Pro Tips for Leading Remote Workshops

Brooke Katalinich
3 min readApr 14, 2020


Our IX team successfully piloted remote design sprints last week and we wanted to share our learnings. Additionally, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Happy to help!

Remote facilitation requires a digital-first mindset

Specifically, when weighing a mix of in-person and remote team members, we advise a fully remote team. This helps level the playing field to ensure everyone is viewing the same assets and hearing the same audio. Adding a mix of team members also brings up unnecessary logistical issues that fully remote teams easily solve, e.g. sharing of assets, digital capture, and collaboration. Once aligning on this team structure, let’s move our focus to the tools needed for a successful remote workshop.

  1. Leverage a virtual whiteboard as the container for the conversation.
  2. Video conferencing software as the vehicle for the conversation.
  3. Pro-tip: Prepare for tech issues with backup software options.

Best practices for onboarding your team to a remote workshop

  1. Design a pre-work activity that helps orient the team with the core functionality of the software, e.g. uploading, sketching, note-taking and commenting.
  2. We had one continuous whiteboard, consider having multiple boards to help ease navigation.
  3. Practice all activities ahead of time.
  4. Design the workshop conversation before streamline in-the-moment troubleshooting

Designing the conversation

Online facilitation calls for specific skills, e.g. sound and humor play an even bigger part in this environment to keep everyone engaged. Consider a workshop “safe word” to bring the team back on track. For us, we use maracas as props and “shake it like a polaroid picture” as our safe word for the team. This keeps things light and reminds everyone to have fun. Additionally, we incorporated an online Easter egg hunt within the virtual whiteboard.

  1. We continue to use 1–2–4-All as our primary ideation activity and have adapted this activity to build sketches utilizing Extra-Small, Small, Medium & Large time increments based on scope, e.g. 15-min, 20-min, 30-min and 45-min.
  2. A primary tip for any ideation is to create Breakout sessions within WebEx training for individual groups to jump in and out of.
  3. Another helpful technique is to nest whiteboards within the primary one to streamline the process.
  4. Lock the elements of your board that you don’t want participants to interact with.

Team structures, e.g. group, solo and mixed

  1. Sitting at your desk, logged-in for 7 hours is not conducive for remote workshops. Give your team frequent breaks for walking, refueling and general self-care.
  2. Additionally, when designing your agenda, frame a mixture of group and solo activities to help with workshop fatigue.
  3. On the final day, everyone is dragging and consider ending early. This will give allow everyone to come back fresh for synthesis & next steps.

Keep an eye out for the next article and thank you for reading. Comments and feedback are always appreciated.