Understand potential constraints (connectivity, equipment, skills) early
Facilitating a workshop via an online collaborative tool requires that connectivity aspects be taken into account and that participants have a stable internet connection. It should be noted that by using a collaborative tool such as Miro, it is possible to avoid screen sharing which can be difficult for sites with poor connectivity (connecting to the Miro board uses less bandwidth than screen sharing). Participant’s level of digital literacy will influence their ability to effectively participate, so be aware of the skill's limitations and the bias it may introduce!
Include end users in the design process
We are often surprised that we still need to explain this in 2021. Call it human centered design, the “design with the user” principle - including end users in the design process is key to designing for impact. If it is not possible to include end users - at the very least include tools that allow consideration of their perspective, for example, by developing personas.
Adapt the schedule to a remote mission
In a physical mission, it is much easier to get the team together after the workday for preparation / debrief. It is also easier to collect additional information. It is therefore important to take into account that the timeline of a virtual mission will often be longer than a face-to-face mission.
While this may be perceived as a disadvantage - this can also allow more time for review, and less participants fatigue. Keep in mind, you are not only often asking people to think creatively about new topics, but you are introducing new tools and methods - it’s a learning process, and that takes time!
Use pictures and other media to immerse yourself and participants
It’s easy to lose an understanding of context in a remote work environment. In order to counter this, you can ask participants to share pictures with you ahead of a workshop. Another alternative is to ask every participant to introduce themselves with a specific video background of their typical work environment. It works great as a warm up exercise, too!
Include clear exercise instructions
Exercises should be well structured to facilitate participants' understanding and orientation. Thus, we recommend that the instructions for each exercise be documented and that examples be included to guide participants. It's also important to give context to the overall mission and how an exercise relates to it - nothing worse than participants not knowing why they are being asked to do something.
Focus on simple exercises
The simplicity of the exercises maximizes participation and also facilitates documentation. Especially when we first started using the tools, we tended to make the exercises too ambitious! The flexibility of tools like Miro always allows for adding information outside of the defined framework, so it is better to start simple and evolve as needed rather than start with an overly complex structure.
The remote workshop requires that you map out the time for each activity and stick to it. Therefore, it is important to respect the timing to avoid running out of time or having unfinished exercises due to lack of time.
Also, ensure to include breaks and incite people to truly take them - it’s very easy to get distracted by your inbox or other urgent tasks.
Have an on-site facilitator as ally
Effective remote workshop facilitation requires a focal point in the room who can communicate directly with the facilitators during the workshop. This allows a person on-site to take the temperature of the room, to know if there are concerns about understanding or if participants' attention is waning and a break is needed. Ideally your ally should be trained on the tools used. This ensures continuity and clarification in case of connectivity difficulties.
Debrief after the workshops!
After the workshop, it is important to do a debriefing. On the one hand, this session allows for the collection of positive/negative points to improve the following sessions and on the other hand, this session allows for the planning of objectives for future activities and for making adjustments. Every group has different dynamics, and agility is key! It’s harder to gauge the success of a remote workshop, so make sure to include a quick evaluation.
Review / document directly after the exchanges
Ever had to go back and review notes from a workshop that took place several weeks ago? It's super hard! If possible, review the workshop notes directly after the discussion. Facilitators will be able to contribute missing elements with a fresh memory of the discussions. To facilitate documentation, it is possible to take pictures of post-its or the classic whiteboards used in the room, or even to use an audio recording in workshops with a lot of discussion.