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Moving online: how to make the most out of remote workshops with John Monks

For this edition of the Product Leadership Podcast we invite John Monks from Curve once again, where he talks to Tom on how to facilitate remote workshops and allow for creativity to flow – even when you’re miles away from your team. 🌎

We cover:

  • What to think about when preparing a remote workshop 🕵🏼
  • How to best utilise modern tech to enhance the experience (and not replace it) 🌟
  • Tips and techniques for keeping the energy flowing and people engaged 🙌🏼

Use the discount code LIGHTHOUSE2020 for 20% off any Curve workshops 💸

Download the workshop planning canvas 📜

Learn more about Curve’s workshops here 👀



Facilitating online workshops with John Monks

Tom:  Hey everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Uh, we have a guest back  again.  One who you may remember from two episodes ago is John Monks. Welcome back. 

John: Thanks. Great to be here again, Tom, even if not quite in the same physical location as before. 

Tom: Absolutely. Yeah. For our listeners, we were very close in our tiny recording studio in London last time.

And now we are doing this all online because since we last recorded our podcast, a certain pandemic hit the world and we’ve all been forced to work from home, which brings us quite nicely to our topic of today. So, uh, John works at Curve and they are workshop experts and it’s not possible to do workshops anymore. Is it? 

John: So it’s really interesting and still there are so many people who say that to me, not exactly that they say well, but what we wanted to do or that’s not possible anymore. So we’re just gonna, we’re going to wait. Um, and we’ll talk a lot more about this I’m sure, but I think now we’re four or five months into this and I think any, any business that’s thinking that they can continue to wait to do anything that is critical is probably not going to be around for much longer.

So I think we’re, we’re now beyond the stage of waiting we’re into, it just has to, it has to work. Um, and I think there’s a load of things that now we realise that we that we could do probably before, but now we can do much, much better. 

Tom: Yeah, definitely. We we’ve certainly had a few projects stall because that kind of online workshopping meeting stuff was thought to be impossible. But, um, other people have really embraced the fact that we can’t all be in the same room now and we’ve run some design sprints online. We’ve run all sorts of innovation, exploration workshops, which, you know, I’ll have to be honest, I’ve been a mixed bag. I think they’ve all gone pretty well, but you never quite know how these things are going to go and you never quite know how, um, how people react to it.

So I think what you’re gonna speak to us today about is, um, how has this changed and how can we adapt? And what can we learn specifically from you guys who have been doing this and, and adapting your business, I assume over the past few months, so it’d be worth starting off. Why don’t we run again, a tiny bit of background about Curve and for the people who haven’t heard the last episode, and then you can talk about how the landscape’s changed in recent months.

John: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah. Uh, Curve  is the company that I set up about three years ago now with Lizzie Shupack, she’s an amazing facilitator as well. We are a creative leadership company, so we have designed curve to enable people to do the things that they think are impossible to come up with great new ideas for themselves to solve their own problems. And we’ve always had workshops as our core products. So that’s been the way that we do our work. It’s always been the way we do our work and that has up until the start of this year meant going to rooms and running physical workshops, probably 95% of the time we were in rooms, working with people. And personally, I absolutely love that and I desperately miss it. Come March when we were all required to stay at home, everything changed. What was really interesting actually, was that we, we have had a client for the full time we’ve been in business actually called you. Eunomia they’re a really brilliant environmental consultancy. And we have been training their staff to run workshops as one of the things that we do.

I’ll tell you more about that later. And they had asked us to come up with a workshop that helps people to facilitate remotely. So this was for a sustainability purpose. But it was to do the kinds of things that we’re doing now, and that that ayou’ve been talking about doing yourself up until March.

Nobody bought it, literally opening even, Eunomia, hilariously who’d asked us to create it um, and from the back end of March, we were flat out with people asking us, how do we facilitate online? This is critical. We need to work out how to do it. So we have been spending a huge amount of time running our remote facilitation training, what we call the remote workshop workshop, and that’s been fantastic.

And, and we’ve now got into starting to get back into our, our business as usual as it were kind of once we’ve got through that peak, I guess the things are really, really interesting are. Yeah, what’s, what’s changed for businesses that used to use workshops and, and what’s changed for people, individuals that used to run those workshops.

