10 Practical Tips on How to Run an Effective Remote Brand Strategy Workshop

Brand Strategy (Strategy) is our name for the discovery process we run to unlock hidden knowledge in the minds of our clients. As a remote design studio, this poses some immediate problems on how to run an effective workshop when you aren’t in the room.

It’s important to say that every detail discussed below is client dependent. These won’t necessarily apply to all clients so discuss with them what they are comfortable with. This guide can also serve to answer questions like “Ways to improve Voice over IP (VoIP) quality?”, “What are the best times to schedule a meeting?” and “How to run a VoIP meeting or workshop?”.

Brand strategy workshops tips

Brand strategy helps us maximise the value of delivery and narrow our design efforts by asking key questions right at the beginning of the project. We’ve written an article on what Brand Strategy is so we won’t bore you with that. Strategy can run for at least four hours if pushed for time but it can also run for days. It depends on how many people are in the room and how many voices need to be heard. We look at things like brand positioning, brand architecture, users, business goals and more.

Discovery workshops run best when you can motivate people to be hands-on and energetic as they participate. Strategy requires active participation from key stakeholders in the organisation. This means post-it exercises and creative thinking all-round. As a facilitator, you also need to be aware of the energy levels in the room and be able to read people easily enough to spot the tell-tail signs of fatigue. It’s good to be aware so that you can call for a break or engage a particular participant to bring them back into the room.

1. Break it up

Break up the workshop for an effective remote brand strategy workshop

You need to be pro-active in your approach to minimising fatigue, maximising energy and increasing engagement. Rather than push attendees until they are tired, we reimagine the discovery process so that they never get tired in the first place. After some testing, we found attendees start to tire after about 1 hour of workshopping over Zoom. We took a look at our Strategy workshop and have now broken it up logically into 1 – 1.5-hour segments. This enables us to get everything covered without losing context and before attendees tire. We suggest breaking your workshops up into logical chunks while keeping context.

How you break it up will depend on whether you’re in the same time-zones or not. Most segments are run once a day but if you are in a similar time-zone you might be able to run it several times in a day.

A benefit to meeting each day is that the chit-chat at the beginning of the call often involves catch up on the rest of the previous day. Because of this, we feel like we were all part of each others entire day. Each day we bond and grow as a team over the course of a week which puts us in a better position going forward and as ultimately we have a better relationship right from the beginning.

2. Homework

give client homework for an effective remote brand strategy workshop

Not necessary in every workshop but homework is also something we offer. Some of the tasks in the workshop are quite frankly repetitive. An example being user personas. If we can clearly facilitate the first persona then that is often enough for the participants to build out the other personas without our involvement. We could oversee the second persona for instance with little input and leave the remaining 1 or 2 to the participants.

The other benefit of having homework is time. Depending on the client, we feel having a 1-hour touchpoint a day can leave all involved twiddling their thumbs a little. A session that could run over 1 or 2 days is stretched out over the course of a week which could be less than ideal. With homework, this isn’t the case and the session remains productive outside the call.

3. Invest in good quality hardware

invest in good quality hardware for an effective remote brand strategy workshop

It’s hard to engage your client so make sure they can see and hear you as if you’re in the room. Use HD camera with a decent microphone. The best according to many studies is the Logitech C922 Pro Stream. This enables 1080p streaming. An added bonus to this webcam is that it has fantastic stereo audio. It also has a wide viewing angle (78-degree) to capture a decent amount of you.

If you’re wanting better quality from your audio then invest in a decent microphone. Blue Yeti Pro USB Condenser Microphone is often rated very highly and is simple to use. With built-in noise cancelling, stereo recording and you don’t need a USB audio interface and it will just work right out of the box.

4. Choose time wisely

Choose time wisely for an effective remote brand strategy workshop

Choosing the right time of day to run brand strategy is very important to maximise productivity. Obviously being remote you sometimes don’t have that luxury as you might be in different time-zones but we should discuss this nonetheless. Monday’s aren’t great for meetings and neither are Friday’s as they are both impacted by the weekend. On Monday’s, people are still thinking about the weekend and are in “weekend mode” and on Friday’s, people are gearing up for the weekend so might lack focus.

