How to Help New Participants Become Comfortable with Mural

Mural has yet to hit the mainstream, even with big players like IBM, Atlassian and Intuit adopting the visual workspace to enable their teams to solve big problems.

But using a new tool can be difficult. Time and time again I'm reminded of how every single person has a unique skillset when it comes to learning new technology and methods.

So how can you start helping new users to Mural become more comfortable with it, ultimately improving participation and enjoyment? Here's my three top tips:

1. Don't put all the risk into one workshop

Run workshops for clients? This tip will save you countless times!

I have on occasion started a workshop with a client, to find one, or even all of these dilemmas:

  1. their organisation doesn't use Zoom
  2. their organisation hasn't whitelisted Mural
  3. they don't regularly run online sessions

Connection problems make online workshops a non-starter! The way to solve these problems early on is to have a "tech check" or a "getting to know you" session. Having that around two weeks prior to your workshop can then tell you whether you're going to have problems connecting. Better yet, ask this much earlier on, as some organisations have very long lead times to make any changes.

Find these problems early on and then you de-risk your workshop, allowing you to get right to the content within the first few minutes.

2. Show how for participants to know how

Studies have shown that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained 50% of what was said.

Showing what participants should do as you instruct will help participants bridge the imagination gap from idea to writing on a sticky note.

I often screen share my Mural board, show participants what I would like them to do, and then stop screen sharing, to help force them to interact and complete the task.

Showing participants examples is also incredibly helpful. You're not giving them the answer, which is sometimes commented upon: You're offering an example to help guide them. Design Sprint activities shouldn't ever be a test on what people know. It should be an enabler to help your purposely selected team to contribute and help start solving big problems.

Show participants how to complete your activities and you will notice you'll receive less questions and achieve more participation than without.

3. Enabling engagement with the tools

I use a few key ways for users to start understanding how to use a Mural board.

I use check-in's to help enable team members to get familiarised with the board, whether that's about sharing some good news (hat-tip to Dominic Monkhouse on this one), or sharing a gif to explain how they're feeling. That makes for a more human connection I find.

An aspect that can really throw people off is how to navigate Mural. What I tend to do is explain that using Mural is "like using Google Maps. You can zoom in and out, and move around." That can help some people. A further device to point-out is the bottom right-hand corner outline map and the Move tool for those that really get stuck.

I think you empathise more when you start using a computer that's not familiar to you. I've heard stories where users may point blame to browsers (Mural recommend Chrome or Firefox), but you really start to see the issues participants may have when looking over their shoulder and yes, in real life! Mouse scrolls, clicks and browser interactions start to make more sense when you see it this way, so if you use a Mac, see how a PC users interacts and vice-versa.

Moreover, keep things simple to start with. Try using just one board, and build up the ability and the trust of the team by, over time, adding more features to your thinking.

Using these  tips can help kickstart your team into working well remotely, skipping past the pains that can impact connecting, participating and engaging with a future workshop.

What did you think of these tips? I would really appreciate hearing what you think - reach out to me on Twitter.

Ross works directly with founders & visionary teams.
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