Online and offline platforms
Online meeting platforms
There are many different platforms for hosting online meetings, including:
- Microsoft Teams
It is vital that you familiarise yourself with these platforms in advance of scheduling a meeting and consider which platform is most appropriate for participants and the kind of meeting you are facilitating.
Factors that might influence your choice include:
- Chat function - This can be useful for rapid gathering of people’s views, which can speed things up when you have a lot of ground to cover. It also allows everyone to see what people say or enables participants to contact just the facilitators if there are points they feel uncomfortable about sharing with the wider group.
- Voting function - This is a good way of testing the range of views or experiences within a group. It’s also anonymous, which means that participants will not be embarrassed if they have a different view from others or don’t fully understand the issues that are being discussed.
- The ease with which you can share information through videos or if you want to introduce a topic with a case study rather than an open discussion (which might apply if you are discussing difficult topics, such as suicide, experience of abuse or restraint).
Changes Bristol has produced a helpful guide to Zoom meetings, which you might like to share in advance with external participants.
Other Online platforms
There are a range of other platforms that support online and remote working, which are worth exploring to see if they can add value to the platforms mentioned above. It is worth considering the accessibility assistance each platform provides before using these for a particular meeting or session, particularly if the group you are working with has a number of people who have requested adjustments. Please note you may need to get approval from your organisation to use additional software.
- Google Meet – This is similar to Microsoft Teams. It is a mainly free service that includes messaging, voice and video calls.
- Miro – Miro is a free online collaborative whiteboarding platform that enables teams to work effectively together, from brainstorming with digital sticky notes to planning and managing agile workflows.
- Monday – Monday is a paid for flexible platform that teams can use to create custom project plans in minutes - to plan, run, and track processes, projects, and everyday work in a visual way.
- Slack – Slack is a collaboration hub that can replace email to help you and your team work together seamlessly. It’s designed to support the way people naturally work together, so you can collaborate with people online as efficiently as you do face-to-face.
- Webex – A Webex meeting is an online meeting space. Webex meetings require a computer with internet access and a separate phone line. By calling into the conference phone number, you will be able to hear the presenter and other participants. There are both free and paid for options.
- Workplace by Facebook – Workplace is a collaboration and communication tool that connects employees to one another via an internal social network. Companies pay by the user to set up a private version of Facebook for their employees. With the ability to manage how groups are created, companies can create a network that is tailored to their specific needs.
Phone conferences and meetings can be useful if you are organising events that involve a small number of participants, with a clear agenda that focuses on issues that are not likely to be upsetting.
Phones are generally more accessible than online platforms and participants in phone conferences and meetings are less likely to experience technical difficulties when compared with online platforms.
However, phone conferences and meetings require active participation, which means that events can become dominated by one or two individuals; they don’t allow participants to register facial expressions; they can feel impersonal; they are not well suited to sharing large quantities of information; and they are usually unsuitable for discussing sensitive topics.
- Remember that some people will not be able to access some platforms, which means that you might need to think about alternative ways to involve people or incorporate certain activities.
- Consider how you will use technology or other processes that are inclusive to people with disabilities. For example, some platforms, programmes or software (e.g. PowerPoint) are not always accessible to people with a visual impairment, whereas Word offers a screen reader function.
- If you are using a platform such as Zoom, consider the access needs of people with visual impairments. They might be able to dial in and access the platform, but consider alternatives if this is not possible.
- Check with people with hearing impairments if they can use any video chat technology you have in mind.
- Ensure that written documents use accessible formats and fonts.