Tips and tricks in 3 minutes to help you to get started designing your first session in SessionLab
Welcome to SessionLab, the dynamic way to design your workshop and collaborate with your co-facilitators!
In this article, you will get an overview of how SessionLab helps you designing workshop, training and meeting agendas by using the Session Planner tool and the SessionLab public library of facilitation methods.
The application consists of 3 main areas:
- Dashboard – this is your ‘Home’ page, from where you can access all your session plans
- Session Planner tool – the tool that allows you to easily design your session plans
- Library – a knowledge base full of useful facilitation methods that you can browse and add relevant methods to your session plans
Session plans are the core of SessionLab: each session represents a workshop, training or meeting agenda, where reusable blocks represent each module of your sessions and colour-coded categories help you to get a quick overview of the interaction and style of your session.
You can easily rearrange your session plan; just drag-and-drop your modules and your overall timing will update accordingly. When you create a block in SessionLab, the block becomes searchable and reusable in any other sessions on your workspace.
You can create a session from your dashboard by clicking on the ‘New session’ button. When you click on the ‘New session’ button’, a pop-up will appear asking whether you’d like to create a new session from scratch, or use / modify one of the pre-existing workshop templates in our library.
If you choose ‘Blank’, an empty new session will appear in a new tab in your browser, and you can start working on your workshop agenda in the Session Planner tool.
Alternatively, you are also able to Duplicate sessions from your dashboard. As a free user, you are able to duplicate your own sessions, while as a ‘Team’ user you can duplicate any session from your team workspace.
When you create a new session, you start with a blank canvas.
This is the Session Planner tool and it has 3 main areas:
- Left sidebar: Gives you an overview of your session with the colour coding you have set up proportional to your timing.
- Middle: the actual agenda where you will see the blocks of your agenda
- Right side panel: You can change the functionality of this in the left side menu between:
- Notes: add notes and use it as a parking lot to put your unused blocks
- Search: find blocks and add them to your agenda from other sessions or from the library
- Comments: Read and respond to comments from your collaborators. Comments can be made to a specific block or to the session in general
- Attachments: Get an overview of files attached to all blocks of the session
- Block details: You might add more detailed instructions for certain blocks that are less practical to have in the table view of the agenda, and more suitable in a separate view. You can also specify here the Goals and Materials you need for the block and attach files
- Activity log: See what have your collaborators changed while you were away
- Collaborators: Invite people to work with you or to review your session
- Info: See the basic information about the session, such as dates, client and description. Here you may adjust the colour coded category tags.
As your session is built from ‘blocks’ in SessionLab, the first step when you have an empty session is to create your first session blocks. You can do this by clicking on the ‘Create block’ button:
Create a block in SessionLab
Besides creating new modules (blocks) in your sessions, you can also reuse existing blocks both from your other sessions or from the library if you use the Search panel on the right side. See more examples and illustration in this article about how to find and reuse blocks.
The block you created then can be filled up with description and timing. You can easily change the timing of your session blocks, and the overall length of your session plan will be automatically recalculated.
If you need to set a specific starting time for any of your blocks (e.g. for the first block of the session, or for a lunch break), then you can lock the starting time for any of your session blocks by clicking on the lock icon next to the block’s starting time and choosing ‘Remove time lock’.
The colour coded categories help you to get an easy overview of the style and interaction mix of your session. You can assign interaction categories to your blocks, and the left sidebar will show the colour coding together with a proportional time overview. If you want, you can modify the default categories that you can see below.
When assigning a colour to a category, you’re able to choose from the default 8 colours, or if you want to apply your own colour scheme, you can select any custom colour you may like using HEX, RGB or HSL values.
One of the essential features of the Session Planner tool is that you can easily move your blocks around in the agenda by simply dragging and dropping them into the right place.
Similarly, if you think that a certain block should be removed from the agenda but you are not yet sure whether you want to delete it permanently, you can just drag it to the Notes area on the right side to park it. When you do so, your timing will be automatically updated, since the blocks in the Notes area do not count towards the overall time of your agenda. If you want the blocks in the Notes area to be used again in your session plan, just drag them back to the middle area and into your agenda.
If you have several blocks that should belong together – e.g. because they are related to the same topic and they should run after each other in your session, you are able to group blocks together. The benefit of doing this is that you can drag and drop groups so you’ll be able to easily move around a whole group of blocks in your agenda. Additionally, you can also find and reuse whole groups of blocks when you search for content from other sessions.
You can create groups by clicking on the ‘Create group’ icon or by clicking on the small group icon on the upper or lower edge of a block.
After you created an empty group, you just need to drag your blocks into the group.
You can delete a block or group by clicking on the dropdown icon in the upper right corner of the block and selecting the Delete option. Please bear in mind that if you delete a group, then all the blocks within the group will also be deleted:
The main middle area of the Session Planner tool displays the timing, colour-coding and two text fields (Description and Additional information) for each block. However, there is more space to add detailed information about your blocks if you want to record specific goals, list materials needed, or add longer instructions for your blocks. You can find the Block details view if you click on the ‘…’ icon on the right side menu, or on the same icon in the upper right corner of your blocks.
The information you add to the Block details section will also appear on the printouts in the detailed view and with some customisation options in the PDF and Word printout table view. (You can find out more about this in the specific support article about PDF and Word exports).
