There is an entrepreneur I follow on Insta who recently shared a post that said, “You know how you hire help when you’re on a budget? You hire apps! Canva for your digital design, Convertkit for your marketing…” I loved it. It’s so true. But as facilitators on a budget, what apps can we hire for our facilitations?
Well my friends my answer today is Stream Deck. Stream Deck is a co-facilitator app hire.
Stream Deck helps me make sure that I’m sending the right link or text into the chat, helps me have easy access to the chat (even when the button disappears when I’m screen sharing), easily send the right link or directions for the breakout rooms into the chat, and ensures when I say “I’m going to give just 2 minutes to write a minute paper,” I actually stick to the two minute timeline.
Stream Deck is essentially a panel of buttons that I can set up ahead of time that help me control my computer and my facilitation in really interesting and powerful ways. I have quick access to the most common functions in Zoom, can pre-load all the text and links I want to send, can manage my OBS scenes, and can use their built-in timers: Stream Deck has streamlined every virtual facilitation that I do.
Here’s a quick demo of Stream Deck to help you see what I mean.
In May, we Brain Jammed on Stream Deck, helping facilitators get set up and start building it out. You can watch the full recording of the Brain Jam here.
Unfortunately, we had a bit of an issue with the recording in that the walk-through build portion didn’t record as cleanly as we had hoped. For those who want a guided build, check out a special recorded walk through covering everything we built (and more!) during the Brain Jam.
The rest of this post will be dedicated to highlighting the most useful functions of Stream Deck for all virtual facilitators and anyone teaching or presenting online. All of these functions are outlined in the guided walkthrough above and I’ll timestamp the relevant bits in the individual sections to hop you to that part of the walk through.
Send text in the chat without having to copy and paste
When I facilitate virtually, I always have a handful of things to send to participants in the chat throughout the workshop: a welcome message, a link to the AhaSlides, directions for their breakout rooms, a link to a feedback form, etc. I used to be constantly switching back and forth between my notes, copying the text I wanted, moving back to the chat and pasting the text throughout the workshop. It was a pain to keep track of and I was often worried about sending the wrong text.
With Stream Deck, I simply create a button ahead of time, one for each message I want to send, and then during the workshop all I have to do is press that button and it types it in and hits send for me. Magic. I use it every time I facilitate now and would never go back. Bonus if you facilitate the same workshop multiple times, you only have to load it all up once and then it’s just ready to go. Setting it up takes maybe one or two minutes per message you want to send and then you have the peace of mind that it’s ready to go when you need it. I know it sounds like a good bit of work but I promise you it’s not, and it moves the work ahead of time instead of in the moment, which is a great trade-off.
Here were all the text buttons I programmed ahead of time for the Brain Jam.
Jump to: programming text in your Stream Deck
Quick access to hotkeys in Zoom
Whenever I’m facilitating in Zoom and I go to screen share, I get disoriented by the change of screen. All my buttons are gone: the chat box, participant panel, mute/unmute, everything is shifted and that’s of course when a participant is going to hop into the chat (which has now disappeared) with a question.
You can open up the chat (and access all these other buttons) by using hotkeys in Zoom, but after a year of facilitating online, I have exactly zero committed to memory. With Stream Deck, that number can stay at zero but I can get easy access to all the keyboard shortcuts by programming the hotkeys on my Stream Deck using the “hotkeys” function. Just pull up the list of keyboard shortcuts in Zoom and make buttons on your Stream Deck for whatever functions you want easy access to. Bam.
Jump to: Hotkeys in Zoom
Managing Your Virtual Camera (OBS or Ecamm)
If you use a virtual camera software like OBS or Ecamm for your virtual facilitations, switching between scenes and toggling on and off sources is so easy with Stream Deck. The virtual camera software syncs directly with your Stream Deck so you can easily find and access your different scenes and toggle on and off sources as well. If you’re curious about why you might want to use a virtual camera in your facilitations or how to get started, check out the Getting Started Guide for OBS for Facilitators.
Manage your Spotify
One of the reasons I stayed away from playing music during my facilitations for a long time was that I didn’t want one more thing to think about or manage during my workshop. But then every time I would go to a workshop where people had music I would think, “I have to try this, it’s so nice.”
