I have always had a penchant for workshops, prototyping and sticky notes. Workshops help to solve problems by understanding the real needs of the people they affect. But how to combine workshops with remote work?

Here’s what I’ve found out based on my experience.

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1. Set a Clear Goal

What’s the purpose of your workshop? Whether it is to solve a specific problem, generate creative space or to use it for team building, figure it out and share it with the entire team. This way everyone has the same goal. Otherwise, it’s impossible to build something strong.

2. Make Sure Things Work Technically

Unlike traditional teams, remote teams rely heavily on technology to collaborate. Sometimes technology can delay, distort or interrupt conversations, which can break the ideation process and reduce engagement within a team. Although, if you come well prepared, double check all your devices and network connection, you’re good to go. Another tip: Work from a quiet environment to ensure that people using video chat could hear you.

I ended up having several test video calls with our remote members before, but I’m glad I did. It gave me useful insights what more to consider and keep in mind.

3. Select the Right Tools

Remote collaboration wouldn’t be possible without the right tools. Trello and Murally are awesome for brainstorming and ideation process. All of the elements can be dragged, dropped and clustered, just as they would physically. Google Hangouts is best when it comes to video conference and screen sharing. Skype is good too, but Google Hangouts is easier to set up and more suitable for our needs. In Teamweek, we are very fond of Slack as well. It’s irreplaceable for quick communication and also quite fun.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you use as long as it works and you’re comfortable with it.  It’s a good idea to get to know the tools beforehand, so you would’t waste time on it during a workshop. Otherwise you’ll loose your focus and flow.

4. Use Energisers to Keep It Going

Teams can face difficulties if they don’t know how to interpret silence in online conversations. Silence can be a sign that the other person is considering an idea, but it may also be caused by the delay or drop in network connection.

So, it’s good idea to pull out an energiser – a quick inspirational excise to engage your team. I asked everyone to bring something that makes them feel good. It could be a video, picture, piece of music or what ever as long as it can be shared with the rest of the team. It creates a warm and welcoming environment for everyone to share personal stories. If you’re interested in discovering more energisers, I suggest to check out Hiper Island Toolbox. They probably have something in store for each team.

5. Reflect Your Experience

Once you’re almost finished with your workshop, don’t forget to reflect. Team members now can express their thoughts and opinions on a shared experience. Giving and receiving feedback is vital in order to build trust and take with the key learnings of the session.

Here are the questions we used:

  • What happened during the experience?
  • What insights or conclusions can I draw from the experience?
  • What actions can I take based on what I learned?

After the workshop, summarise all the key points and create a written memo. Useful tools for storing and sharing information for remote teams: Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Pinterest.

Best of luck!

What tools and methods have you used for remote workshops? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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Triin Jassov

For Triin, skiing is a method of transport and basketball (which she played for 12 years) is a way of life. That’s probably why she lives in Norway and has taught teamwork via basketball at the Danish Folk University. Triin also has a soft spot for creativity and prefers to expresses herself via sketches. Don’t be surprised to receive a picture from her instead of an email one day!
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