Beyond adding more specific (and occasionally longer) information which you might not want to have crammed into the two main columns in the middle table view, one of the great benefits of the Block details is to record the materials you need for your sessions. If you add items to the bullet-pointed list in the materials section for your blocks, then you will be able to find a summary of all the materials you added to you session under the Session Info tab of the right side panel.
The Session Planner tool allows you to attach files to any blocks in your session plan. You can do it by navigating to the Block details view for the block you want to attach to (by clicking on the ‘…’ icon on the block), and then you can select between 4 options to attach:
- Attach from your computer (uploading directly to SessionLab)
- Attach from Google Drive (linking the file to your session plan from your Google Drive account)
- Attach from Dropbox (linking the file to your session plan from your Dropbox account)
- Attach from Office 365 (linking the file to your session plan from your Office 365 / Sharepoint account)
When you upload a file to a block, the attachment will stay associated with that block if you move or copy that block within the same session or even to other sessions, until you remove the attachment from the block.
If you upload a file from your computer, then it will be uploaded to SessionLab’s servers, while if you upload from Google Drive or Dropbox, then only a link will be created. So in this latter case, the file will not be stored within SessionLab, and any changes you make to the attachment within your Google Drive or Dropbox account will be reflected in the file you uploaded.
Currently, there is not yet an option to add an attachment to a session in general; you can only attach files to specific blocks. If you attach any files to a session plan, you can get an overview of all attachments if you click on the paperclip icon (‘Attachments tab’) on the right side panel.
On the same tab, you can find a ‘Download all’ button that will create a zip file with all the files attached to your session, in case you want to download your attachments. Please keep in mind that this zip file will only contain the files that you uploaded to SessionLab from your computer, and not the files that you linked via Google Drive or Dropbox.
You’ll find the notes area on the right side of the Session Planner tool.
The notes area is a place where you can add any ideas as notes, and also put your unused blocks to keep them in a ‘parking lot’. The items listed here do not add to your agenda’s timing, nor will they show on a PDF or Word export of your session. It is simply an area where you can note down ideas and also park your blocks which you may or may not wish to add into the agenda you’re creating.
To access the notes area, click on the ’Notes’ icon on the right side toolbar (the uppermost tab in the right sidebar), and you’ll be able to begin adding your ideas or thoughts into the notes panel. You can add another note by either clicking on the ’New note’ button, or by pressing enter on your keyboard twice.
In order to delete a note, you first need to delete the text within it. Then, when the note is empty, you can delete it by pressing Backspace within the empty note.
To delete an activity block from the notes section, click on the drop down arrow in the top right corner of the block and select ‘delete’.
Click and hold on the grey bar on the left side of a note to easily drag and drop it into your session plan. Doing so will turn your note into a block within your agenda, where you can add the timing, block description and additional information.
You can do the same to drag and drop an activity block from the notes section into your agenda.
If you think that a certain block should be removed from the agenda but you are not yet sure whether you want to delete it permanently, you can drag it to the notes area to park it. When you do so, your timing will be automatically updated, since the blocks in the notes area do not count towards the overall time of your agenda.
Besides, the Notes area is a great way to store any backup activity for your session. In case you need for instance an extra icebreaker activity during your session, you may just pre-select and park an activity into the Notes area. And if it turns out that you will need it during the session, you can simply drag and drop it to the right place of your agenda.
Please keep in mind that the Notes area is separate for each day-session within a multi-day-session.
If you add any blocks from the public library or from your private library into the notes area, or copy a block (or group of blocks) from one session to another, then the copied blocks will also initially appear at the Notes area.
SessionLab allows you to add comments and have a conversation with your collaborators via replying to comments. There are two types of comments you can make: either commenting on a specific block (when you initiate the comment by clicking on the Comment icon on a block) or in general on the whole session without relating the comment to a certain block.
You can also reply to a comment made on your session and resolve the comment threads you initiated.
By default, collaborators receive an hourly digest email of the comments made on their sessions. This notification may be turned off for each user in their account settings.
SessionLab’s Pro and Team subscriptions allow you to share your session plans with other users and collaborate real-time or asynchronously on workshop or training plans. Find out more about the various collaboration and co-editing features in this article.
You may choose to export your session plans in PDF or in Word format with the latter option available in Pro or Team subscriptions. Besides getting a printout of your session plan, you can also download all attachments of your session in one batched zip file.
Your dashboard helps you to organise the sessions that you and your colleagues create in SessionLab.
More to come soon… Until then please refer to the detailed library overview documentation.
Every SessionLab user has access to a Personal workspace by default. Imagine the workspace as a root folder that contains all the sessions and library resources you create in the application.
When you are added to a team as a team member, then you also get access to the workspace of that Team (i.e. you get access to one more root folder that contains all the sessions and library resources of that Team.)
When someone is invited to a team, the person also gets access to the workspace of the Team. This way a team member can see every session belonging to the team.
When you create a new session, the session will get created in the workspace (and sub-folder) where you were located on your dashboard when pressing the New session button.
If you are in the Recent view when creating a session, then it will be created on your Personal workspace if you are not a member of any team, but if you are a member of a team, then the session will be created under the Team’s workspace.
In terms of access rights, all content on your Personal workspace is visible only to you by default (unless you share specific sessions with other users), and all content on your Team workspace is visible with viewer rights to all members of the team.