Try to avoid mornings

We need our participants engaged and energetic in brand strategy as we require active thinking and participation. It’s creative too and some attendees might not have a creative bone in their body so will require being tempted out of their comfort zones. In the morning, people are still sleepy and this is not good.

Mid-mornings are ideal

People are most energetic in the mid-morning so utilising this burst of energy is recommended – 10am is a great time. If you’re running one brand strategy session per day, then running it at 10am each day is perfect. If it’s not your 10am, bring your A-game! One thing to be conscious of is running close too lunch. People can get hangry (hungry + angry) just before lunch so finishing at around 11:30/45 is ideal.

Lunchtimes can work

As long as you provide food you can run a meeting over lunch. It’s a great way to squeeze in some more time and can help post-lunch productivity if food is chosen wisely (sandwiches and salads come to mind. Avoid stodge) as explained below…

Don’t schedule meetings straight after lunch.

I think this goes without saying as we all know how we feel after a big lunch. Unless you run your brand strategy over lunch and you can somehow control peoples consumption.

Late afternoon isn’t ideal

People are clock-watching from around 4:30pm so finish up by that. It could be a great time if you’re doing introductions or need to rattle through some loose ends as people will be wanting to get home so could be achieved in record time.

In conclusion, have your brand strategy at 10am between Tuesday and Thursday as people are energised and focussed. If you’re running several in a day, try to avoid having more than two and make the second at around 2:30pm.

Consider evenings

Depending on the profile of the company, you might be dealing with busy senior staff. As with all brand strategy sessions, you should be running it with the C-suite stakeholders. You need fundamental information and most importantly, with regards to brand, you need buy-in. If they are busy, float the option of an evening or before work (if they are hyper-productive). This can even work for time-zones that don’t sync up so bear that in mind.

5. Prepare your client

Make sure your client knows what they need for the session. Post-its? Pre-call considerations (such as competitors). Think about what you would need from them in the room and prepare them before the call. We do this in the meeting invite as well as verbally. In our case, we do introductions on the first call so nothing is needed. This gives us an opportunity to tell them what they will need going forward and to look to the invites for further information. Then we, of course, provide information in the invites.

6. Have good Wifi in a quiet area

Have good wifi for an effective remote brand strategy workshop

I think this point goes without saying. VoIP calls are bandwidth-intensive so make sure you and your client(s) have good Wifi. Book a room so that it both looks professional and people aren’t moving around in the background and most importantly, make sure it’s quiet. If you have an ethernet connection, this is far more reliable than Wifi, so use it.

Also, bonus tip – try not to have the call in what can only be described as a cave!

7. Have backup options if disaster strikes

One reason why we use Zoom is that it gives the client WORLDWIDE teleconference capabilities. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and a good old fashioned phone call is necessary. Having that option and being prepared to be a little more descriptive with your workshop activities can reduce time. With Zoom, clients can call a local number to attend the session.

8. Record the calls

If you have a terrible memory or your handwriting is poor consider recording your calls for future reference. We create a summary document of the brand strategy call and although we fill out the keynote as we go along, we sometimes need to clarify something or add additional context or information. If you have recorded the call you can simply go back over it and watch for the information. We then share our calls on a privately hosted Youtube. This not only saves storage on our computers but is easily accessed by everyone.

9. Clarify your instructions

Clarify instructions for an effective remote brand strategy workshop

If you’re giving instructions always clarify if they make sense and give your client the option to speak up. This is just polite during a meeting especially if acronyms or industry-specific terminology is thrown around but especially in VoIP calls as the call may have dropped and not everything will have been heard.

10. Stand Up

Stand up to give an effective remote brand strategy session

This sounds strange but you need to give 50% more energy on a video call to get just 10% output on the other end. Help generate that energy by standing. Get the blood flowing and don’t allow your body to get lazy.

So there you have it. 10 considerations for having a productive remote client discovery workshop. We offer brand strategy workshop after a free 1-hour consultation – just contact us on our website. Give it a try and let us know if you have any tips for remote discovery calls.

Photography lovingly used from Unsplash