Choosing the Right Meeting Software for Your Online Workshop

Imagine you're preparing for an in-person workshop. One of the most important things you'll do is make sure that the space you'll be using is correctly set up. Have you chosen (or has your client given you) a room with the right size and layout for your group? Is this physical space set up effectively for the type of interactions you'll be facilitating?


Setting up your virtual space for an online workshop is no less important. These days, there is a whole galaxy of online meeting tools available. How can you be sure you've chosen the right one for the type of workshop you'll be running?


In this article, we'll explore three great platforms for holding online workshops, broken down by the size of your group.


Two Great Options for Larger Groups

Zoom

Image credit: Zoom


At this stage, it's hard to find anyone who's managed to avoid using Zoom at least once, and for good reason. Zoom does have some great points going for it:


Pros

  • It handles large numbers of participants very well, easily accommodating meetings of up to 100 participants (and even more with the Large Meetings add-on)

  • Zoom Apps make it possible to launch external tools like Mural, Mentimeter, and timers directly within the Zoom window, saving your participants from having to open these up in different windows or tabs

  • Huge numbers of people have already used Zoom at least once, and are familiar with its basic functionality

Naturally, however, there are some drawbacks...


Cons

  • Many organizations don't allow their employees to install Zoom on their work computers, instead making everyone use Microsoft Teams or another tool

  • It feels unnatural to communicate with folks in a "Brady Bunch" layout (Zoom fatigue, anyone?)

  • Having one (or a few) "presenters" blasting information to everyone else feels hierarchical and makes it easy for participants to disengage

The upshot

Zoom is a fantastic tool for when you are running larger gatherings, or if your workshop sessions require the use of whiteboarding tools like Mural or Miro. That is, of course, if your group isn't barred from using Zoom by restrictive corporate IT policies, which brings us to the next tool under consideration.


Butter

Image credit: Butter


As the name implies, Butter's goal is to make online workshops as smooth as possible. Butter is a browser-based workshop facilitation platform designed to handle up to 100 participants at once, and has a bunch of fine touches for facilitators built in, like an integrated agenda and the ability to play music in the waiting room. Here are a few more things Butter does really well:


Pros

  • Participants can join a "queue" to speak, which can help prevent awkward silences

  • Butter integrates external tools like Miro, YouTube and Google Drive

  • Butter lets users react with sound effects and GIFs, in addition to emojis

Cons

Butter has done a great job making their platform feel fun and high-energy. This works great in situations where you want to boost the energy of the room, but might not be appropriate for all conversations, especially those on sensitive subjects or those held with a more conservative audience.


The upshot

If you're running a large event (up to 100 participants) and your clients don't allow Zoom, Butter may be a great browser-based alternative, depending on the nature of the conversation you'll be facilitating.


A Great Option for Small to Medium Groups

Seshboard

Seshboard is an all-in-one online facilitation platform built for highly interactive sessions in a more intimate group setting of up to 20 participants. Seshboard's round-table layout is designed to replicate the natural dynamics of an intimate in-person session, where everyone is visible to everyone else, and where participants are arranged in a non-hierarchical, circular layout. In addition to integrating popular popular like Miro, Google Docs and YouTube, Seshboard lets participants interact much more like they would in-person, such as by taking turns talking in a circle, or being able to "turn to your neighbor" to discuss topics during the workshop. Here are a few more things Seshboard does well:


Pros

  • Seshboard comes with facilitation tools built-in, such as the Talking Stick activity, in which only the individual who's holding the virtual talking stick is unmuted and able to speak

  • Seshboard offers a shared virtual "space" in which which participants can move around, letting you run the kinds of activities you're used to running in physical workshops, like having participants arrange themselves around the room in response to different instructions or prompts

  • Miro, Google Docs and YouTube are integrated directly into Seshboard

Cons

Because Seshboard is designed to replicate the dynamics of a more intimate in-person workshop, it currently only supports up to 20 individuals per session.


The upshot

Seshboard is a great tool for running workshops and facilitating group discussions that feel the most like meeting in-person. For sessions with more than 20 participants, you should consider tools like Zoom, or potentially Butter.


Conclusion


In a face-to-face setting, you'd never choose to cram 50 people into a tiny meeting room, nor would you try to hold an intimate group discussion in an auditorium. Virtual group discussions are no different. In this article, we looked at three great online discussion platforms, each one providing a different virtual space for the discussion you'll be facilitating.


Interested in learning more about how to maximize your participants' engagement during online workshops? Check out the other articles in Seshboard's Guide to Online Engagement.


Seshboard is an all-in-online online workshop platform that makes virtual workshops as engaging and productive as in-person ones. Book a demo with us today to learn everything you need to know to run game-changing online workshops on Seshboard!