Let’s Go digital for Design Workshops !

June 11, 2020 Back to listing

It’s official, Live is the new fav! Remote meetings have never been so glam.

These past few months, we have witnessed people’s imagination kick in action, organizing remote events such as after works, game nights and even weddings! The possibilities seem to be endless, do they? On the other hand, should not we try to establish a threshold for the kind of meetings that are “remotely” acceptable [pun intended] and those that are not?

This is what brings us to the following interrogation: Can Design Workshops be held remotely?

Such a concept elicits more interrogations than answers. Some might say it’s all about being resourceful and creative. Others might be more skeptical and rightfully so, doubt the results of this venture. After all design workshops are paramount for implementation projects to run smoothly and deliver a solution that fits the client’s needs and requirements. Let’s not forget that they play a part in customer’s satisfaction further on. The bottom line is, design workshops are important and one cannot afford to conduct them halfway.

Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, one might need to rethink and reassess the ways things are done and how they could be. Such an endeavor is not without its challenges and drawbacks. Thankfully, there is a plethora of tools that can be used to achieve this feat.

One of the difficulty of facilitating design workshops remotely is the feeling of disconnection when it comes to gauge the participant’s facial reactions, expressions and understanding of the matter being discussed. Indeed trying to read body language through a screen is not an easy task. Thus it’s essential to incite the participants to talk, get their feedback, to keep them engaged. To achieve that, let’s consider our options:

Rethink the format and agenda – Less is more

Day-long sessions might need to take a backseat to leave some room for shorter sessions. A good start would be to split the duration of the design workshops in different slots of 2 – 2.5 hours each per day. The attention span is a key factor and too many long meetings have been proven to be taxing. The objective is to keep participants interested and have them willing to attend the sessions and not discourage them up front with excruciatingly long meeting that take most of their agenda for the week.

Keep the audience engaged and talkative - You snooze, you lose

Now that the sessions are shorter, we still need to focus on participant’s engagement. Though it is remote, interactivity still remains an important factor to keep a hold of participants’ attention.

  • Whiteboard functionality

Some application propose a Whiteboard functionality, which enable participants and presenter to communicate and exchange ideas during the session. Some subjects being covered in a specific session might require added visual explanation or examples. A good virtual Whiteboard is a good as any real one in those moments.

  • Clarifying questions

Let us agree that the old adage “One who is silent is taken to agree” does not apply when leading remote design workshops. Taking time to ask clarifying questions and confirm the participants’ understanding is critical. It is a change of pace compared to in person design workshops where facial expressions and body languages can determine when a subject needs clarifying. For remote design workshops pace is essential and no amount of paraphrasing will be too much. The objective is to make sure the participants’ are paying attention and they understand the different subjects so they can in return communicate, share their requirements and interrogations if they have any.

  • Quiz

What better way to keep the energy flowing than a quick round of quiz to assess the participants’ understanding and provide your audience with a respite with some fun activities?  The quiz can be a transition between sessions. The main objective is to keep the audience energized and open to participate. There are different application to choose from if you want to create your quiz such as Beekast, Kahoot, Klaxoon…

Adapt your content – Steep but steady

It is not an easy feat and probably require the double amount of preparation than if the workshop were held in person. Since it is split in different shorter sessions, your demonstrations must be done in that specific 2,5 hours or 2 hours slot. Moreover, consultants need to be clear and inquisitive enough for participants to engage, communicate and share about their requirements as per what they understood from the subject. The participants must engage, their feedback will help to constitute the content of the solution they are paying for. However, they can only do so if they understand the subject at hand and if the demonstrations done are helpful. It is up to the consultant to provide the participants with the tools and resources that will help them to understand the main concepts so they can in turn communicate effectively about their requirements and pain points. It’s a two way street. The difficulty resides in being as efficient as for an in person session in a shorter time period remotely. Surely, distance should not be a hindrance to quality and clients shall keep receiving top expertise and excellent service even when they are miles apart.

Fortunately, not everything needs to be reinvented, there are still some aspects to leading workshops that ring true and cannot be replaced.

  • Preparation

Preparation should remain a must such as being familiar with the contractual agreement stating the scope for the implementation project, mastering your supporting documents and slides that will be presented, knowing your demonstrations in and out. Certainly, the exercise is different since the design workshop is held remotely but in essence, the objective and deliverables are the same.

It goes without saying that the approach is more challenging and daunting. With that being said, it should not be a reason to run for the hills. Remote events are not a foreign concept and have become ubiquitous with each passing days. Following that line of thought, digital design workshops do not have to be such a farfetched idea and who knows might soon become our new “normal”.

Par Myriam Phillipe, Consultante SIRH, Mercer everBe