears and technical issues, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be fine. You will have learned a new skill that is valuable even after we all get to go back to the office.
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