The digital workshop – moderation without flipchart and pinboard


The digitalization of our everyday life

The age of digitalization has arrived and the victory march of the Internet of Things can no longer be stopped. Everyday appliances such as toasters and refrigerators are being connected with the Internet. The smart home knows when we are arriving home and can run a warm bath for us. The smart TV knows what our favorite programs are. We have already grown used to digital technology simplifying and improving our everyday lives. And digitalization has also begun to change everyday life in the business world. 2017 is going to be an especially big year for digitalization in German companies!

Over the last two years, German companies have been ridiculed by the trade press because they are missing out on digitalization. However, German companies have started to respond to this attack and are now upgrading. A large number of firms are being comprehensively supplied with digital equipment.

The production lines of large companies have been profiting from digital equipment, so-called “smart devices”, for years now. To counteract the lack of skilled workers, virtual reality glasses can be used to show unskilled workers what they need to do without having to be instructed by a foreman.   And the digitalization even helps prevents the workers from making mistakes.  If an unskilled worker on a production line is in danger of hurting himself, he is immediately warned of the danger by the system.


The digitalization of moderation

However, there are other areas of the business world where digitalization has been neglected although it could bring huge benefits. How can digitalization help the business moderator with his work, for example? As previously mentioned, screens are nowadays no longer simply used as display devices, but have been used for a long time now as intelligent input devices. Our omnipresent smart phones are the best example of this. These small miracle devices are capable of a seemingly unlimited number of applications. What makes the stupendous range of functions of modern smart phones possible is, of course, the software.

Although the so-called eScreens or eBoards are much larger than smartphones, smartphones still have more functions. As far as technology is concerned, the former can be compared with their smaller relatives, although the larger devices with their up to 96 inch diagonal screens can unfortunately not be transported in a jacket pocket.

The prevalence of the powerful large devices has been rapidly increasing – especially amongst B2Bs.  A good five years ago, it was still eBoards with a relatively poor resolution that were being used – especially in schools. Especially amongst B2Bs, eScreens are being used more now. When compared with eBoards, the resolution of eScreens is four times higher. For the moderator, working with the eScreens is very pleasant because the individual pixels are so small that they cannot be registered – even if one is standing directly in front of the Screen. As of an 85 inch screen diagonal, one can comfortably work with groups of 15 people and more. The only disadvantage of using the devices is that because of their size and weight, they are not easy to transport. Devices which can be used in workshops still currently weigh about 100 kilos. However, once they have been set up, and have been put on rollers, they are easy to move. It is likely, however, that the problem of weight will most likely be solved within a few years. The latest technologies make it possible to use light plastic films to show moving images. Thus, even very large touch screens will soon be as light as a feather.

The software which is available for the large sized devices is still limited, and thus the number of applications is also limited.  Microsoft has been constantly optimizing their software products for touch devices since Windows 8, and Windows 10 is now fully touch capable when used with Microsoft products. However, the range of software products which have been specially designed for large touch monitors exceeding 85 inches for use in meetings and workshops is still limited.   Therefore, the expensive eScreens are frequently only used to show Power Point slides, which is far less than they are capable of doing. Since objects on the screen can be directly manipulated by touch, the screens could be used in many new and innovative ways – especially for workshops.

Some companies have already recognized this potential, so that lots of meeting rooms are now being   equipped with large, powerful eScreens in 4K resolution. These devices are replacing the projectors that have been used up until now. Combined with the right software, it is not only possible to create presentations, structure projects (e.g. Trello) or design creative processes (e.g. Mural), but it is also possible to moderate complete workshops (e.g. SixSteps). It is thus possible to make the use of pin boards and flipcharts superfluous.  Thus, poorly equipped facilitator’s toolboxes (which can be embarrassing for business facilitators), dried up markers, as well as the illegible writing of the facilitators or of the participants are things of the past.  But that’s not all: those who really understand digitalization know that the direct transfer of analog technology to software code is not what really ultimately makes life easier. Taking advantage of the large number of possibilities offered by computers – especially in connection with the World Wide Web – is what makes digital workshops so much superior to workshops which use paper.

Thus, workshops can not only be prepared and held from anywhere, but templates can be created or pre-prepared templates can be used. This makes it possible to prepare workshops in only a fraction of the time that is usually required.

But the advantages of digital technology are also apparent during and following a workshop.  Participants who would normally have had to travel long distances can take part in a workshop virtually. When the workshop has finished, all of the work that has been done in the workshop remains stored and can be retrieved at any time. Digital meeting archives replace the chaotic masses of paper which have traditionally been created by meetings and which are difficult to archive in a manageable way.

The action plans decided upon by groups in meetings do not need to be distributed using a photo protocol and they do not need to be typed up by anybody.  They are immediately available to every participant at the end of the meeting and can be followed up using any desired project management tool.


Workshop moderation with SixSteps®

The workshop software SixSteps, for instance, makes it possible to moderate workshops using only digital equipment such as an eScreen, eBoard or a projector in conjunction with smartphones.  SixSteps makes a structured approach to workshops possible by using Josef W. Seifert’s moderation cycle. The moderation cycle is the most widespread approach to structure workshops and thus offers a proven and standardized model approach. Within this model, suitable individual methods of business moderation can be used which make it possible for the participants to take part in the workshop process. These methods include the use of cards to collect relevant discussion topics, the multi dot prioritization to prioritize the clustered topics, the t-chart, used by the moderator together with the participants to describe problems and work out suitable solutions, or the action plans in which decisions and subsequent steps can be bindingly recorded.

When workshops are approached digitally, it is possible for companies to save a lot of resources.  Facilitators profit from the fact that they no longer have to lug heavy materials such as flip charts and other moderation materials. The necessary tools and documents are permanently and immediately available. Also, there is no longer any problematical back and forth between computer use and paper.

The more software that is made available to suit specific needs, the more effective eScreens will become for meetings and workshops in companies.

The new age of workshop moderation has already begun. Don’t miss the boat! Actively take part in designing this process! That is the only way to make it possible for you, as a business moderator, to profit, have a say and keep pace with the digital age!


I wish you success in the world of digital moderation!
Your, David Seifert
(efa GmbH, Software-Development-Team)