I have been arguing against the use of Excel for a very long time. It was never against the tool, but against some of the use cases it was used for. We have been very active in the last months to solve Excel related problems, so it wasn‘t my favourite tool at all.
Unfortunately I have started to like Excel again but for a different usecase. We are using it more and more for virtual meetings and workshop. It started some weeks ago. It was one day before one of our community calls where we usually have around 50 participants. We had the idea to test a liberating structure and just tried Excel for a virtual fishbowl to collected the questions. All participants without big explanation were adding their input in the same prepared Excel file. It just went perfect. In a 45 min session we collected ~50 questions and problems about mobile work. But not only this. We also collectively answered the questions still within that short meeting.
How was it set up?
It took us about 30 minutes to setup the structure of the file the day before the meeting. We placed the question we wanted to talk about at the top of a column and added enough cells below so everyone had enough space. We marked the next column with "done", so when someone was finished he just had to place his cursor into that column. This gave us a direct visual indication who was still working and if we need to wait a little longer for the next question. After that we went to the next question and so on until the end.
When the meeting starts.
Once we started the sessions we just added the file to the chat of the Teams meeting we were using so everyone had access to the file directly. The advantage is, that this will open Excel online which in our experience has a better performance when you do coauthing with many people.
Once in the file, every participants position is visible as a additional coloured frame around the cell he is currently in. It even shows the names. Every participant just needs to avoid to use a field that is already coloured and start adding his question or solution. Here the very clear structure of Excel is a big advantage compared to other tools like PowerPoint or Word.
As everyone could see each others input some of our more experienced colleagues answered the questions in parallel. Everything worked out with a minimum preparation and without much explanation.
Why is it so good:
Everyone knows Excel.
It is a very flexible solution and you can adapt it to a lot of different virtual meeting setups.
You just place the file into the Teams Chat and everyone can access it online.
It is very simple to create a clear structure in the file so everyone knows what to do.
After the workshop the results can easily be extracted for later use.
The "done" fields creates a very clear visual syncronization of the participants.
It just works.
Of cause there is Whiteboard. It has way more option, but sometimes the simple solutions are the best solutions.