Over the last week, I’ve had several virtual meetings in which I’ve chosen to forego slides and instead use a spreadsheet that I had set up in my Google Drive and shared with participants.
Depending on the purpose of a webinar or virtual meeting, there will always be room for a variety of visual aids, including slides, here are three reasons I plan to use more Google documents and fewer slides (or white boards or chat boxes or other standard virtual meeting tools):
- Fast and easy to set up. I must admit, I’m a sucker for powerful visual aids and well-designed slides. The problem is that very few people who run webinars and virtual meetings have the time (or the skill) to create powerful, impactful, moving visual aids that grip their audience. Google Docs and Google Sheets can be set up quickly and shared with a link. Even if people can’t connect to WebEx or Adobe Connect or whatever other service you use (this is something my colleagues in India complain about all the time), they can join and participate in the conversation by calling in and opening up the Google document that’s been shared with them. Using a Google Sheet, you can isolate and break up specific information by creating additional tabs.
- Engage participants through co-creation of content. While Google documents are more limited in formatting and functionality than their Microsoft Office counterparts, perhaps their best feature is that multiple people can type thoughts and comments at the same time, and everyone can see what everyone else has typed. As conversations flourish over the phone (or VOIP), everyone in the meeting can type thoughts or add to a document or the meeting notes. During one meeting last week, as we were running out of time, participants who were waiting to speak were asked to jot down their thoughts next to their names in the event we could not get to them.
- No need to transcribe after the meeting. When I’ve used white boards or the chat function in a virtual meeting, or even when I’ve captured notes on flipchart in an in-person session, there is always the unenviable task of transcribing those notes into a document to circulate to participants later. With Google documents, content is created and discussions are captured in real time throughout the meeting and there is very little post-meeting administrative work to be done.
If this is something you’d like to experiment with, my one note of caution would be to make sure that when you share the link for the Google document, you change the settings to be sure anyone with the link can edit the document. Otherwise, participants will not have an opportunity to type and make changes.
What sorts of alternatives to slides have you found to make webinars and virtual meetings more engaging?