And the, I guess the, the bit that comes to my mind is like when we were all thrust into our spare rooms and people sitting on the ends of their beds and the world having to suddenly adapt a few, a few things that happened that were really interesting. One was that in, especially in very large organizations, I.T. Departments started to say yes to things that were impacted the week before You know, things that had gotten the no treatment for literally years where like, I know, no, it doesn’t work anymore. Like I know we couldn’t use Zoom, but now we can use Zoom, and so I think that was a huge enabler. I think it was, it was great for the I.T. departments. It was great for the businesses.

Everybody got used to Zoom. They got used to being stuck in nonstop, especially big organizations, literally nonstop video meetings that played us through April. I would say. And that’s across the world at different times just happened. Um, and I think the world is now I kind of got to grips with, with the working patterns and you know, many people have found ways to make their spaces a bit better and. Also. So I think people have got more accepting of like, it’s fine if your kids open the door…

Tom: well that’s always happens for us. There’s always something happening in the background and it’s totally fine. Whereas before you, you know, people would kind of almost feel embarrassed about noise from, from the dog or whatever 

John: Absolutely Tom,  and I think I really, I think that’s one of the huge benefits of this is like, Yeah, this allows people just to not worry so much about those things. And for many of my clients, because I also coach teams and many of my leadership clients say, Oh, I feel like we’ve got to know each other as a team, a lot better. You know, that fact that we saw people’s kids every now and again, pop into this stream is, has actually created more of a connection. So that’s kind of an aside, but I think there’s been a lot of benefit, but. Yeah. And I think the things that have changed that like work has become quite transactional.

Like, you know, I have a bit of work, we have a core, I know that they told you to do something, I’ll send you an email, you do it, you pass it back. And the moments where people used to get into a room around a table and talk things through have, have evaporated for many, many people. And what that has meant is that the moments where you work co-creating have become less, less effective. I was studying still the majority of business, even though they’ve got used to the technicality of working online, they still haven’t found a way to really collaborate on that. And that will have long term consequences for them. 

Tom:   Yeah, we we’ve certainly found that. I mean, obviously we’re a kind of creative team and a big part of what we do, especially at any early stage of a project of which we’ve had a couple of kickoff. Um, during all this happen, there is that need to be in a room and get excited by something and, you know, meet someone face to face and put post-its on the walls and do all this stuff. And that that’s been a challenge for us. Uh, how do we make that an engaging environment? How’d you even replicate that experience. What about your works? What about it? Doesn’t work. And then there’ve been several surprises for us along the way then.

John: what, what things have you found have been good about it?

Tom: Um, I think the things that, that the biggest thing I’ve found that has been good is that you can still do it and still get really good results because you know that there was always a worry from my side that,  you move to doing that an online whiteboard or something along those lines for a kind of creative session where you’re trying to get something quite important, trying to dig into a, a difficult, um, problem, you know, that’s, that’s what we do. Um, Hmm. You do this and everyone gets bored. No one, but interacts. And then you’d kind of finished a couple of hours later. Yeah, I think, well, it wasn’t that a waste of time, uh, and obviously us, but the people facilitating that, um, Would be seen as a bit rubbish, but actually we’ve done it a few times and, and, you know, people lose steam, but that also happens in real world workshops. So I think it’s been really, really refreshing with the right prep and a bit of kind of tweaking of how works we’ve certainly come up with a way of doing this, that works for us.

 John: But that’s one of the things that, that I’ve been really excited about. Actually, I think what we are seeing now is that not only people discover what is possible, that they could, they can do what they used to do, but also that there are things that they couldn’t do. Previously that actually now they can do, or that would have been incredibly expensive or complex and now they can do it.

I’ve got a great example of this. I’m I’m currently co-chair of a charity called Action Aid and we’re a women’s and girls’ rights development charity. And we work across the world and we have been talking for a long time about having sessions with trustees around the world, getting people together. Um, I think we were talking for at least a couple of years about just when would it happen and who would go and how would it feel and where would the money come from?

And all of this stuff it would have had to always, definitely have been a subset of people. Cause it would just have been prohibitive. I mean, just never have a never happens, but we had exactly the same conversation in April of this year. We had the nothing had changed. The requirement hadn’t changed the fact that it was going to be digital changed everything.

