Remote Sharing and Learning

Lots of technical people have spent time learning something on a computer. The idea of remote learning isn’t new to many of us that have watched events online for some time. Many of us have had the chance to watch some remote session from Microsoft, Redgate, or some other software vendor. We might learn online from some site like Pluralsight, or maybe we even attend some of the virtual chapters that PASS supports.

At this time, more of us than ever are remote from others, not just for learning, but most of our daily work, meetings, reviews, discussions, and more. Learning to be effective, and ensure you still perform at the level your employer expects, can be a challenge. I ran across a piece on how to run great workshops, which I think contains some good advice for many meetings, not just workshops or training sessions.

Much of the advice in the piece revolves around prep and practice. You should ensure your tools work, have documents available, ensure everyone can connect and access the technology. Things we probably should do for in person meetings.

We tend to do a lot of group work in my company, and I’ve found that being remote is sometimes a challenge. Everyone is now remote, which makes this more equal, and we’ve adapted well. I attend some of the group standups and reviews, where each team shares some progress. We’ve gotten good at switching presenters and keeping things on track, though this is more a one-way delivery of information rather than a discussion.

While we can share documents, it is hard to sometimes tell what other people are looking at or referring to when they are speaking. Asking them a question is helpful, but it can also be intimidating for some people to ask for clarification, especially if three other people have already asked at different times before. Communication is a challenge when people are remote, and over communicating can be important. Explain what you’re looking at or doing, and ensure you have a summary or a recording to re-watch. This can be invaluable in ensuring that everyone can access the same information.

I attended a conference a little over a month ago that used a shared whiteboard, which I thought was a great idea. I wonder if that would be useful in some of our meetings. Having someone take notes is good, but being able to review to ideas on a whiteboard is something I’ve often appreciated. I’ve used whiteboards to explain or clarify things in live meetings in the past. A virtual one might be nice to use, though with some easy way to tie together thoughts from different individuals. We sometimes group edit Word or Excel docs, but that often has us looking at different sections of the document, not the same one. Likely a communication issue, but still an issue.

We need to learn to get better and working together remotely. It’s a skill that will matter more and more over time. After this pandemic ends, I suspect many more organizations will adopt more remote work, which means more remote meetings. Learning to effectively present and absorb information from virtual events of all sorts is going to matter more in the future.

Steve Jones

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