For the past few years, Grio has offered User Story Workshops – often as the first step of a new project. In the past, these meetings were held over the course of two days in our San Francisco offices. However, since the move to remote work, we’ve adapted these workshops to an online environment. As we’ve transitioned, we’ve had to figure out just what makes an online workshop successful.
Tips for Online Workshop Success
After two years and dozens of workshops, we’ve discovered a few tips and tricks to creating a successful workshop in a virtual space:
1. Stick to the Agenda
A structured agenda is essential to keeping the virtual workshop moving. While this was certainly true for in-person workshops, we’ve found that it is even more important in the virtual setting. When there are a lot of ideas being discussed, it is very important to strike a good balance between allowing everyone to voice their opinions and maintaining momentum. To keep the meeting on track, we like to use two key resources: a strong moderator and a universal timer.
A good moderator is someone who is able to both keep an eye on the time and moderate the discussion. They should give participants equal time to speak while listening for when ideas start to get redundant, as this is typically a good time to move on.
A universal timer helps the meeting participants stay focused and motivated. We like to set a timer at the beginning of each section of the workshop or for each new discussion. Most team collaboration platforms, such as Miro, even come with timers built in so that everyone on the team can see the time remaining on their screen.
2. Keep Team Engagement High
Keeping people engaged is one of the biggest challenges of a virtual setting. Though engagement is ultimately up to each individual, we’ve found a few tricks that help keep overall engagement high:
- Remind participants to come to the workshop well-rested and ready to share their thoughts.
- Encourage all participants to keep cameras on. While we understand that not everyone likes being on camera, seeing the other participants makes it a lot easier to engage in meaningful conversations.
- Schedule frequent short breaks to give people a chance to recharge. Putting these breaks in the official agenda and having them noted on the timer keeps participants present and engaged.
3. Don’t Exhaust the Team
When the User Story Workshops began, they were held as two-day in-person events in our San Francisco office. While these days included social times for breakfast and lunch to break up the meetings, we were nonetheless exhausted by the end of the two days.
For the online workshops, we’ve pivoted so that we now have 3-4 meetings that are each about 2 hours in length. This gives everyone a break between workshop sections so that they can recharge and absorb the ideas being discussed. We’ve found that these “offline” times produce exciting new ideas and give participants time to refresh so that engagement stays high.
Benefits of the User Story Workshop
The User Story Workshop is the first step we recommend for any new project. We’ve found that this workshop is a great way to understand your project goals, get to know your team, and help both you and us understand what you really need.
With the User Story Workshop, you not only get to know what it’s like to work with the Grio team; you also get an insightful overview of your project that you can use with Grio, with another team, or internally.