During the Workshop
Facilitating a workshop is the process of providing guidance and context to the participants, while staying within time limits.
Once you’ve finished your preparations, set up the tools, and are ready for the workshop, you’ll take on your role as facilitator. Facilitating a workshop is the process of providing guidance and context to the participants, while staying within time limits. Getting everyone involved at this stage is key. Here are some things you can do to engage participants.
6. Introduce the Workshop
Kick off the workshop by thanking everyone for their participation and making sure that they’re comfortable with your recording the workshop session for future reference. Review the workshop plan and provide an overview of the activities. Don’t forget to book time in the agenda for this introduction, as well as some ice-breaker games.
Pro tip: Consider breaking down the activities into different recordings, so their output is not in just one massive file.
7. Lead Some Ice Breakers
There are multiple ways of doing this. Depending on the group you’re facilitating, the ice breakers might vary from simple introductions going around the table to each participant’s telling two truths and a lie, which most people enjoy.
Pro tip: Atlassian’s playbook offers a how-to guide for a nice selection of ice breakers that you can use.
8. Build Teams
Depending on the workshop methods you use, you might need to separate people into working teams. For example, if there were twelve participants, you might create three groups of four people. If you were creating personas, that would mean they’d create three personas overall—one per team. You could change group sizes depending on the number of targeted users for which you’re designing a solution and how big your audience is.
Pro tip: Try not to involve yourself or your back-up facilitator in the teams. You’ll be fully occupied with notetaking and managing the workshop. Make each group as diverse as possible by mixing different roles in the company.
9. Lead Activities
For activities, it is always a good idea to set a time limit and use a timer. Having a sense of urgency usually encourages the best results. If participants don’t finish a task within the allotted time, they might be able to use their break to finish. Make sure everyone feels comfortable with the activities and encourage self-expression.
Pro tip: Help teams by putting up examples of the methods on the whiteboarding tool. For example, if you’re creating personas, provide participants with both a blank persona template, as well as a filled-out template from an exemplary project.
10. Ask Questions and Provide Reminders
While the groups are working, take a look at their whiteboards to see their progress. Stop at the whiteboards of each teams and let them know you’re there to answer any questions. Watch the clock and give participants reminders at the halfway point and fifteen and five minutes before the end of an activity.
11. Reflect on Learnings
If possible, devote some time for the groups to present their findings to each other. This broadens their understanding of what other teams are doing and builds up their creative confidence. Reward a successful presentation with a round of applause, which motivates participants.
After the Workshop
Offer some closing words and evaluate the process the participants have experienced.
12. Do a Q&A
Asking participants whether they have questions at the end of a workshop is sometimes not as easy as it might sound. Be prepared mentally to answer tough questions such as: “How did this workshop help us solve our issue?” “Where do we go from here?” “How did this workshop help us toward creating a final solution?” Prepare the answers you’ll give in response to such questions in advance. The most important thing is to be brief, get straight to the point, and be confident in your answers.
13. Summarize the Workshop
At the end of the workshop, thank everyone for participating and summarize what they’ve achieved during the course of the workshop. Outline all of their activities and the insights they’ve uncovered. Be descriptive, but don’t take too much time for this. Participants are usually pretty tired at this point.
14. Ask Participants to Review the Workshop
There is no one rule for doing this. Each workshop is unique because of the variety of people who are participants. So you might take a different approach depending on the situation. If you send out a review form at the conclusion of the workshop, you’ll be able to assess the participants’ experience, which could help you fine tune your workshop process for the future.
Pro Tip: Use a tool such as Google Forms to get answers to your questions, which can provide you with extensive data from which you can derive a report.
Running a remote workshop is a difficult, but also an incredibly rewarding experience—for both your participants and the project team for which you’re conducting the workshop. Follow these guidelines to bootstrap your workshop approach and make sure you include all the necessary components to achieve success. You are now ready to kick-start your next remote workshop! Good luck!