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Part 1: 10 non-obvious tips for successful virtual innovation workshops.

Written by: Thomas Benaroya - Winnovate Program Lead

After (2) months of VIRTUAL delivery, we have tried many variations of running innovation workshops across public and private sector. Optimizing our delivery has been an iterative process: here are 10 non-obvious tips to successfully delivering applied innovation workshops virtually. Feel free to share with us some of your learnings or by email at saptdi.winnovate@sap.com.


The core technologies we use to deliver successfully include a combination of ZOOM and MURAL. In a nutshellWinnovate will host virtual workshops were the participants will leverage (2) platforms in parallel: 

ZOOM for visual, audio and chat communications. We have also used Microsoft Teams, in lieu of ZOOM, but have found that the latter performs faster with stronger functionalities for managing teams composed of internal and external participants. 

Mural for virtual “whiteboarding” where the traditional components of our workshop such as canvasses, sticky notes and prototype material have been migrated virtually for team collaboration.

In this configuration, we have been able to run workshops for up to (60) attendees with very limited performance issues. 


Winnovate Tip #1: Invest in an extra Screen

For optimal collaboration, my preferred set up is to have ZOOM with chat and video on my small computer screen and extend projection of Mural on my large screen. When facilitating, I will share my MURAL screen through ZOOM for those participants who are initially lost when navigating the virtual canvass. Participants that join our workshops though their laptop only, may find it challenging to navigate between ZOOM chat, ZOOM video and MURAL. 

Bandwidth allowing, we also encourage our participants to turn videos on for us to recreate that intimacy that comes with physical workshops. 


Winnovate Tip #2: Use a dedicated mouse or a track pad

Deploying a mouse, was the biggest ‘game changer for me in enjoying the virtual workshop experience. Pre-COV-ID-19, our extensive travel schedule for the delivery of on-site physical engagement meant that items such an extra mouse did not make it in the travel bag. The mouse will help for a much better experience especially for navigating in MURAL. 

As a nice to have, we would also recommend an extra external speaker or headset (for those who are joining from a child rich environment). 


Winnovate Tip #3: Navigate with Google Chrome

Given the number of participants on a call and the parallel use of ZOOM and MURAL, bandwidth and connectivity can become a concern. In our experience Google Chrome is the fastest browser that works best with MURAL.  



Similarly, to physical workshops, a good level of preparation is required in terms of agreeing on workshop agenda, understanding expectation and inviting participants. Whilst logistics has considerably been simplified; we have found that some technical arrangements need to be considered. Parking, coffee, room booking, breakfast have indeed been replaced with participants needing a smooth onboarding experience. For many participants, the array of digital tools may be overwhelming and kicking off the workshop may be considerably disturbed when participants have challenges accessing platforms and getting assigned to their teams.


Winnovate Tip #4: Form and communicate to the Teams in advance

Like in physical Design Thinking workshops, virtual workshops require for us to divide participants into teamsWhile physically, the teams can spread across the workshop space, digitally the teams will break out into digital rooms (Breakout rooms in ZOOM or Channels in Microsoft Teams). Especially, in workshops with a large number of participants, we recommend:  

  • To form teams in advance using the same criteria you would for physical workshops. 

  • To send a welcome note prior to the workshops to introduce team members to each other (if previously unknown) and to share login procedure to the tools you would be leveraging during the workshopYou may even want to get participants to confirm that they have successfully accessed the environment prior to the workshop start. 

  • ZOOM allows for participants to rename themselves. To further accelerate team forming at the beginning of the workshop, we ask each participant to rename themselves in ZOOM to include their team number in the prefix of their name. For example, Thomas Benaroya will become T1_Thomas Benaroya. 

  • In Microsoft Teams, after having created a Teams for the workshop we will create as many private channels as teams to allow for the various teams to breakout in their respective calls. 


Winnovate Tip #5: Schedule your workshops in chunks of (3) hours

We have found that beyond 3 hours we lose people’s ‘digital’ energy and attention. This constraint has forced us to redesign our virtual Winnovate Link approach in modular blocks of 3 hours. What physically would have run over a full working day, we now breakdown in (2) sessions of (3) hours or (3) sessions of (2) hours. As a silver lining, by going virtual: 

  • Ware no longer bound by geography and can save on travel cost 

  • We can leverage the time between the sessions to get our participants to perform fieldwork, to have conversations with their users and to test and validate their prototypes.  

Stay tuned for the next 5 tips, which we will publish soon.

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