By Wayne Turmel
People ask me all the time, “what’s the most valuable tool in WebEx (or Lync or whatever platform they’re using). And since 80% of virtual meeting users use only 20% of the features of those tools, it’s a pretty big list to pick from. But if I had to pick one, though, I’d say the Whiteboard feature.
Why are whiteboards so powerful? Because they work on multiple levels:
- They are visually stimulating. When people are deprived of something to look at, they will find something else. If everyone on the call is looking at something different (like their email, a blank page, or MineSweeper – and you know it happens), it’s hard to maintain focus on the matter at hand. If everyone is seeing the same thing though, and new items appear on the chart periodically, it engages us virtually and gives us a common point of reference.
- The common rules of brainstorming still apply. When brainstorming, you want to capture all ideas and leave them hanging out. Often people will add to, or build on, what’s already there, even when you’ve “moved on” to another item. How often have you drifted mentally in a meeting, then looked at the board and went, “whoa, how did that get there?” Yeah, so do the rest of the folks on your team.
- They give everyone an excuse to participate. Just as in a regular team meeting, there are a dozen reasons to use a flipchart or white board. Those reasons don’t change just because the meeting is virtual. In fact, there are even more reasons to use them. You can engage people by having them do the writing on the board, calling each individual to contribute their piece, or having them vote on the final choices using annotation tools.
- You don’t have to transcribe everything and email it later. With most platforms, everyone can save the actual whiteboard document to their own computer or device, without waiting for someone (usually you!) to do the grunt work. They also can’t claim they didn’t get it later.
- You never run out of paper, markers or wall space. Virtual whiteboards aren’t subject to the physical limitations we have in the office.
If you’re not using the white board as a way of engaging team members and drawing out their best thinking, give it a try.
To learn more about how to present effectively using these virtual presenting tools for meetings, training or sales, check out our complete training options at The Remote Leadership Institute, or GreatWebMeetings.com.
About the Author…
Wayne Turmel is the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings.com. For 20 years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It- a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com. Marshall Goldsmith calls him “one of the unique voices to listen to in the virtual workplace”. He works with organizations around the world to help people use technology to lead people and projects and build productive human connections in an increasingly remote work environment.
I really like your ideas. What virtual whiteboard application do you use or recommend? I had a project management consulting business for several years and authored a book “Herding Chickens:Innovative techniques for Project Management”. I have also been a fan of “Mindmapping” for over 20 years.
Thanks for the question. If by ‘whiteboard’ you mean tools that are 100% virtual AND part of other tools, (like WebEX & Lync), then my preference is for tools that allow you to edit, rearrange and cut and paste content to the board. That means Microsoft Lync/Skype, Adobe Connect or even lesser-known tools like iLinc. WebEx does allow you to save and print directly from the tool, which is great, but the ability to edit after the fact is a huge plus they (currently) don’t allow.
If by ‘whiteboard’ you mean a hybrid collaboration tool, (so-called ‘smartboard’), the best tools allow you to work on the board, then share online or print directly from the board. There are some challenges with interacting with online users, though. It’s easy to broadcast, messy and slow to allow remote attendees to write on the board. Smartboard, Scribblar and others work just fine.
Then there is a third option: tablets. They are changing everything. You can be in a meeting or classroom, and each attendee can have a tablet wired into the meeting along with people who are located elsewhere and control can pass back and forth. If you broadcast the WebEx, or Blackboard, or whatever tool you’re using, and everyone is logged on and has access (regardless of location) you open the door to a lot of possibilities.
I hope that helps!