And what it meant was in two weeks time, we had literally everybody, there were no, no shows. There was no cost. And we got everybody people sitting in Johannesburg, people sitting in their village in Botswana and me sitting in all the people in London. And it was, it was brilliant. And it was an experience we would never have achieved. I think. Had we tried to do it in the real world. 

Tom: Yeah. And that makes total sense that it we’ve seen the same that the client who we’ve done most of our sessions with recently are based in Scotland and before would have gone up there and got hotels and all that kind of, I mean, all this stuff that seems silly.

Now you think about it because why, why do you need to do it? And actually we had these great productive sessions where you, you chat to people on video calls before and after anyway. So what, why should this kind of creative environment be any, any. Different, I suppose, one, one benefit we have found actually, which has been really, really handy, certainly from my side is the ability to document what’s happening.

So when you’re doing stuff in person, we’re always chucking stuff on walls and writing, and you know, you take photos afterwards and those pictures just disappear into a Google drive folder somewhere or Dropbox or whatever. Actually. Now we have this like really lovely asset, which. It gives us a brilliant thing to revert back to and, and present and show it to people.

So that’s, that’s a huge benefit I found before. We’ve always struggled to turn those, those kinds of physical assets from a workshop into a digital one in the past. And actually now we’re just completely bypassing that. So it’s, it’s there ready for everyone to go back into and, and reference.  

So you were going to start with talking about, um, what’s going to change for participants specifically.

Is there stuff there that you could cover off? 

John: Yeah. I think there’s some we’ve already talked about, which is just the, you know, the, the ability to feel comfortable in your own home or your own office, or now some people going back into the office. I think actually that can be even more challenging for co-creation.

So it took into one of our clients the other day, and what they were saying was they got people back into the office, but because of their social distancing requirements, everybody still had to dial in to zoom from different rooms. That was like a really weird experience. Uh, I think that we’re going to get to a situation where that becomes more comfortable, but what we’ve got now is a situation where participants know how they can think about planning to create new things and how they can.

Think about solving problems again, and there are sure a lot of problems to be solved and most businesses now are really facing, even if they’re in a, in a good situation, like a, you know, I’m really pleased to say that Curve is a great situation as Lighthouse is too, but still you’ve got, the accounting will still have to work.

How’s this going to work? And then you world, you know, where are people going to work from? We need to work with this. So what is it that people can do to work in that way? And I think the, for the participants and for the businesses that have run workshops as a part of the way they work, it’s now starting to think, well, what is possible getting out of this sense of just making do I’m into actually we’re in a situation where there’s more possible now than.

What’s possible, but for what, so what does that look like? And being really thoughtful about not winding back to something that was worse, worse, worse for the environment, potentially worse outcomes. You gave a great example there of like, you know, the millions and millions of posters that littered the floors and the horrendous job of typing those up that some poor person had.

Whereas now the tools, I mean, that doesn’t happen, but I think you’ve got. You’ve got some things about, well, what was it, how will that look like? And what’s the form of it online. We found a number, things have really shifted for people. So first of all, there’s the ability to maintain energy. So as you say those, that was always the case, but we.

We have found that two hours maximum is how long people can truly focus on a video platform. And we would suggest 90 minutes. So where we’re thinking about workshops, that might’ve been a half a day or a day, you need to really take it apart. You need to think about, okay, well, what does that look like?

Are we going to do a morning and an afternoon? You know, a couple of hours each. Um, we talked last time about the value that there is in sleep. Um, and just how much the subconscious can process information. I think actually this way of working really helps sex. It’s very easy to say, well, we’ll do two for some afternoon and we’ll do nine till 11 the next morning.

And because nobody has to travel, that’s no more difficult than doing a half a day. It’s exactly the same. So trying to take that back, um, I’m thinking about the different ways that you can engage. And to go back to my actual eight example, you can then start to bring in people that you would have ruled out.

So many clients were saying, Oh, you know, we’ve got a client in Germany. I’d love to bring them over, but you know, we don’t have the budget, but now of course there’s no bringing people over. It’s it’s very easy. So I think there’s a huge uptick in people, really expanding. The geographic reach of their, um, of their work.

Tom: Yeah. That’s been really positive actually. Yeah. I mean the Scottish client I was referring to are oil and gas company. And so they’re some of them sitting on rigs in the sea, some of them are sitting in the offices. Some are seeing our homes. It’s just quite weird to have this like really big mix of people joining from all these different places.

It’s very interesting to see how it’s working. Awesome. Um, So that’s great for the people participating. Um, how would you think that things have changed for people facilitating and running workshops? 

John: Well, I think it’s been really challenging for lots of people. The majority of people who facilitate exactly like me really love the energy that they get in rooms.

Then we need like a human experience of why people. Became facilitators, I think in the first place. And so very experienced people were, were made uncomfortable and slightly discombobulated. And then people who were less, less experienced, I think it was just a kind of sense of panic. Um, and as I said, what happened, especially for the less experienced facilitators was that they kind of withdrew into quite sequential.

I’m just going to send you a task. We do the task, or they would focus very much on the technology. It’s been, you know, there’s been great technology around for a long time. Actually. It just, we weren’t really using it very well. That’s been huge focus on, you know, starting to use tools and teams, which everybody is using for video, but then also loads of ways to collaborate.

We love tool called Mural, which is a kind of virtual whiteboard tool. And many, many people are using Trello and they’re using Google docs and there’s endless tools for collaboration. Um, and there’s been huge amount of podcasts, videos, how to use blog posts that, that kind of instructing all of that. And that is brilliant, but I’ve been saying for quite a long time, that’s like having a huge amount of content.

That’s telling you how to use a post it note or the end of the day, the tools were never the workshop, if they’re all important. So I think it pushed everybody into this space of first of all, a bit of paralysis and discomfort. And then it’s all about the tech. I think in reality, that’s, that’s putting the cart before the horse is really going to the, to the wrong thing.

I know I kind of gave it a name, the online time period docs. This affect online where. Uh, people’s energy is just harder to keep. So I mentioned the kind of 90 minutes, two hours is as long as anybody can focus properly, whereas in a room you could keep that up for a half a day or a day with, you know, with the right amount of, of energizes and warmups and things.

So you’ve got to limit the amount of time that you could have. Um, and yet at the same time, everything takes a bit longer. So yeah, you’re. You know, there’s nobody that can be nobody now who has not had this, for instance, you’re on mute. 

Yeah. Yeah. It happens all the time, still tens and tens of times a day.

So you know, that even those tiny words, that’s, you know, two seconds added, uh, when you’re, when you’re moderating, you’re having to call people out by name and then they fumble around trying to find the mute button. And so at the micro level, every little thing takes a tiny bit longer. And then at the bigger level, actually there’s often things that really get in the way that kind of take it off.

So, you know, somebody’s wifi drops out or, uh, the tool you’re using freezes for a while or so many different things can happen. 

Tom: Yeah. We’ve had an entire whiteboards completely break halfway through a session and we had no idea how to fix it. So it’s just time to get a new one. Start again, kind of thing.

John: The lost at least 10, 15 minutes out of a. 90 minute, two hour session. That’s a lot of time. You’ve got this online time paradise. You’ve got less time to do things, but everything takes longer. Um, and at the same time, you’ve got this sense that you can’t really co-create, you can’t really collaborate. And I really wanted to kind of bust those two myths cause they are, they are myths.

Um, I’ve really got three, three big tips, I think for what people facilitators should do when they’re thinking about running workshops online. The first one is to go back to the beginning. So there’s a great temptation, I think, for people to take the format that they know and love and worked very well in a room and just move the whole thing onto.

On sort of an online platform. What you’re missing there is thinking about what was the objective in the first place and what did you want to achieve in your workshop? And if you go back to that point, you may find that there are lots of things that you can do differently. And I, and actually they may turn out to be better.

So thinking about the time of all, you don’t do it in one great big chair. So probably, yeah, our most common format was the half day. So, you know, four hours in a room. Maybe it was six for a full day. And what we do then is to break that up into multiple pieces, uh, actually turns out that can be really beneficial so you can do morning and afternoon.

Um, if you’ve got global audiences, you can pick a time of day when the most people can do it and maybe do two consecutive days take advantage of the fact that people can sleep in between. 

Tom: When you were saying earlier about that, the idea that you can break this up, because I think you’re totally right that before you’re all there and yeah, you’ve got to get it all done in one period of time.

And it’s like, we’ve got to have all our best ideas or thoughts or whatever it might be in this one time box workshop, but actually kind of sleeping an idea is, is something that’s really good to do. Like you don’t have your best ideas. All of a sudden in one go actually a bit of pause between without this kind of location constraint or need to be in a room together. It could be a really healthy thing. 

John: It’s very good. It’s very good. And what I’ve found, where we have taken workshops that we both have done in one session and spread them over a few days, we got much better results, partly asleep, poly as people go away and talk about it in between. So. Break it up. The other thing that you can do, which is great is start to some parts that workshop, and actually make the main synchronous.

So, you know, for example, you might have had the, of your presentation that starts at your workshop with a presentation that could have been a great, you know, an expert from your team or somebody from the outside or a user there’s no need now for them to be in the room, you can get that recorded ahead of time.

That has an additional benefit that, you know, Going to say the right thing, because you’ve watched it yeah. Ahead of time. Then, then all the participants can watch it whenever they like. And that’s, that’s really good. They can watch it whenever it suits them. You shrink the amount of time you need in the workshop and you can do other things, like give them little bits of.

No prep work to do. You can send them images to look at. You can give them articles to read all of this stuff that you might have done in the room. You can just try to, to break it apart. So I think there’s, you know, first of all, go back to the beginning. Think about your objective, then, then just start again.

Think about all the different ways you can do it. And there are loads of options. And then. The second tip was around the tech. So I think there’s been a bit of a frenzy of, Oh, look at all these cool collaboration tools. Of course they are advertising like crazy. They’ve got funding. Like you wouldn’t believe if you were running any kind of online.Collaborations startup so that they’re spending a lot more advertising. So we see an awful lot of it. 

Tom: It does become a verbal or something, isn’t it? So it’s bizarre. It’s quite funny being, we actually used it before all this, and then now everyone’s like, Oh, I’ve never heard of zoom. It’s like, Oh, it’s just another video platform.

But you know, fine. 

John: It’s pretty interesting. Isn’t it lucky, you know, my parents took, but they don’t know what it is, but they hear it on the news all the time. So I might feeling, I said already that. The technology is not the workshop like in the room and the tables and the post-its. So you want to be thinking, well, what do you do that makes people feel as comfortable as possible?

That’s what you would be thinking in the real world. And my tip would be. You keep it as simple as possible, whatever your objective is, you use the least amount of technology that you possibly can. So one of the brilliant things about it or being well-funded now, there are endless brilliant how to videos and blog posts about every platform out there. So you can miss something, an email with, you know, look at this clip. It shows you how to use it. Is the platform play around, make sure you have a login to get people used to the texts. Slowly and carefully to introduce it gradually in the workshops. Obviously now the video platform everybody needs to be on, but if you’re using a collaboration tool, we’d kind of start with a very simple exercise that might just be a warm up and then get more into complicated collaboration as you go. 

Tom: Yeah, I think that’s great advice. We, we, um, we chose the platform to use mainly because it doesn’t need user accounts. So we use Miro quite a lot for stuff internally, which is a brilliant, brilliant platform. Um, But we, I think we’d run a session or two with that or something else.

And just that time, obviously we could have prepped it and said set up your account on marrow. But, but we haven’t found that works particularly well in the past. Cause people just don’t do it. And so we use one where you just put your email address, put a password and you’re done. Like you don’t need to go through this validation thing.

So actually that means you can just be straight in there ready to collaborate. And it’s the only time you ever very, if use this software. So why, why have to go for it process, setting up an account, um, which actually worked really well and got rid of all that that was 10, 15 minutes, um, of the session saved.

Cause most people do it in two minutes, but there’s always a few who are struggling and you know, don’t get the email through and all this kind of stuff. So that worked really well. It’s just things like that. You never think it’s going to happen. And then you get them on the day and you’re like, Oh God, this is such a pain pain.

John: What I’ve really noticed is that. The speed with which people check out if the tech doesn’t work, it is incredible. We’ve had really, really, you know, the CTO of a digital agency come along to one of the workshops using it was, yeah, it may actually have been Miro struggled at the start with getting a posted note to work and really kind of almost, almost kind of gave up his reflection afterwards was like, I think this is the stuff I’m great at.

And I really, really struggled for a few minutes. So if that’s. If that’s someone who’s super digitally native, like imagine somebody who struggles that, you know, so I think you just be gentle or try and introduce it a little bit at a time of that, that suggestion you have of, of, you know, the stuff without counseling.

It really helps. I love Miro too. And it’s almost identical to mural these two white board techs really, really of both the louder. Guest users, no logins, just send a link. It’s really good. 

Tom: And we use what’s called idea flip, um, which, which allows you to celebrity quickly. So, I mean, it’s similar stuff, uh, and was introduced to us by our client who who’d had a similar issue with it.

I liked your idea of like a kind of a warmup exercise or something we’ve done as well. So kind of saying, you know, add a poster here, put your name on it, put another one there, delete that, you know, just, it really helps in. And I suppose being quite tech savvy as a team, we. We assume that people get this stuff, but you can’t underestimate that at all.

And he, like you say, even someone who you think is very technically skilled they do struggle with some, some, I don’t want to say basic stuff, but it’s just things you aren’t used to. So it’s always really sensible to make sure that you are giving a bit of grounding and making sure that everyone feels comfortable and able to do stuff before you dive into the bits where you really want them to engage.

John: Absolutely. No, I completely agree. So idea flip is one on my purse and my right head on my desk. So thank you for that. I do think, you know, with, with the, keep it simple, Uh, as a, as the headline on the technology, the other thing is, you know, assume something’s going to fail. It might not, but assume it’s something we’ll have, I have a plan B what’s going to happen if and my, my fault back is, is Google.

And I just think a really simple Google doc. Yeah, basically everybody can use. And as you say, if you make sure that it doesn’t have any access restrictions, then you’ve always got something you can fall back on. Definitely. We use a lot of, a lot of Google docs, just, just as the way, because it requires so little education.

So, I mean, I think those, those are. You know, the first two tips and then the third one for the facilitators is about our own energy. So it’s draining for participants. It’s also very draining for the people running the workshops. And I remember the first time we ran a, you know, a kind of complicated remote workshop, myself and my colleague Bonnie.

And before we did it, we sat down and we’ve run hundreds of workshops. I’ve run thousands and. We had a, we always get together 15 minutes before the workshop we checked in with each other as to how we were feeling. We were both very anxious, both worried about this. So there’s a level of anxiety that goes along with remote.

You know, that’s, that’s all gone now because it’s now mine, my native habitat. But to be aware that, um, there’s a level of stress about the tech that you wouldn’t have. You wouldn’t have before energy is something that, that varies. So given that as in the real world, keeping energy up really rests with the facilitator in the virtual world.

That’s exactly the same. So everybody’s experience really relies on you as the leader to, to kind of carry them with it. So you need to be in the right place in order for you to carry them. So what do you need to do? I. You know, some of them things are obvious, you know, get out in the fresh air just before the workshop, if you can make sure you’ve got water, make sure you’ve got some snacks.

And then, um, I often talk about workshops being pop performance, and I think I really do think they are that great facilitators turn up as, as a performer, as well as listening and synthesizing and all that great stuff. And if you think about what a performer does, you know, before they go on stage, they spend a moment.

Centering themselves, maybe they do a voice exercise, definitely to think about their body. And as we spend all of our times stuck, you know, behind our desk, in the spare room or wherever it is we’re working, it’s easy to forget that you need to take a moment center yourself. Brief. I actually. Right.

Everybody loves the best, but I, my kids have got a trampoline in the garden and I go and do like five or 10 banks. It’s just great. It just loosens. And my energy is boosted immediately. So whatever your parallel to that would be. But if you think about those, like what, what’s the objective? Go back to the beginning. What do you want to achieve? So what’s the, the least amount of technology you can use. And then what do you need as, as facilitator, et cetera, carry that energy you should on for a really great workshop.

Tom: Yeah. I really agree on that last point because, um, you know, if you’re not bringing the right kind of vibe, I suppose people are gonna notice that and you’ll see things rapidly drop because you’re keeping it running. You’ve got to keep people engaged. I think I might order a trampoline one, one, just side point on the silence because there’s one thing that I really, I really feel and lots of people do as well.

