Remote Creativity
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Remote Creativity

The Guide To Great Remote Workshops (Part 3/4)

What to do in the 24 hours before a remote workshop to ensure success

by Sebastian Mueller, Chief Operating Officer at MING Labs

The preparation of remote workshops needs special attention.

When people gather in the same physical room, doing some things on the fly is not a problem. The communication is much more comfortable, awkward pauses can be tackled with a bit of humor, and technical failure can be worked around with physical tools. None of that works well in remote settings. We strongly recommend being over-prepared to ensure a successful session.

Here are 4 actions to take the day or week before a remote workshop:

Test The Tools

  • How do the tools work?
  • How familiar and accessible will the participants find the tools?

You need to test all the tools you will use in the workshop. Practice setting it up, familiarize yourself with the capabilities of the program, and understand how the participants will use the functions.

The best way to derail a session that is flowing well is to switch to a tool no one can access. It’s a complete showstopper when people need to download software, deal with system permissions, and figure out how to use it.

“To avoid this pitfall, check in advance the access rights of the tools you plan to use in the workshop,” shares Dina Tagabergenova, Business Designer at MING Labs.

“Keep in mind to do some test rounds with someone outside of your organization.”

“This is important because your colleagues might have all access to Miro, Mural and so on without even knowing it. But people outside your organization (like your clients) might struggle.”

You also need to ensure that all the programs run on everyone’s machine. Make sure that everyone can install and use the tools you require — also from a usability perspective. The more familiar people already are with the software, the better.

Prepare Groupings In Advance

If you have group exercises on the agenda, which divide the participants into smaller groups, ensure that you have the groupings planned out in advance.

Getting people to form groups during a video conference is much harder than doing it in real-life. It will take much time and feel frustrating. It is much easier to announce groupings and move on.

If there are more than 5 participants in the workshop, a suggestion in this context is to keep break-out groups in remote workshops to two people. It will be much easier for them to find a way to collaborate and coordinate.

Every additional person will exponentially add to the coordination complexity of the smaller group.

“If there are about 2–5 participants in the workshop, it may not be necessary to create groupings,” says Elyas Munye, Business Designer at MING Labs.

Setup The Workspaces

If you are planning to use shared documents or shared online boards to collaborate, make sure to set them up beforehand.

For artefacts, such as personas or user journeys, create the outlines before inviting people to access it. You can usually also import templates, such as the Value Proposition Canvas, into those tools.

For exercises, they each have a typical format. Be sure to set it up as a template before the session with your chosen online collaboration tool.

Ideally, besides the structure, you also add instructions and examples. While you will surely elaborate on those during the session, some people more easily follow when they can read them in the tool.

Building Familiarity

As mentioned in part 1, one of the problems with remote workshops is that participants might be unfamiliar with each other. This problem should partially be tackled before the session by creating familiarity among the participants.

Open a communication channel (e.g. Slack or WhatsApp) before the workshop to allow people to communicate. Share everyone’s profile and background. Encourage people to share information about themselves as well.

The facilitator of the session should be familiar with everyone in attendance.

Try to speak with everyone beforehand. Learn more about them and also about their expectations. Understand how you can best include them in the session and leverage their expertise. That will also help you to prepare the right groupings.

Key Takeaways — 4 areas to prepare for before the start of a remote workshop:

  1. Test the tools to check that they are usable
  2. Prepare groupings in advance
  3. Setup workspaces: create outlines and structures for artifacts or activities you will be making
  4. Build familiarity among workshop participants

This is the third article of a 4-Part series on how to better host remote workshops. Click the links below to access our previous posts on the tools to help you succeed and how to craft a successful remote workshop agenda.

Follow us to stay tuned for part 4 of our series where we’ll share practical facilitating methods for hosting a remote workshop.

Sebastian Mueller is Chief Operating Officer at MING Labs.

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.

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Remote Creativity by MING Labs comprises specifically designed templates for remote collaboration, including step-by-step guides, examples, and auxiliary information to make remote workshops more efficient, ranging from ideation over strategy, to research and design.

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