The Guide To Great Remote Workshops (Part 2/4)
How To Craft A Successful Remote Workshop Agenda
Creating the right agenda is key to any workshop, whether remote or in-person.
To be frank — this is an excellent opportunity to revisit your agenda crafting skills in general.
We have seen too many workshops that simply plug together a set of regular exercises without a deeper understanding of their purpose. That is a sure route to failure.
What do we want to get out of this session?
When planning your workshop, the first thing you will want to clarify is the goal. It needs to be clear to both you and the participants.
- Do we want to create alignment?
- Do we want to develop new ideas?
- Do we want to discuss a particular topic and reach a decision?
All these goals are valid — but be very clear on what the expectation is.
Who will be present? What are some special considerations to make?
You need to reflect on who the participants will be.
- Is everyone from the same business unit?
- Are there differences in rank?
- Are externals getting involved?
- Is everyone in the same timezone?
- What is the background of each person?
Every agenda should take into account the people in attendance, to leverage their input to the maximum and ensure high participation.
What approach should we take to reach our goal?
With your overarching goal and insights about the audience, the next step is to think about the strategy.
- What is the best way to reach your goal with the participants?
- Should it be more collaboration-heavy, or more discussion-heavy?
- How will you take people along from the starting point to the stated goal of the session?
Adapting offline activities to the online
The methods are also where you will want to make the most adaptations. Popular offline formats, such as ice breakers, need to be translated into something remote-ready.
- What are the activities we would do in the offline workshop?
- How would these work in an online setting?
- Which do we need to replace, and how?
Instead of doing a round of “Two Truths and One Lie,” for example, you might want to have people describe themselves by showing three objects around them they hold dear.
Instead of ideation exercises that require people to pass pieces of paper around, you’ll want to leverage formats that can be executed through digital collaboration platforms.
The Agenda Items
What are the items we would need to cover?
After you are clear about your strategy, it is time to think about the agenda items — your methods. Here, be very clear on what input is required for each, and what output is expected.
A good agenda takes people from the start via clearly connected exercises that leverage each other’s outputs, to a final close with the goal achieved.
- What is the purpose of each agenda item?
- What input do we need to be successful with it?
- What output do we want to generate?
- How does it connect to the prior and subsequent agenda item?
Your agenda items need to have a clear purpose, and you should open them and close them well. People crave closure — and especially in remote settings, you will want to be very deliberate about opening and closing thoroughly. It ensures everyone is on the same page, moves at the same pace, and stays engaged throughout the workshop.
“Allocate time for each exercise, and allow buffer time for discussions,” says Business Designer Dina Tagabergenova, “in the context of a project, the agenda needs to be aligned with the project lead on client-side to ensure that you meet their expectations.”
Give breathing space and keep people engaged on the essentials
Is it essential to hold this activity in the online synchronous setting? When are the blocks of time where we can have a break?
Following along with a remote workshop is much more energy consuming than being part of an in-person workshop. The focus will deplete more quickly, and people will disengage earlier than usual.
Counter that by both planning for plenty of breaks and energisers, but also by planning for shorter sessions. Sometimes it can be beneficial to pause the meeting for a few hours (e.g., over lunch).
Think carefully about which exercises are best done synchronously or asynchronously. You could also take a ‘working break’ and leave people with a task to complete individually, and come back together afterwards.
Going for more than 2 hours in a remote setting is seriously challenging. Instead, split the workshop into multiple segments over a series of days, which also allows people to prepare better. This ensures that you get optimal levels of attention while in the session, and people can still tend to all the other digital distractions that pile on after the meeting.
Be Clear About Roles
What are the roles and responsibilities of each workshop attendee?
The final note on agenda crafting is that you need to be very clear about roles and expectations towards each participant. Clarify well in advance what you expect of them in terms of preparation, input, and support. Assign a timekeeper. Assign a note-taker. Ensure that presentations are prepared. Be clear about who runs which part of the session.
- What do we want to get out of this session?
- Who will be present and what are their goals?
- What are some special considerations to make for the people present?
- What approach should we take to reach our goal?
- What are the agenda items we would need to cover?
- Is it essential to hold this activity in the online synchronous setting?
- When are the blocks of time where we can have a break?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of each workshop attendee?
This is the second article of a 4-Part series on how to better host remote workshops. Access Part 1: 5 Tools To Make Your Workshop Remote-Ready here.
Follow us and stay tuned for part 3 of our series where we’ll explore how to prepare for a remote workshop to improve engagement and activity flow.
MING Labs is a leading digital business builder located in Berlin, Munich, New York City, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Singapore. We guide clients in designing their businesses for the future, ensuring they are leaders in the field of innovation.
Related Reading: A Framework For Measuring Innovation Efforts