Remote Workshop Hacks: quicker and more purposeful introduction rounds

Remote workshops operate in an entirely new scale of time. When you are running a workshop (on Miro, Mural, or your collaboration environment of choice), the ability to seize a few seconds or minutes is way higher than in real life.


Introduction rounds for workshops take a bit of time. They are supposed to work as ice-breakers, but they are often not. If you are talking about 10 people on a session, you have often the following events:

— The person who tells their entire CV as an introduction,

— The person who derails and tells what they are working on at the moment,

— The person (often the PO) who starts telling what the workshop should be about,

— The person who not paying attention at all,

— The person who is on mute,

— The question of who introduces themselves next.


All these little incidents take valuable time from your session. They add little value to people who already know one another, especially (think about it: in a session where half of the people already know one another, half of the introduction time is virtually useless).


In order to turn the introductions into something that adds value to the workshop itself, I have developed a little hack that you may implement easily in three steps. Here it goes:


Start the workshop by displaying a full list of the participants' names and titles/organizations/roles in the project of all participants.

This should be prepared beforehand. List the participants in alphabetical order of surname to make it flat, and detach the facilitators so people know who are the go-to persons for questions, off the bat. This will allow people to quickly glance at everyone who's there and learn their roles and background, basically seamlessly.





Now, ask participants three things: to introduce themselves, to share what they expect the outcomes of the workshop to be, and to appoint the next person to do the same.

In this manner, people are encouraged to use their first name only, as it is redundant to reinstate their surname, and thus making the atmosphere less formal.

This list also establishes a convenient and intuitive order of who will talk next. Nothing kills the mood of a session as awkward silence ensued by the indecisiveness about who's next.


Encourage people to appoint the next on the list, as this accelerates the bond between people (a relation between two people is always strengthened after one calls another by their name).


Now, about the expectation each one has towards the workshop: this is an invaluable resource for you to be able to stir the discussion and the outcomes towards the expectations of your participants.


Lastly, start the round of introductions yourself.

Even if you have already introduced yourself, you may lead by example. This tells the time you are willing to spend on that, the level of detail that you, as the facilitator, wants to dedicate to this activity, and the tone of voice (more formal, or less formal; more diligent, or more relaxed) you want to approach.


I'll go first. I'm Sérgio, and I will facilitate the workshop today. My expectation today is that we identify a concrete problem to work with during the upcoming sprint. John, you're next!


EXTRAS

If you want some extra flavor, my colleagues at Idean have used some of these excellent ice-breakers: asking each one their spirit animal, for example, is an enticing way of getting insight into the personality of each participant. Idean has developed several principles for remote working with our Create from Home guidelines, so if that's your current challenge, do check it out.