Facilitating client workshops – online!

As a digital-focussed agency, we’ve been fortunate that COVID-19 hasn’t had a huge impact on our day-to-day work, other than missing the human interaction of seeing each other in the office. 

But one area has proved difficult to replicate online and left us wishing we could all get together with hundreds of post-its for a face-to-face collaboration session – our client workshops. We’re sure all-day zoom client workshops would send anyone into a daze, so we’ve been trying shorter, more focused sessions to keep the conversation flowing. 

Our Account Manager Christina Smith has put together some lessons she’s learnt along the way when facilitating client workshops online:

1. Prepare.

Avoid fumbling through the session by prepping beforehand. Decide who will say what, take notes, present their screen etc. Be sure to send an agenda out with plenty of notice so everyone can prepare, understanding exactly what to expect from the workshop.

2. Be flexible.

Ideally, you’d get loads of useful info in one session – but in reality, attention spans are so much shorter on video calls. Stick to shorter, more focused sessions with clear goals (ideally no more than 2 hours). Plan what you aim to get out of the session so everyone stays on track.

3. Welcome Technophobes.

Not everyone will feel comfortable with the use of technology on these calls, so do your best to relieve any anxieties. Check beforehand that everyone knows how to access the meeting, and once it’s started, do a quick run through of how to mute yourself, where to write comments and so on, so people feel at ease.

4. Who’s in the room?

Find out who’s going to be on the call and plan the best way to manage introductions. It’s useful to share info about your team members ahead of the meeting so you don’t need to go into long introductions and use up valuable time.

Note: Icebreakers don’t work if there’s 20 people on the call!

5. Look at your camera!

This one seems so obvious, but in practice is really unnatural – many people typically try to make eye contact by looking directly at people on your screen. Stick a post-it or photo next to your camera to remind yourself where you need to focus. 

6. Beware of oversharing.

Be conscious that every time you share your screen it is focusing the view on your slides rather than being able to see each other. If you don’t need a slide on the screen, then turn off the presentation and allow some face-to-face interaction. Always make sure you turn off all notifications when sharing your screen too – you don’t want private messages being seen by the whole room.

7. Team work!

It’s important that online sessions remain collaborative. Using tools like Google Jamboard allows everyone to access a digital whiteboard to share ideas in real-time. Prepare a Jamboard before the meeting to check everyone can access it, then ask attendees to add to it during the session and discuss their thoughts. A great conversation starter. 

8. Share the spotlight.

Having one person leading the entire session can be tiring for all. Split the workshop into sections and give everyone in your team a role to fulfil. This keeps the energy high throughout and is more engaging for everyone.

9. Make use of helpful tools.

It’s important to decide what VC features will work best for the session. You may be fine with just sticking to a screen-share or asking people to write answers in the comments box. However, for a larger group, Zoom has a helpful feature where you can split everyone into smaller breakout rooms for more manageable discussions. Make sure you practice this before the meeting!

10. Look professional (even if you don’t feel it!)

You might be in your kitchen surrounded by piles of ironing, but this is still a client meeting, so time to act professional.

Dress as you usually would for a client meeting, make sure your background is clear of clutter, find an angle with good light and keep background noise to a minimum (if your screaming children will allow!). Always keeping your microphone on mute if you’re not talking is a good tip I find.

Although we’re nearing the end of this weird time of our lives, our teams will still remain at home for the foreseeable future. Our HQ is open for those who need it for the occasional meeting, IT support or a change of scene – but at a limited capacity, in-line with social distancing guidance, to keep everyone safe.

Throughout this period we’ve continued to design, think, innovate, and invest, concentrating on how we can help our clients survive these testing times and come out of the other side winning. We’ve got some exciting announcements to make in the near future and we can’t wait to share the news with you, but for now read-up on Apadmi Life here.

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