So, one of the new ways of working that I’m getting used to is facilitating a workshop online: an emerging and highly valued skill. Not only it is helping in the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, but also contributes to reducing my overall carbon footprint as I will be able to travel less and still deliver support to clients.
Getting to this point has been a steep learning curve: not only was there the research into which online collaboration software to use and exploring the pros and cons various alternatives of various online meeting platforms. Then there is the trial and error process of getting up to speed with its features in order to seamlessly facilitate (and then write up) the workshop session.
Why online collaboration software? Well I wanted this session to be as interactive as possible, encouraging participants to write, use virtual sticky notes and engage with the ideas behind the strategy we were discussing. That meant enabling the participants as much as possible to control the conversation. I was also thinking more long term: much of my work is participatory and I wanted to ensure that any solution that I put in place was not just for a locked-down Covid-19 world but had application more generally for my work in the future.
Having settled on the technology I gave some thought to the actual session: how to run it, how to ensure that no one was left out. What about participants who dialled in rather than used their computers?
There were two key approaches that I used:
- I called out people to respond to points, issues or comments. That way no one felt left out and no one dominated the conversation; and
- I made sure each person in the session was acknowledged – they knew that I was aware they were there and part of the call.
I also acknowledged that this wasn’t a perfect situation and that things might go wrong. That we would all have to help each other to work through the session. This helped to manage expectations and technical challenges and made those people who were less tech savvy feel more comfortable on the call.
I was happy with how the workshop went and the client was also very happy with the results. I’m keen now to do more online workshops and participatory sessions – because actually, it was fun and engaging.
What has your experience of online workshopping been so far?
By the way: I use zoom for online meetings and I use mural.co for collaboration – there are other options out there, but these two suit my purposes.