How To Nail A Workshop — 5 Things To Get Right
We’ve delivered workshops on-site and remote for a long time. Our hosts and facilitators share how to run them successfully.
by MING Labs
How Do You Craft A Conducive Workshop Environment?
Jason: Whenever we do workshops, we invite the client to come to our workspace to get them out of their comfort zone. So we set it up nicely, including key elements to make the workshop function.
It’s important to set everyone at ease and make them feel relaxed. We have breakout rooms, whiteboards, post-its, an open airy space and provide a relaxed environment, starting the session in the couch area. It’s not very corporate and we sell that quite well at MING.
When translating workshops to a remote setting, we have to mitigate elements that don’t work.
When I’m on video, I try to recreate at home what we have in the office: Post-its on the wall in my dedicated home office space and so on. It’s good to dress the part, ready to go. The client can see that extra effort, and it’s important to maintain that level of trust.
Verena: To avoid unnecessary interruption during the workshop, provide some rules beforehand or at the start. Some common ones are to mute yourself when you are not speaking, and setting a practice on how to bring up questions during the call.
How Do You Coordinate The Different Roles People Have In A Workshop?
Verena: Have a definite role distribution that it is clear who is leading the workshop, who is documenting, and so on.
Jason: As a Project Lead, my focus is on facilitation, planning, and making the client feel comfortable. For designers their focus during a workshop is instead more on getting the content and message across.
Dina: Also, always keep an eye on the time. Have a timer or allocate this task to a person who will watch the time.
What About Pre-Workshop, Any Tips For That?
Verena: Preparation is important in an on-site workshop, and even more important in the remote setup. Be super well prepared, have a plan B and be able to improvise! This means having the detailed agenda, prepared boards, all content prepared.
Dina: Make the effort to prepare a detailed agenda. I like to do two versions. One version is for the workshop participants and shows the timeline and key activities so everyone knows the plan and schedule for the day. The second version is for the facilitator team. It includes more details about the exercises, indicates the owner of the activities, what tools are needed, and of course the time.
Prep is everything. The workshop will only be as good as you prepare it.
When hosting the workshop, always introduce the objective of an activity before starting it and end up with a summary of what we have achieved in the activity.
Lena: When planning a workshop, share clear expectations of it and what the client can expect by the end of the workshop. If you have, show some prototype examples for fidelity.
Understand the goal of the workshop!
Is the workshop for research to learn all about the client’s knowledge that will help you later on the project? Did you already do a discovery phase and plan to create a first prototype? What do you want to get out of it and what does your client want out of it?
The Mood And Energy Levels During The Workshop Can Make A Big Difference. What Are Some Things You Do To Manage That?
Jason: An on-site workshop gives us the freedom to move around in the workshop space, and the people that facilitate can spread the energy. In a remote setting, it’s very static, so we have to think about how to fix that.
I try to keep up the energy and make sure people feel that. For the Project Lead it’s about being smiley, keeping the line of communication open. Be vocal, and talk the most. For example, I can say “Hey person x what do you think? Do you agree/disagree?” and change the dialogue.
In remote settings especially I try to make people feel comfortable.
We tend to shy away from making comments that stay forever, so I want to challenge people’s opinions and thoughts but also make them comfortable enough over video to trust us.
Dina: Start the workshop with an energizer to warm up the team before jumping into some more challenging activities. I recommend to make breaks every two hours to give people time to recharge. Nothing is worse than running activities with low energy.
As A Workshop Facilitator, How Can We Engage People Who Might Be Quieter?
Dina: There will be always someone in the group who is a bit more shy. Pro-actively ask the participant to share their opinion. Often it’s good to ask the person somewhere in the middle of an activity, rather than forcing them to be the first or last one. Dot-Voting tools are also great to include the opinion of everyone in the group.
Lena: I recommend voting tools as well (for example when everyone has 5 dots to vote with). There will always be less prominent people in workshops (remote and real-life), and these tools help to make their voice count when you are making design decisions.
Related Reading: The Guide To Great Remote Workshops (Part 3/4)