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How we tackled our first remote workshop

Just like everyone else in the world, we are adapting to this new reality where face to face meetings and workshops are no longer an option, well at least for the next few months. Online collaboration is now critical to driving business forward.

During a time when there is so much uncertainty we felt compelled to keep moving, one day at a time. And that means figuring out new ways of working.

Facilitating workshops is an absolutely core part of our process. We simply cannot deliver the same value without gathering the wealth of knowledge and insights from our clients, it’s this knowledge combined with our depth of experience that enables us to deliver successful outcomes.

Last week we held our very first remote workshop and to be honest we weren’t entirely sure how it was going to go so firstly we have to acknowledge and thank our client, Mediateko for taking this leap of faith with us. While there were definitely challenges we left feeling positive and confident that we can in fact facilitate workshops online – winning. The workshop followed our creative collaboration working model, but instead of being in the same physical space we used Google Meets, Slides and Jamboards.

Outlined below are the tools we used followed by a few communication tips for holding successful activity-driven workshops online. Here is a video where I share the best tips for organizing a successful remote workshop.

Google meets

As a business we love Google meets, it’s how we host all our meetings, internally and also with clients. The video and sound quality is pretty consistent and it’s so easy to use. The workshop included eight participants and four key activities. Two of which required the participants to divide into teams to collaborate on tasks.

To do this, we created these two teams ahead of the workshop and set up three Google meeting ‘rooms’:
The master room where all participants joined
Team one labelled the Happy Hermits
Team two labelled the Lonely Wolves

Participants could easily switch back over to the main meet once the team activities were completed. As the facilitator I had links to all online meeting spaces so that I could check in on how activities were going and provide updates on time.

Google slides

We prepared our master presentation in Google slides which included very clear instructions for all activities and some rules for online collaboration. I controlled the presentation by sharing my screen with all participants.

Google Jamboards

Before this session I had never used Jamboards before and I have to say this tool worked really well. It was basically like having a big wall with sticky notes but virtually. Jamboard is not sophisticated or complicated to use. We create three Jamboard spaces; one for each team and one master board. Participants could add little sticky notes to their board when ideating individually and then easily copy and paste to the group board once done. The best part is that we didn’t have to decipher handwritten notes and felt confident that all ideas were captured online.

General tips

It is crucial to assign one person the role of planning and running the technical side during the workshop. Without this person I have no doubt that the online workshop model would be a complete disaster.
Next time I would allow more time for activities and more time for breaks. It was an intense three hours and towards the end our focus faded a little.
Create all needed links and boards ahead of time and make sure to include very clear instructions.

We went through the below creative collaboration rules before starting. This is part of our usual process however we added a few extra rules for collaborating in a remote environment.

Have fun.
Postpone critical thinking.
Quantity equals quality.
Build on each other’s ideas: “Yes, and”.
Be open.

Remote rules.
Be positive and assume positive intentions.
Mute microphone while not speaking.
Listen out for instructions from the facilitator.

That’s it! Hopefully this provided you with some confidence to run your own remote workshop but if you have any questions, please reach out. And if there is one thought to leave you with, it’s don’t stop moving.

– Megan Järvinen, Brand Strategist, Ahooy Creative