A not so interesting little ditty into remote shows and tells…
Remote Show and Tells
In 2021, like most, we’ve been a remote team 99.9999% of the time. One of the common ceremonies we’ve held onto is the humble show and tell.
In our team we;
- have a show and tell every week (*well, almost)
- they are short (usually sub 3-4 min contributions)
- we almost always do the show and tell in 1 take. No getting together and previewing or spending hours constructing slides. It’s a mostly an improvised production, not a script to be seen anywhere but we do rustle together a slide or two
- we encourage everyone in the team to speak about their work
- we are happy to show works in progress
- ideally we’d “show the thing”
- sometimes people tell me to crowbar in random references or terms for giggles. I do my best.
- we film them ourselves and it is not live (so it is pre-recorded)
- we store the show and tells in a library (so easy to go back and watch each episode if one wanted to)
- every week we send out the link to the video (much better for sustainability than sending the entire file!) to a wider group of stakeholders who have skin in the game in the work we do, or they’ve professed an interest in watching them
In 2021 we;
- Completed 46 show and tells
- Average length of our recorded show and tell videos was 10 minutes and 12 seconds
- The total amount of hours and mins of the show and tells this year is 8.71111116667 hours
That is about 0.363 days of content!
Basically you could spend a full working day just listening and/or watching our updates. I’d probably say you’d have to be pretty hardcore for that.
Why even do them at all?
Always worthwhile knowing…
For our team we;
- have fostered a very transparent culture and we think sharing is good
- invite constructive scrutiny - making things open will make them better.
- want people to know what we are doing
- Sharing with each other is valuable. For example, I can’t know the depth of every bit of work we are doing at once. I like to hear smart colleagues being smart and telling me what they’ve done to achieve some outcome
- Sharing across the team, makes it feel like a team.
- It’s the same time each and every week, a target where you can motivate yourself to get something ready in time to show off
- It fosters accountability and trust - people know we do things, they know they can find a link every week to see us doing things and how far we have got
- It helps start more conversations, someone might stumble on work or being doing similar and ask about pairing up
- Good mechanism for the team to get credit.
As for the recorded nature of the show and tells I’ve begun to think they can be valuable for these reasons too;
- Good to link back to if something in a conversation relates to decisions made months ago
- Good for new starters to sample what we’ve been up to/sense the vibe of the team
- Helps people who might of not loved standing in front of peers and speaking, to record in advance and be more comfortable in their delivery
Think it is helping combat audience effect for some and makes a bit more of an authentic vibe. Nice chin wag with squad. Have to still create a mechanism to encourage feedback/scrutiny but can be done in tandem 🙂— Colin Pattinson (@ColinPattinson) August 21, 2020
Crucially, colleagues have a billion Microsoft Teams meetings to attend through most of 9am to 5pm. So having a recorded video they can dip in, short and sweet and know whom to go to, I think is a bit more sympathetic to their time
Being in person has advantages and disadvantages. As does doing it remotely. My reflections from the past year as a way to reflect and encourage iteration and change for next year.
Easy to ignore
Realistically, it is very easy for colleagues to just ignore them and not play them. Partly busy schedules, maybe content just doesn’t thrill them to watch. I’d say this is fine. We aren’t necessarily in the business of making hit content but sometimes the work we do might be very relevant to watch. Be good to find a way to, when relevant, get people eager to watch and signpost with some form of messaging of “hey, you might have ignored the past few weeks but this thing is very important to you directly”.
Lack of engagement means lack of questions/steers
In some ways it would be nice to get more feedback. I like answering questions and would hope we can articulate why/how we are doing things should someone pop up and ask. We don’t get a lot week to week. We get some, maybe that is great but I have a hunch more would not go amiss (a colleague might provide some insight we’d take weeks to discover for example).
Is video the best medium?
I have written weeknotes in previous jobs. They are good. Maybe take more time to construct. Video has its advantages as we hammer through a video in 10 mins then boom, recorded and shared. It is however possible that the commitment to click on a link to watch a video (we tell people how short it is in the email) is more than just reading a bunch of text and thus a little off putting.
I often am the compere for proceedings. I’ve noticed some interesting habits. I seem to sway back and forth on the video which I have no reason why I do that. Must change.
We definitely could also share hosting duties a bit more. We share who runs retrospectives so no reason not to switch hosts.
Overall, they are positive. We will keep them going. They fundamentally are most valuable to us as a team. The benefits they bring in bringing us together each week and sharing work in progress outweighs the cost of doing them alone. Nevermind their utility to others and the culture of openness and transparency they foster.
Note to others out there or future me: I would say if you are in a remote team, looking to make sure “showing the thing” in some regular format. Then short, recorded show and tells are a decent version of the ceremonies that can fulfil a need.