With Stream Deck I can play/pause, move to the next track and adjust the volume of my Spotify without ever having to open the app to do it. Stream Deck has built-in integration with Spotify and I can control all those functions without ever having to pull my attention away from my group to mess with an app. Plus now that I found this “Zoom Tunes” playlist from Mischief Makers, I can stop looking for workshop-appropriate tunes to play.
(Bonus: I also use this feature to control Spotify anytime I’m at my desk, super handy!)
BONUSES: Timers, System Volume, and more!
There are so many other neat ways I’ve ended up using Stream Deck during my virtual facilitations.
I use their built-in timer function to have quick two minute, five minute, and fifteen minute timers available for myself. So often I find myself saying to participants, “I’m going to give you two minutes to journal about this,” and then by the time I have pulled out my phone to activate a timer, I have no sense whether it’s been ten seconds or one minute. Having them on my Stream Deck has made me way more likely to use them and stay true to the timeframes I give my participants. I’ve also taken to having a timer for the duration of the workshop so that it’s counting down the time I have left right there on my Stream Deck.
I have also found myself using the ability to adjust my system volume on my Stream Deck. Whether that’s because a participant is talking quietly and I need to crank them up or I need to turn down someone’s dog barking in the background before I can ask them to mute, having it a few clicks away has been really handy.
Stream Deck also has built-in integrations with Microsoft Powerpoint, which means there are built-in play/pause/next slide/back slide buttons all ready for you to use without having to add or look up any special hotkeys.
Getting Started with Stream Deck
You can get started with Stream Deck and test it out in your next facilitation without ever having to spend a dime on software or hardware. While Stream Deck is a piece of hardware, you can run Stream Deck mobile on your phone for $2.99 a month and there is a free thirty day trial for you to test it out and see if it works for you.
To try it out, you’ll need to download Stream Deck on your smartphone and on your computer. You set up the buttons and the interface on your computer and then you sync your smartphone to your computer in order to start using it. It’s relatively straightforward, and in the comments section of the guided walkthrough video there is some additional support!
Q&A from the Brain Jam
Here are a few additional questions that we got into during the Brain Jam.
Is it worth using even if you don’t use any virtual camera software like OBS or Ecamm Live?
In my opinion, yes! Honestly if it did nothing other than make it possible for me to stop copying/pasting text into the chat, I would pay $2.99 a month for that. I also find the timer and hotkey functions allow me to be far more present and fluid for my participants.
How do I know what to add to my Stream Deck to make it useful?
Think through your last workshop and think about the things that you did. What did you send in the chat? Did you have to keep accessing the participants panel to let people in from the waiting room? Would it have been helpful to have easy access to timers? Once you have a sense of those things, build out a profile that helps you streamline them.
What are the advanced Stream Deck tricks?
There is a function on Stream Deck called “multi-action” and this is where you can have your Stream Deck, with a single button, perform multiple actions in a sequence. For example, you could have a multi-action button that opens your chat, sends a link in the chat to your participants, and then 60 seconds later opens that link up in your browser, all with one press of a single button.
I’ve also used multi-action to send multiple prompts at particular intervals in the chat. Let’s say I wanted to have participants reflect on 3 different questions, each for a minute. I can create a multi-action button using the “text” and “delay” functions to send the first question, wait 60 seconds, send the second question, and so on all by pressing one button just once.
So for those of us who want to make our lives easier in our next virtual facilitation, who wish we could have a co-facilitator (or two!) to help everything run smoothly, Stream Deck has our back. I’ve found this software to be an invaluable addition to my virtual facilitations. It’s helped me be more organized, more efficient, and more present for my participants, and to keep the show running smoother.
If you have additional questions on Stream Deck, whether it’s how to set it up or how to use it in your virtual facilitations, drop them in the comments section below and we’ll update the write-up to include any we can answer!
Facilitator Cards is not affiliated with or sponsored by Elgato (the company that makes Stream Deck). We just think Stream Deck is a super cool piece of technology and we’re excited to share it with you!