From toilet roll to remote workshops, we’ve had a few challenges thrown our way over the past few weeks!

But from this absolute worldwide emergency has come a new revolution, a new way of working that we’ve had to get comfortable with pretty gosh darn sharpish. 

The majority of our projects depend on a creative workshop – it is a vital step within our 4D process. Workshops are key in establishing buy-in from all aspects of your organisation, collaborating creatively, discovering more about your brand and audience. They are the springboard for your project. 

Perhaps most importantly of all, they’re inclusive for all within your organisation who want to be a part of that process – whatever it may be, from website redevelopment to rebranding and renaming projects. 

Remote workshops - challenge accepted.

There have been some times on past projects where we have been unable to get everyone together in the same room for the workshop or collaboration (an inevitable occurrence if you’re working with people across the globe). Where face-to-face meetings have not been possible we’ve used online collaboration tools to gather ideas.

We’ve used this prior knowledge and experience to 180 some of our most recent workshops into remote collaborative workshop, with great success… this is how we did that:

  • The first thing we needed was a way to keep our workshops interactive. As an agency, we pride ourselves on creative collaboration, we feed off people’s emotions and feelings – being able to include our clients on this journey is vital. 
  • A tool that we’ve been using for some time is Mural. We had used this online collaboration tool before, but it has really come into its own over recent weeks. We’ve really enjoyed using it and if you want to give it a go, Mural is offering tonnes of support at this time: www.suddenlyremote.co
  • We’ve hosted many workshops using this tool and we feel that we’re starting to get into the swing of things. We are now considering how we can bring a tool like this into our face-to-face workshops in the future.

A few things we learned...

Our Creative Director was challenged with completely re-working our carefully planned workshop agendas (with less than a week’s notice… eeekk) to ensure we could still gather the right information to move forward with our projects. The whole team was willing to help. We held a trial workshop with our team at Creative Sponge so we could test a few exercises and iron out any immediate technical problems. We had a lot of fun during this session and we completed a simple ‘icebreaker’ task using a Mural board and digital Post-its. It also didn’t take long until the team discovered some of the other functionality Mural provides (icons and font choices, you can also set timers and have voting sessions). 

As a team we’ve been trailing Microsoft Teams, but we needed another way to simply send our participants a link to a video chat. We used Google Hangouts as an easy way to chat and see a video of our participants. This also allowed our participants to dial in by phone if they were having issues with the platform or their internet at that time. 

The first thing to be aware of with remote workshopping is that there will invariably be technical issues! The other thing to note is that then proceeding to have conversations with each and every participant over the technical troubles they are having will derail your workshop, and waste time. Our advice is to have someone on dedicated support – this means they should be accessible by phone (I know, right? Phones – so passe). That dedicated person can get the participant up and running in no time and able to join back in with the workshop. 

The other simple, yet highly effective, thing you can do to maximise productivity in the time you have in your workshop is to hold a mini introduction session the day before the workshop. This will mean you can make sure everyone can log into Mural and everyone can access the phone call properly. You can use this time to introduce them to the functions available within your collaboration tool in a relaxed, no-pressure environment.

Set up some general ground rules.

Setting up some general ground rules is an absolute must to ensure the smooth running of your workshop:

  • Be clear about your timings;
  • Ask all participants to turn phones to silent;
  • Make sure everyone has notifications turned off;
  • Make sure everyone understands to have their microphones muted when they are not speaking; 
  • Schedule in a break;
  • Biscuits are a must!

Make sure your team have individual roles.

We also learned how invaluable it was to make sure that our team were all briefed into their individual roles within the workshop. We’ve found these roles to be key in our workshops so far:

The Manager

This person manages everyone in the workshop, making sure everyone is in attendance and runs through the ground rules before the workshop begins. They need to know the ins and outs of the session agenda because they will pick up in case the facilitator has technical difficulties. They can also make sure everyone is participating in every task and that all participants stay on track. 

The Facilitator

The facilitator runs the ins and outs of your workshop tasks, they focus on getting the right answers and conversations from your participants. 

The Back-up

Sometimes participants will be nervous to start contributing to your collaboration board immediately, so your back-up can kick start exercises and tasks. They can also group and tidy up the board as you go along (we’ve found it’s useful to designate this person with a specific colour Post-it note, so you know whose responses they are). 

Technical Support

Having a go-to person to sort out anyone who is having technical difficulties will ensure your workshop runs smoothly and no one gets frustrated. 

You will find there are many similarities to a face-to-face workshop: you still need to be prepared beforehand, the team needs to be fully briefed in, and you’ll still need your full workshop team to attend.

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We’ve had a lot of fun and learned so much over the past few weeks from remote working. We would love to hear from anyone who’s having similar or completely different experiences to us, or, to just have a chat!

 

Stay at home and stay safe!