In this episode, I talk about some of my current personal favorite online communication tools. The tools I talk about in the show are the tools that I like using with the teams that I work with.
These tools include (in no particular order):
- Zoom – video conferencing
- Personify – video conferencing with a hint of telepresence
- KUBI – portable telepresence device
- BEAM Smart Presence – drivable telepresence device
- Slack – group instant messaging system
- iDoneThis – reporting on what was done that day
- Sococo – your office, online, in plan view
- Linoit – online sticky note board
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Before we start, I just wanted to make a quick announcement, which was that Pilar Orti, with whom I have virtual coffee every other week on the 21st Century Work Life Podcast. She is launching an online course on leading virtual teams. The course starts in September and she’s offering listeners of the Collaboration Superpowers podcast a 10 percent discount on the price of the course, which is 360 pounds, which is around $560 during this early bird period of July. To get the discount, go to the registration page on virtualnotdistant.net and enter the code SUPERPOWERS. All right, let’s get started.
Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Welcome to another episode, everyone. Today I’m doing a short version of the podcast. And what I want to talk about are some of my favorite tools for online communication. I know there are hundreds of tools out there, just hundreds of tools. And I’m really going to just touch the surface of some of the tools. But I thought it would be fun to do an episode where I just go into the things that I really like using personally with my teams.
There are a few things to keep in mind about tools. One is I recommend keeping it as simple as possible. The tools you use should be lightweight and they should not get in the way. It should enable communication, not slow it down. So really keep that in mind when you’re choosing the tools that you want to use.
The other thing I recommend is whenever possible, letting the team choose the tools. So I know that in bigger organizations, the IT department sometimes has to choose something that everybody in the organization is going to be using, maybe the time-tracking system, things like this. But wherever possible, each individual team should choose the tools that they want to use.
And the last thing to remember with these tools is that when you implement them, it takes time. There is always a learning curve for people when getting up and running. And for some people, the learning curve is steeper than for others.
Okay, so how do you decide which tools you’re going to use? First of all, you call me. And I’m a tool junkie, so I’ll help you out. But if you want to do it on your own with your own team, then I suggest going through what Philip Montaro calls and developed. He calls it the ICC Workflow, which basically is just going through what kind of information you share, how you communicate, and how you collaborate together. And what I mean by that is how do you know what’s getting done, how do you know what each other are doing. In fact, I use this very same process to create the team agreements with virtual teams, so it’s useful in a number of ways. And if you’re implementing a larger tool (for example, a private, social network that’s going to be used amongst your organization) then I definitely recommend that you first design the strategy for how you’re going to roll that tool out and give that some thought before doing that. And that’s also something that I know a lot about, so of course feel free to contact me for that.
Two more tips that I’m going to give before we actually get into the tools. One is that the tools are going to change over time. So expect to always be experimenting in one way or another. So you just have to develop that. I’m going to be experimenting mindset. And I know that some teams get burned out. I know that Happy Melly team got burned out in terms of we just used too many tools, so that’s also a possibility. But the tools will change over time, so it has to be acknowledged.
The other thing is don’t be afraid to go low-tech. So it doesn’t always have to be a virtual tool. For example, I had a team that told me that they took pictures of each other’s to-do boards in each other’s offices, and they would just send the pictures to each other a couple of times a week to check up on which things were still in sync and which things weren’t in sync. And the things that weren’t in sync were the things that they needed to discuss, so a fabulous, low-tech system that worked really well in this situation.
Okay, on with the tools. So the first thing that I’m going to start with is turn the webcams on. Use video whenever possible. And I know there are circumstances when you can’t use video or when it’s not working for your team, but I would say in most instances, turn the video on. It will really help a lot.
And for videoconferencing, I really love Zoom. I must say I’m a big fan. I think it’s really easy and lightweight, and you can see everybody’s video on the same screen, up to 25 people, which allows you to have really great group discussions because you can see each other’s body movements and you know when each other wants to speak, so I love Zoom.
I also love Personify, which is a 3D camera, basically, that projects you on your own screen. So for things like webinars or online trainings where generally, it’s this voice slide format, you can now add the power of video to that and make it far more interesting. I mean when you see it, it’s so much more interesting to watch a webinar with a person in the webinar, so personify.
You probably expected me to say this first, but my next favorite tools are telepresence. I love the robots. I love the robots. The two products that I love the most are the Kubi. So that is a portable, telepresence device where it’s basically a neck with an iPad or another device, and you can move it. So you can go side-to-side and up and down and see who’s in the room and sort of give yourself presence while you’re in the room. If you want to go one step higher, Suitable Technologies makes the Beam telepresence system, and that is actually a robot that you can drive using the arrow keys on your keyboard. So you can actually drive this thing around and it really gives you movement because you can walk down the hall with somebody. You can go into somebody’s office. So these tools, I think, really enhance the remote worker experience.
Another online communication tool that I’m impressed with is Sococo. And what that does is that it puts your office in plan view on the screen. And you can see where each other are in the office that you’ve got on the screen. And if you want to go and talk to somebody in their office, you just simply double-click on their office and you see your avatar go there. And when you’re in the office, you can hear anybody else that’s in the office and you’re sharing screens with those people as well, as well as being able to see your own videos. So incredibly powerful tool depending on the situation, but I highly recommend people go and check that out. Of course, everybody and their dog is talking about Slack, and that’s because it’s so wonderful tool to use for group conversations. I’m a member of a number of different Slack groups, and it’s pretty seamless to go in between them. And within each Slack group, you can have different discussion channels that people can join. They can be private or they can be open. And in terms of online communication and keeping that team feel, it sort of acts as your virtual water cooler because you’re bantering. You’re sending pictures. You’re asking questions. And it can be real-time and it can be asynchronous. So yeah, give it a try.
Now my other favorite brainstorming tool that I use online is called Linoit. It’s basically just an online, virtual stick note board. There are lots of online sticky boards, but the reason why I like Linoit so much is that people can use it without signing up for an account. So I can set up a Linoit board and send the link out to people and nobody has to set up an account. They can just start using it. For me, that hassle-free nature of it really keeps me coming back.
Okay, I could go on and on and on. I mean this is just the surface of all the tools that I really love. But we have to end somewhere. Stay tuned next week when I speak with Erin Rapacki from suitable technologies, and we talk a lot about the Beam and the way that it works and the way suitable technologies works because they actually use it in their day-to-day working environment, of course. If you want to hear more stories and learn more about how you can work from anywhere, of course, visit collaborationsuperpowers.com.
Our weekly shoutout to the fabulous podcast producer Nick, the podcast monster. You can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. All right, everyone, until next time, be powerful.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland