Conducting remote design sessions with effectiveness and ease.

With the future of facilitation confined to the virtual realm, understanding the art of conducting remote design thinking sessions is more important than ever. As 76% of employees use video conferencing for remote work, facilitators must be able to drive engagement in their remote sessions. The trick is to bring the power of design thinking to the world of remote meetings. As you work to stir engagement in your team members, using the power of design thinking will help you harness collaborative engagement and reach your objectives at a faster pace.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to easily and effectively conduct remote design thinking sessions with the following topics:

  • What Are Remote Design Thinking Sessions?
  • The Challenges and Benefits of Remote Facilitation
  • 6 Steps of Conducting Remote Design Thinking Sessions

What are Remote Design Thinking Sessions?

The power of running a design sprint is that these sessions can be held anywhere–whether in-person or online. Remote design thinking sessions prioritize design methodology and focus on the needs of the end-user.

Remote design thinking sessions should focus on three main components:

  • Empathy
    • Participants must empathize with the end-user and the problems that they face.
  • Ideation
    • During ideation, the team develops several potential solutions to the problems at hand.
  • Prototyping 
    • Team members will create a prototype of possible solutions and test them.

The Challenges and Benefits of Remote Facilitation

Remote facilitation has its unique challenges. While conducting remote design thinking sessions may seem overly complicated due to its hands-off nature, it doesn’t need to be. Emphasizing collaboration and communication will help you conduct remote design thinking sessions seamlessly. 

While meeting virtually may seem like a barrier to engaging participants, it shouldn’t. Using the right strategies and tools will help you perfect this user-centric approach to problem-solving for remote facilitation.

There are many benefits to taking your design thinking sessions online. Conducting remote design thinking sessions makes it possible to collaborate with a more expansive group of people. Moreover, facilitators can assist more readily when working remotely. 

It’s best to face the unique challenges of conducting remote design thinking sessions with the help of an expert. At Voltage Control, we’re happy to help you navigate these virtual sessions.

6 Steps of Conducting Remote Design Thinking Sessions

Preparation and Planning

Preparation and planning are the essential first steps of conducting remote design thinking sessions. During this phase, it’s essential to identify the following components f your session:

Objectives 

As you plan your remote session, clearly identify the goals you hope to achieve. Ideally, you will design the overarching question or challenge you aim to answer through the session. These may be certain improvements you hope to make to a product or experience. 

Agenda 

The agenda will include the schedule for the session as well as the activities you will use. The key is to choose activities that will boost engagement. Popular remote design sprint activities include drawing and storyboarding via software like Jam Board. 

Location 

Your location is important, even when remote as the environment will determine how collaborative your team can be. Consider digital environments such as Mural or Miro for your sessions.

Materials

In a virtual design sprint, materials may include equipment like laptops, tablets, microphones, and other essentials that you’ll use to make sure your connection and meeting have a continuous flow. 

Get Our Yarn Weave

Use this activity to discover connections that emerge between group members through storytelling.

Yarn Weave

Introduction

During the intro of your session, you’ll welcome your team and explain your expectations for the workshop, objectives, and agenda. Use this time to put your participants at ease with an icebreaker or exercise that helps them loosen up. 

The next step in your introduction is to explain design thinking. This allows all participants to get on the same page with understanding design methodology. This user-focused approach to problem-solving is an opportunity to highlight the needs of your clients while exploring the best ways to move forward.  

Empathize with the User

The next step in conducting remote design thinking sessions is to empathize with your end-user. During this phase, you’ll encourage your team to adopt the end-user’s perspective. This way, they can start identifying the needs of the user and consider the most beneficial solutions. 

Remote facilitation should focus on activities like roleplaying or using empathy maps to understand the user’s feelings, language, wants, and needs. Be sure to check in with your team to gather their findings before moving on to the next phase.

Define the Problem 

As your team gets in touch with the user’s needs, now is the time to narrow down the problem. Team members may develop a problem statement to help guide the session and kickstart ideation.  

Defining the problem remotely can include a brainstorming session with breakout groups. Facilitators may benefit from having a co-facilitator monitoring participants’ responses and keeping track of all feedback. 

Ideation 

During the ideation phase, it’s essential to stimulate thoughtful collaboration. During this brainstorming session, it’s important to give your team free rein to develop the most creative solutions. Platforms like Google Slides, Miro, or Mural can help with online collaboration. Encourage your team to be output-focused as they use their time to generate potential solutions.  

Facilitators will find it helpful to be as specific as possible by indicating how many ideas teams should contribute. This way, you’ll avoid wasting time on useless chatter or technological minutiae.

Testing and Prototyping

In this phase, you’ll test the results of the ideation phase before putting them into practice. Testing and prototyping remotely require clear and concise planning.

Tools like Marvel, Keynote, Keynotopi, InVision, and ProtoPie make it easy to upload and share prototypes with others.  This way, users can try these interactive prototypes and offer feedback immediately. 
As the feedback comes in, facilitators should encourage real-time discussion about these interactions and prototypes. Tools like Coggle are excellent for brainstorming and visualizing ideas while Lookback can record and test users’ experience to make it easier to track insights.

Explain the Next Steps

As the workshop closes, it’s important to highlight the next steps for your team. During this phase, discuss your team’s final thoughts and takeaways from the session, as well as what action steps your team will take following the session and how you plan to put their prototypes to work.

Simplifying Remote Facilitation

Conducting remote design thinking sessions is an excellent way to improve cross-departmental engagement, accelerate ideation, and develop actionable output. With a thoughtful approach, a concise agenda, and a level-headed facilitator, your next remote session can transform the way your team works.

At voltage Control, our team of expert facilitators is happy to help you get started with a design sprint consultation as you take your sessions into the virtual realm. Whether you want to learn how to run your design thinking sessions or you want to hire a facilitator to do the work for you, we’re here to help.

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