7 things I learned about Remote Workshop

2020 has been a turbulent year for me… and for many. I started the year with a medical leave and just when I was slowly recovering and getting life back on track, the world got hit by Covid-19, which ultimately put everyone’s lives into the unthinkable chaos. Because I live in the Epic Center of the country, you can only imagine the texts and phone calls I’ve received from concerned family and friends. Thankfully, I’m safe and healthy. In fact, I am one of the lucky ones to have the privilege to work from home and carry on with life. So here I am, picking up my *pen* again. This time, I wanted to start by sharing what I personally learned from using Webex and MURAL for remote workshops this past week.

So what’s my relationship with workshops? I have led, supported, and participated in many of them over the years — some took place during a short lunch break while some lasted for days. Workshops are fun but intense. They are not lectures where people can just sit in, listen, or space out. They require deep listening, active participation, and constant collaboration. Although remote workshops did exist pre-Covid-19, personally, I didn’t want to explore that option until now. The reason being… I treasure the personal touch and face time. With the need of social distancing, whether I like it or not, it is time to learn how to do workshop remotely! So here are 7 things I learned this past week:

1. Familiarizing with the tools

We know we all come from different backgrounds but it is when you work remotely, the differences become more clear. We all have different levels of technical knowledge on tools and perhaps internet speed at home. It is important to set aside a quick 30-min training session prior to the actual workshop day, so that every participants are familiar with the tools they will be using. Some of the things to look out for include if people know how to screen share, how to mute/unmute their lines, how to use (insert the tool name), and etc.

2. Setting expectations

Just like any in-person workshop. It is very important to set the right expectation in the beginning. It is even more important to do so because people’s minds can easily wonder when working remotely. They can easily check their phones, emails, or even sign off since it’s not an in-person training. So the workshop needs to have clear goals and setup so that participants can follow through accordingly.

3. Connecting people

Ever been to a conference and connect with the person sitting next to you? I met most of my professional networks through in-person small chitchats in conferences or meetups. People go to those events not only to learn but also to connect. It’s important to start the workshop (or even prior to the workshop) by helping people connect with one another. A workshop is like a team sports, you need people to work well together in order to have a good session.

4. Finding individual workspace

One of the issues I observed while using MURAL was the lack of individual working space. When a workshop is done in person, we can individually write our post-its and then share with the group but when we’re working on MURAL, people are hesitant to write up their post-its because others can technically see what they’re writing. So finding that individual workspaces for participants are important. It’s okay to ask participants to open a notepad first and then copy/paste their answers back to the post-its when it’s time for group share.

5. Opening chatroom for 1:1 questions

Have you ever raised your hand to ask a question in class? Many of you might answer yes. But there are also times we will need to have a 1:1 side Q&A time, especially during the quiet time when people are reading the prompt or sketching individually. The constant interruption would not be ideal during individual work time. When it’s in-person setting, it’s easier to raise/wave your hand and get facilitator’s attention but it won’t be the same during a remote session. So it’s important to have a chatroom open and allow participants to ask questions without disturbing others.

6. Repeating the prompt

Believe or not, people don’t have the same attention span when it’s a remote workshop. It’s very important to have the prompt re-stated and broken down into pieces to guide participants through the workshop!

7. Taking breaks

To run a smooth remote workshop, you will need to adjust the schedule. People will not be able to stare at the screens for 3 hours straight without losing their attention. It’s important to set more frequent breaks to ensure participants can stay engaged.

These are some of my quick learning and observations from this past week. Will share more of remote workshop experiences as we continue the journey of fighting Covid-19! May all of you stay safe and healthy during this unprecedented time we live in. Take care world!

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