Running Effective Remote Workshops – 5 Steps to Success

Written by Gareth Sully
April 2nd 2020

2 minute read

“Anyone who uses the word workshop outside of light engineering is a [@#&!]” Alexei Sayle 

Workshops sometimes get a bad rap: remote workshops even more so. But done in the right way they can add enormous value to your digital product development process. 

We have been running high-performing distributed agile delivery teams for over ten years, and workshops are part and parcel of our daily work. Our teams use them to unpack complex problems, explore multiple solutions quickly, collaboratively and creatively, and to help align on a way forward. 

A workshop, in its simplest form, is about interaction and the exchange of information. Post-it Notes are usually involved, along with scribbling on white boards, arm waving and pastry eating. Face-to-face works best, but with the right approach and the right tools, remote can achieve the same results.

Here are our five steps to success – with tips included: 

#1 - Define the purpose and get the right people involved 

 

Focus on the value: Make sure you define the purpose, objectives and type of output you are looking to achieve – with a focus on the value this will bring. No one likes an unnecessary workshop. 

Who and how many: Identify who needs to attend to achieve the purpose. Two to six participants from the client-side works well, more and it gets tricky. 

Make it fully remote: It often works better than groups of people dialling in and it levels up the playing field. 

#2 - Prepare, prepare, prepare

Agenda: Plan the agenda and communicate it in advance. Remote workshops work better with a more rigid agenda than a more fluid face-to-face meeting might have. 

Allow plenty of time: Remote workshops take longer than face-to-face workshops. Fact. 

Scheduling: Ensure the meeting time works for all, and that all participants can attend for the whole workshop. 

Homework: Send out any prep work that you need the participants to complete beforehand to help decision making during the workshop, reduce blockers and ensure full participation from all. 

Select the right method, approach and tools: Make sure all participants have access to the right software (and hardware, such as headphones if needed) and are primed on the approach if it is one that you think they may not be familiar with. 

Get your tools set up: Make sure your workspace is as pre-populated as possible and ready to share. 

#3 - Work that workshop 

Make everyone feel at ease: The aim is to create an environment where all feel able to contribute. Ice breakers work well. 

Set the scene: Run through the agenda, purpose, objectives and desired outputs at the start and make sure all participants understand the aim of the session. 

Two facilitators work best: One to run the meeting, the other to take notes, record actions and help with timekeeping and desired outputs. 

Cameras on: Encourage all participants to have their cameras on – it helps with non-verbal communication and encourages quieter members to take part. 

Chat channels: Ask participants not to use chat channels: any back-channel conversation may well be lost. 
Agree next steps: At the end of the workshop make sure all participants know what will happen next. 

#4 - Share the outputs  

Record and document the outputs: Just like in face-to-face sessions, capture the outputs and share them round. Then make sure you follow up on those next steps. 

#5 - Have fun!  

Just enough fun – get the work done too. 

If you’d like to learn more about how we run remote workshops or want us to help you build digital products that will transform your business performance, then please drop us an email at hello@mmtdigital.co.uk and we can set up a video call.

 

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