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Facilitating Remote Design Workshops

9 September 2020

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The year 2020 has changed the world that we have always known. People cannot go out as much as they would like to, and offices have to employ work from home policies. With the new policies of working from home, remote design thinking workshops have become a necessity. 

Design thinking workshops bring values by collaboration and facilitate communication to gather ideas. An accurately prepared workshop can bring insightful thinking to the team and generate innovative ideas. 

For many people, facilitating remote workshops is a new concept. We are used to the idea of working with our clients and coworkers shoulder-to-shoulder in conference rooms and office corners, understanding their perspectives, feelings, and actions. But working from the home situation has presented a bit of a challenge to get together with colleagues and clients. 

To get the best outcome of their time, designers are looking for virtual workshop best practices that can help them run successful design workshops remotely. Here are a few practices to follow while hosting design workshops remotely:

Planning a Design Workshop

The first step in facilitating any workshop is to plan the events carefully. You need to make sure the workshop is not too long. Around 1-2 hours will be enough for a day. Otherwise fighting fatigue and ensuring engagement will be difficult. Another important thing is to know the number of participants. It will help you plan the activities carefully, and for larger groups, you may need to arrange multiple facilitators. 

There are multiple tools available online to ensure successful remote workshops. You can use Mural, Miro, Stormboard, etc software for whiteboards, and built-in tools for generating ideas on post-it notes, posting images, capturing notes, timekeeping, and dot voting. Encourage the participants to share videos for better collaboration and interaction. You can also use two monitors, one for chat windows and another for the presentation. 

Methods for Engaging Participants

Remote workshops are extremely high-maintenance. It is easy to lose people’s attention along the way, as they have more options to get distracted and disengaged. You need to focus on giving them special attention to keep the participants engaged. Here are a few tips:

  • Always Arrive Early: As a host, try to dial in at least 10 minutes before the workshop starts. This way, you can ensure all the tools work perfectly and the necessary documents are ready to run the workshop smoothly. 
  • Set a Few Ground Rules: If most of your participants are new to remote workshops, you need to set up some basic rules to maintain coherence. For example, you can ask them all to turn their videos on and mute the microphones of the ones who are not speaking.
  • Have Ice-breakers: People usually like to chat when they are not working. In video conferences this option is not available, so make sure you give people enough time to warm up first. 
  • Call People by Name: During remote workshops, you do not have the advantages of observing body language to understand the order of conversation. You can easily solve this by calling people by their names. It will keep them more engaged and clarify the order of speaking. 
  • Open and Close Well: Be deliberate about opening with a mental frame for your participants to understand the purpose, engage, and put the desired output to the workshop. Similarly, while wrapping up, make sure to close with a brief of what was done and the outcomes that have been achieved. 
  • Communicate Properly: Communication can be a major issue in remote settings. Make sure you communicate enough to build more focus and engagement. If necessary repeat important information over and over. Make sure everyone is following along. 

Ending Remote Design Workshop

Once the workshop is done, get feedback from the participants to identify what can be improved. The best part of remote workshops is that you do not need to take pictures of every board. You can just save them on a cloud-based application for later and that’s it. You can use the time to take notes on the feedback that you get, which is important. 

Facilitating a remote workshop is not a difficult job if you know the proper things to do. You need to remember that in-person workshops and remote workshops are two different things. Rules that can make one successful can bring trouble for another. So, a careful adjustment to the approaches can bring the best possible outcome.