The hidden power of online workshops

Working virtually can be more efficient, more effective and better for your team.
Bahar Shahidi
Bahar Shahidi
Senior Strategist

At the start of lockdown, one of the most common concerns we heard was how remote working would affect workshops. How do you build rapport and energy? How can you get the same flow of ideas with everyone sitting at individual screens? What if it’s just too boring? 

Having now delivered virtual workshops over the past seven months, we’ve often found them to be more efficient, more effective and better for our clients’ teams. Why?

It’s an efficient use of time and resources

Without the commitment of a full or half day out, and no limitations on room size, anyone who needs to be there can attend – on client and agency side. When people generate ideas together, particularly at the start of a design process, they feel aligned and listened to. So they’re far more invested in the project and its outcomes.

No travelling and quicker set-up times mean it’s possible to workshop in smaller, manageable blocks. We’ve run successful sessions in just an hour, making them practical for clients to fit in their diary. This ‘little and often’ approach helps tackle specific topics and removes the boredom and drift of a long workshop.

And generally it’s quicker to get through. Moving immediately between exercises, breakout rooms and brainstorms removes the ‘waiting around’ time of a face-to-face session.

An unexpected advantage of online tools is they’re surprisingly fun.”
It brings people together and helps them go further

We’ve been using online whiteboard tools like Miro to bring teams together and collaborate visually. It’s quick and easy to add ideas, move things around, duplicate templates and categorise responses. This functionality is more powerful (and a lot faster!) than using paper Post-Its and worksheets.

An unexpected advantage of online tools is they’re surprisingly fun. Being so visual makes them interactive and engaging, like exploring a new game. And, with features like built-in voting systems, you can gather opinions and keep people interested.  

With everyone focused on the canvas and its content, we’re finding that the process feels more democratic. By removing the dynamics of an in-person meeting room, many of the obvious signals of seniority fall away, creating an environment where everyone’s ideas feel equal.

We can think far more freely and organically follow trains of thought.”
It encourages freedom of thought

Far from restricting ideas, working together online encourages better creative thinking. There’s freedom for ideas to grow when you’re not limited by sheets of paper, wall space or a 16:9 PowerPoint template. This flexibility means we can think far more freely, easily adapt to the flow of the workshop and organically follow trains of thought.

Lockdown and remote working have forced lots of new ways of working upon us. We initially thought the loss of face-to-fact contact, especially with our clients, would be the biggest downside. But by using the tools available to us, and careful planning, we’ve been able to run incredibly useful and meaningful workshops – so much so that virtual has become our preference. 

If you’re interested to know how this approach could help you, email Gemma or call her on 07919 202 904. 

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