John: And you’re leading the exercises or when you’re talking online, there’s this very eerie. Silent, literally the silence because everybody goes on mute. Yeah. I don’t hear any feedback, so it can be quite disconcerting. And at the same time, quite often, people are kind of leaning into their screens and frowning.

So you might have a silence in the sense that everybody’s kind of frowning at you and it’s, they’re looking at some small details on the screen. So just. Be aware that actually, you know, get that. That’s not what people are feeling. It’s just the way their faces are. 

Yeah. Yeah. It’s such a different, um, Situation with body language and how people react is such a strange experience in many ways.

   Tom: I mean, I have, I have one question for you. It kind of ties into that. Whenever we do a workshop, uh, police say they usually go pretty well and people come out saying that that was great, which is fantastic, but I’m always concerned that is not going well. And you know, when you’re in the room with people, you can get that, that, you know, how you interact with people and get them excited.

And the body language and the rapport is so much easier to, um, to, to just take note of it at the time was happening. And like you say, it’s really difficult to do when everyone’s on me. And I’m always concerned when doing an online thing that people that I can’t necessarily necessarily see from a video point of view.

Cause I have a camera off or they’re, you know, they’re integrated and they’re off screen on teams or we’d spend a lot of time on teams and you can’t see everyone, all the ones all the time. How, how would you think it’s best to make sure that everyone is being involved? And, and is engaged in the session.

And, and what, what tips would you give a facilitator to kind of be, be more inclusive in, in an online situation? 

John: Hmm. I, I think it’s really, it’s the biggest worry we have. So, so we are the sort of our remote workshop workshops. So our training for facilitators, for remote workshops, we ask people what their biggest anxiety is and the number one after technology failing.

But the number one, which is about people is. Keeping people engaged by a long way. Everybody says that. And I think there are, there are two things to say about that. One is, as it was in physical rooms, the more what you do in smaller groups, the better that will be. Yeah. So to break people up into smaller groups, because then they’re interacting maybe with only one other person.

And that tends to be very energizing. Um, experience now that’s easy in two in zoom, um, for the other platforms or the other big ones, Hangouts teams, um, it’s actually possible. People think is not possible, but it is possible. It’s just quite hard to do so. Um, I would say don’t let that get in your way. You just need to put the preparation time in because everybody’s sitting in great big groups.

What you will get is people starting to check out they’ll. Start to deal. You know, there’s a great danger that people just start to do that email really lost. You’ve really lost people 

and who is a bit shy and retiring. It’s a way to, to, you know, to, to not be involved if you don’t, if you feel anxiety about that yourself.

And yet at the same time, what we hear from many, many participants who are, who would say I’m quite introverted, I used to hate workshops. They say, actually I love remote ones cause I don’t have to travel. I don’t have to do the smalltalk work. Um, so actually it’s in many ways really benefits, um, people who aren’t as outgoing.

I think it’s more of a challenge for the person who wants to be center of attention because there is, there’s no stage. Yeah. So I would say, yeah, break it down. Have a, um, if anybody wants to talk to me about, about using teams and Hangouts in breakout groups, we can talk about that. Cause it’s, it is a bit fiddly, but it’s possible.

And the second one, which is, I think probably the biggest pitfall for most facilitators is that they give exercises too much time. Yeah. So as soon as the energy starts to bleed, uh, often kind of, especially. Facilitators are one less confidence. They don’t feel like the work it’s getting done. So they give it a bit more time.

Whereas the real answer I believe is to give it less time. So human beings, especially in teams can do the most incredible amount of thinking in very, very little time, like many of our exercises or five minutes or seven minutes, I think probably 15 minutes is probably the max. For any, any exercise, cause we try to break them down.

So flip it around, break your exercises. I’ll make them interactive. And then what you’ll find at the end is a people won’t have gone to the email cause they just. 

Tom: Yeah, for sure. It’s too much to do. 

John: It’s too much to do. And then I’ll reflect at the end and say, Oh, I have no idea where the time. 

Tom: Yeah. Yeah.

And do you think on that front, I mean, that that’s really great advice and I think we we’ve experienced that as well and tried to cut down time to do exactly that. Do you think you’re actually kind of simplifying tasks or are you just doing the same sort of tasks you would have done before, but just in a, in a more time box to a smaller time period?

