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Mastering remote workshops - Document
What and why
We often justify the time, expense and emissions to coordinate face-to-face meetings with the belief that they are better or more productive. However, not all workshops need to be facilitated in person. Many could be held remotely, reduce unnecessary travel and at the same time become more inclusive.
As with any workshop, good preparation, facilitation and experience help make it a success
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How to use this guide
This guide focuses on running remote design-led workshops. It is for anyone who finds the resources useful in their work.
This is a live, working document. We regularly update the document based on people’s comments and tips, and encourage you to share your experience via the comment feature. If you use this guide please come back and add a case study. Just copy the template on page 20 to share your learnings.
General tips and guidance
* If one person is remote then all are remote. Be conscious of the balance
* Good for: distributed teams. The ‘all remote or all not’ principle (people don't have to be remote as such, but we'll all need a laptop and will be using online tools) - means we all have a more equal experience and are contributing in the same way.
* Bad for: physical spaces where rooms may be limited.
* To be more inclusive, those in the same room use their own screen (using Miro or similar) and Zoom account - so that "everyone is remote" and those away feel less excluded
* Encourage people to use their camera, so you can see when someone is trying to speak and to aid communication
* Always introduce all the participants of the meeting, to make sure those remote know who is in the room. If the invite list is large, get people to type in the text box - name, org, location.
* Let people know if their camera will come on when they join, so they have time to prepare their background
* Set strict rules about using the chat box or verbal communication to make your voice heard
* Mute microphones if you are not speaking, or all mute except lead facilitator
* Facilitators should mute their mic whilst others are speaking.
* Set up a Google Document for someone to take notes, let everyone know where the file is stored, name it well and share the doc. Send notes of what discussed after the meeting highlight key decisions made.
* Run a short check-in if possible. If cameras aren’t on or bandwidth is tricky, it can be difficult to sense how everyone is doing during a meeting
* Close any IM and websites if not needed (e.g Slack) as they can be distracting whilst on remote calls - it helps to keep your attention on the meeting
* Allocate more time than you would for a face-to-face meeting.
* Schedule in breaks throughout the session.
Before the workshop
* Brief participants before (this is what is going to happen and this is what you will need, sharing tools and resources) and follow up after (how did it go)
* Set up and share templates beforehand.
* Share the agenda and all tools with participants
* Use a written agenda with briefs on each exercise and links to tools. In case anyone struggles keeping track of verbal instructions or the sound cuts out/ someone loses connection they can pick back up.
* Clarify workshop etiquette in advance (above)
* Make sure your laptop or computer is well charged.
* As above, prepare templates that people can work into
* Introduce tools at the start, so everyone knows what they’re doing and how (and isn’t afraid of making mistakes)
* Choose one facilitator per meeting to run the session, and assign when people should speak. Make sure to add this to your calendar invite or email invite.
* Lead facilitator
* Let people know the question asking etiquette, in the chat box or speaking
* Remind participants about muting microphone rules
* Assign a presenter and let people know to ask questions in the chat box or to ask to speak. Before the call, ask everyone to mute microphones before meeting commences and inform them about the rule
* Only share your screen to control focus (otherwise participants will scroll to other parts your presentation you may want to use after)
* Incorporate the tools you're using into the ice-breaker - so everyone knows what they're doing + how (and isn’t afraid of making mistakes)
* Note taker
* Ensure good documentation and recording of process and dialogue (for analysis, sharing forward, for follow up as appropriate/consider clear set-up on responsibilities and how to document and record)
* Copy and paste the group chat before the meeting ends. Often best to do this throughout the workshop as it is hard to copy and paste a whole conversation at the end
* Time keeper
* Have an agenda that is timed, and a chat box that is time bound
* For larger workshops, ask participants to write answers to questions individually, then hit respond at the same time
* Zoom has a feature for break out groups. These are great for also making sure different people meet over different activities, as you randomly allocate each time. Also good for small scale networking, being put in a group with 1-2 other people and given time to chat
* Send email to this if you have anything! [email protected]
Resources and templates
The resources you use really depend on the type of workshop you’re running. Be mindful that resources to train people in new software can be intensive and could mean you need more time. Some tools demand a longer lead time on prep and planning which may not always be available.
Good for: using with lots of people as it’s free software and easily available
* Google Spreadsheets for prioritisation/ categorisation
* Google Draw
* Google Slides
Good for: capturing feedback from large groups and organising (synthesis/analysis)
* Use boards to capture post-its
* Assigned people to cards before the meeting and asked them to gather what they needed before the call.
* Label any cards that we had to discuss. There's a Chrome extension called Trello Page Numbers that is helpful to say which card(s) you're looking at.
* Mapping. Here’s a Mural experience mapping template
* Brainstorming: Have another person with you to scribe everything on post it notes so participants can see. If sketching, get participants to email or slack pictures of their ideas to you, put them into [email protected] and have participants talk through their contributions.
Not so good for: those who aren’t familiar with the program. Use if the team mostly already uses it due to training time. If you’re onboarding, it’s worth doing basic training to get people feeling confident using it first.
Good for: ideation. Create post-its components, one color per person. Can create work session templates.
* Use Google hangouts as a default selection in your calendar invites so people know where to dial in to
* Use Zoom[a] if the call needs more than 25+ people in it and refer to our other guide. You can do break out groups in Zoom which are really effective for small group work.
Other platforms include
* Big Blue Button
* MS Teams
The book | Visual Meetings by David Sibbit
YouTube | Remote Collaboration on Research and Building Journey Maps by We Can Do Better
Judy Rees - Transforming Distributed Team Communication
Lisette Sutherland - Work Together Anywhere
Mural - The Definitive Guide to Facilitating Remote Workshops
Twitter thread sharing online working tips from Abby (running Mozilla Open Leadership)
Miro What I’ve learned from facilitating over 100 remote collaborative workshops
Specific workshop and tips for these
Types of workshops we’ve documented
1. Concept development workshops
2. Online meetings to make decisions
3. Introducing a new tool/methodology into a practice
4. Synthesis workshop
Concept development workshop
Purpose: to develop ideas identified through research
Participant number: small scale (2-15)
Resources: analogue materials
2 case studies: drug and alcohol, humanitarian aid
Sector: Charity, drugs and alcohol
Date: Jan 2020
What did you try?
A 3 hour workshop to develop concepts during idea development. We covered 3 activities:
* Data sorting (like card sorting for data)
* Journey mapping
* Crazy 8’s idea generation
How did you do it?
We ran the activities in 2 groups, a remote group and an in-person group, doing briefings together as 1 group. Remote participants were all in different locations and dialed into a meeting invite.
We pre-briefed the remote facilitator beforehand and all activities were designed using Google suite. We used:
* Google sheets to sort different pieces of data into ‘buckets’ but copying and pasting them into different columns (this was to inspire form design)
* Paper and pens for journey mapping (they held it up and talked it through then took a picture) we had a user scenario on the slides
* Google docs and paper and pens for crazy 8’s. People worked by themselves to draw, selected the best two and the facilitator captured the best ideas in Google docs
In the room we did the same exercises but with post-its and paper.
What was the result?
We developed our concepts based on the feedback provided and could involve people from frontline