John: Typically that’s what we would have been doing in this. No, we’re already, we’re very fast paced. I think it’s just that I think people could get away with more in a room because what happened was to be cynical about it. If the exercise went on too long, people would just start chatting about what they did over the week.

Then they’d go and get a copy. It was, it was all fine. And because they wouldn’t typically get out of their laptop and start doing email, you didn’t have the. You didn’t have the challenge as a facilitator of literally losing people because the real world equivalent is they got bored with your exercise.

So they left the room and went back to their desk. That’s the exact parallel of what’s happening. So the challenge is way greater for you as facilitator, keep them in the room when the whole of the rest of the world is only. 

Tom:  Yeah. So that’s, that’s brilliant. I think it’d be really good to understand a bit more about what curve can do for people and how you can help.

John: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s been, it’s been a fantastic journey for us actually. I, I started off, uh, in Marsh getting locked down and feeling a sense of loss. Absolutely. About the ability to no, get out of there, get into the room and work with people. Mm. And now I think on balance, I feel great excitement because I think actually we’re probably on the cusp of some huge, uh, programs, but both at a mass level, everybody will get quite good at this, but also probably some technological and behavioral advances that we’ll need.

There’s some pretty awesome stuff. So Curve basically does two things. We, we help give people skills to collaborate and facilitate, and that’s always been through workshops and now it’s through remote workshops. So our best selling products you won’t be surprised to hear is the remote workshop workshops.

So our facilitator master class for remote workshops, so that, that gives people, um, Instruction in how best to design workshops, how to deal with people, how to think about challenging situations and some level of how to best use tech. We try to spend as little time on that as possible because actually the internet is full of how to use the tech, but just.

How to think about them. So that’s, that’s one we’re spending a lot of time, either working with companies in house, doing that, or run those monthly on open enrollment on a given brain. So as, as before, I’ll, I’ll give you a discount code. You put it in the show notes, have your list. So that’s what we’re doing.

And then the second thing we’re doing is, is actually working with. With client organizations. So that will be typically going in where they’ve got something that I want to achieve, like, you know, designing a new strategy or thinking about that roadmap for the next year, kind of creating for them a bespoke workshop.

And then we’ve got into working on bigger yeah. Events. So thinking about how do you bring together? 50 a hundred, 200 people in to larger cocreation sessions. Unless this, one of the areas that I think is very exciting because it was the domain of only the wealthy organizations that could afford to bring people together and afford.

The costs of the venue and all of the associated teas and coffees involve more than one country that, you know, I’ve seen, I’ve seen workshops that literally cost millions. If you add it up, travel accommodation people, you know, it’s crazy. And now you can achieve more or less the same thing. I do a really good job for.

You know, thousands, not, not a lot. So I think there’s a really exciting opportunity because it’s opening that world up. So things, you know, training kind of bespoke facilitation and helping people design that the really big remote events. 

Tom: That’s great, really, really interesting stuff. It’s, it’s amazing to see how, um, how all of this mad stuff that’s going on is, has really changed, um, business.

And, and I think there’s some. There’s there’s a lot of focus on the negativity around everything that’s happened in the, and that can’t be downplayed, but, um, but yeah, you’re right. There’s some really interesting, exciting opportunities happening. And some ways of working are really going to benefit a lot of people in the future.

John: Completely agree. 

Um, brilliant that’s been, really interesting as always to talk to you. Uh, there’s definitely a few tips there I’m going to use. Cause, uh, we we’ve talked about several problems that we’ve, we’ve been trying to overcome in the past, um, past couple of months, which are, uh, I think I’m going to put into practice.

I really, um, agree on this, not focusing on the tech thing and looking at everything else over the platform that use cause, uh, uh, post-it wound. Make your workshop better just as the tech platform use one, won’t make your online workshop better. Um, but yeah, brilliant as always. Thanks so much for popping in to have a chat.

Um, we’ll get all the details up on the show notes, but do you want to just tell people where they can find you online? 

Yes, we are 

Tom: Perfect. I would highly recommend you guys get over there to check out curve and all the work John’s doing. Uh, thanks for popping in. 

John: Thanks Thomas. Pleasure. 

Tom: Cool, 

John: speak soon!