Remote Event Storming challenges from a facilitator's perspective

Mateusz Palichleb

18 Apr 2024.19 minutes read

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Have you ever thought about conducting an Event Storming workshop remotely? Does it make sense and is it feasible?

As SoftwareMill, we are a 100% remote company, and the clients we work for are scattered around the world across different time zones. Organizing an on-site Event Storming workshop in such a situation would be difficult and costly in many aspects, primarily logistical. For this reason, we conduct both remote and on-site sessions, depending on the situation. Nevertheless, conducting Event Storming workshops remotely is our default choice.

The experience we gained from many sessions led us to some interesting conclusions. It turned out that remote workshops were feasible in a way that eventually brought value to our clients. On the other hand, it was more difficult for us than its original on-site counterpart.

As part of an initiative to share knowledge about tools and techniques around Domain-Driven Design, we want to show you what challenges we faced when choosing a remote variation of Event Storming. These difficulties are slightly different from their counterparts in on-site workshops, despite their high similarity.

It is worth adding that these will be reflections from the perspective of the facilitator - the person who coordinates and moderates the workshop session. In practice, it is the person who has to face these challenges. The other organizers can, for example, provide technical support for a moderator to record the session, back up each stage of the workshop, etc.

If you have no intention of facilitating, nothing is lost! This article might as well expand your knowledge of the technique by looking at it from a different perspective.

Check all the articles from the series:

Top 4 remote Event Storming challenges with the highest impact.

We are committed to making the most of the time and budget allocated to the Event Storming workshop. It is worth tackling the challenges that can have the biggest impact on the value delivered to the client. Only in the second place can we address less important problems. Therefore, we have selected challenges based on our experience in conducting workshops.

In addition, examples of solutions to a given problem are proposed under each challenge. These are, of course, only a few of many possible solutions, the effectiveness of which depends on many factors, such as the tools available and the goal of the workshop chosen by the client. So, there is no holy grail that fits every scenario. If you would like to learn more about setting specific goals for Event Storming workshops based on your needs, please check out this article.

1. Keeping participants' energy levels stable.

Statistically, people can maintain a full state of concentration on a task for a short period of 15 to 30 minutes. This mainly depends on their health, emotional state, amount of sleep, and ability to concentrate. If we force ourselves to extend this time without taking breaks, our energy level will begin to drop. It can lead to fatigue, irritability, passivity in action, lack of new ideas, and slower thinking.

Participation in the Event Storming workshop requires concentration from start to finish. In addition, we want participants to show initiative, be proactive, effectively associate facts from their space of interests and business, and be able to draw constructive conclusions. After all, we will be extracting knowledge from their minds. On the other hand, we also want them to have a positive impression of the workshop and to keep a team synergy and an open mind. In such a situation, the artifacts produced by the workshop will bring them more value than if people were tired and reluctant to continue working together. The less activity, the less knowledge and problems we will discover, so ensuring a stable energy level of participants is worthwhile.

One of the most effective solutions to this problem is to take breaks during the workshop. It minimizes the risk of participants feeling exhausted prematurely, such as being only halfway through the scheduled session time. The breaks allow the participants to regenerate their energy for the activity, relax, and foster similar concentration time for subsequent tasks. An additional benefit is relief for the eyes from working in front of a monitor, so breaks are good for both the mind and body of participants.

Equally important is the frequency and length of breaks. There are no ready-made formulas for this because many factors influence the rate at which people become tired and lose concentration. For example, projects have varying levels of complexity, so those that are more complex and diluted in time will drain energy faster. People are, by nature, used to a certain rhythm of work. If we can maintain a balance between focused sessions and breaks, this will be the key to the venture's success.


An example of how breaks can help people recover their focus level.

How do you discover how often and how long to take breaks? For remote workshops, recognizing the moments when most participants need a break is much more difficult than during on-site sessions. The facilitator can't see much of the participant's body language, their gestures, sighs, etc. That's why it's a good idea to use all sorts of tools to regularly collect quick feedback during sessions at even intervals. An example of mood measurement:

  • Before the workshop begins, we announce that we will use the text chat feature of the video conferencing tool to ask participants regularly every 20 minutes how much they need a break.
  • The answers will be numbers on a scale of 1 to 5. Eager to act, full of energy, answer with the number 1. The more tired we are, the higher the number we send. If we are exhausted, it is the other end of the scale, which is the number 5.
  • A facilitator conducting a session sees the responses from time to time in the form of numbers. Subjectively, if the numbers are high, he orders a break.
  • After the break, he can try to collect feedback again; in this way, he can deduce by trial method how long breaks are needed.
  • The most important thing is to prevent most participants from reaching a level of complete energy exhaustion. The exception may be when the workshop ends, where this is a normal phenomenon.

In addition to the aforementioned example of collecting feedback through chat, the facilitator can support himself with more advanced tools. These can be plug-ins or other computer programs, for instance, the Miro platform has a mood-tracking template. They can collect feedback from participants, and calculate the average, and median responses, e.g. on a numerical scale of 1 to 5. The UI can also facilitate the way of voting, e.g. using buttons instead of chat messages.


Visualization of what a mood-tracking tool may look like.

While conducting workshops at SoftwareMill, we noticed that the fewer tools there were, the lower the entry threshold for the participants, which translates into faster implementation into an Event Storming workshop session. It's important to keep this in mind so as not to overdo the number of tools, which can become overwhelming and drain energy unnecessarily. This way, we will remain consistent with one of the workshop objectives - keeping it simple.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the potential difficulty of maintaining focus in the context of external stimuli from the environment. When people are in a room where they are distracted by roommates, children, or employees of other companies in the open space, they can feel distracted and out of rhythm. That's why it's a good idea to ask participants before the workshop to arrange, to the best of their ability, a quiet place for the session where they will be less susceptible to external stimuli. It is known that not everyone has this opportunity, but at least you will minimize some of the risks of a failed workshop.

2. Reducing the priming phenomenon.

Let's start with a brief explanation of the priming phenomenon. In our context, it is the exertion of influence by a person or group of people on the thoughts, ideas, and conclusions of the entire team. This influence is often indirect and subconscious in the form of suggestions. The team begins to think in a narrowed context about the areas where someone has directed them. This is not conducive to "outside the box" thinking, where we would like to look at a project from many different perspectives.

To imagine this phenomenon, I will cite the example of a side channel of a river gouged by a small spring. After a long time, more and more water flows into this side channel. Eventually, it becomes the main channel of the whole river, which changes direction.

As a result of the priming, we may overlook areas that perhaps hold key information about business processes. Sometimes, unexpected discoveries in the form of such "hidden gems" can bring the most value. Giving ourselves space to explore them can uncover new perspectives or unexpected aspects of a project.


One person can influence other people's ideas and thinking context.

Avoiding priming in the Event Storming workshop is especially important at its first stage, which is called "Big Picture." This is when we are concerned with the holistic discovery of business processes from a "bird's eye view." It is impossible to get rid of priming completely, but it is possible to conduct sessions in a way that minimizes this psychological effect. This is a difficult task since remote workshops are based on online conversations, where the floor is usually given to one speaker from the entire group in a specific time slot. In an on-site workshop session, the office is more conducive to holding parallel conversations in subgroups, so it is more natural and easier to do so there.

To minimize the occurrence of priming during remote sessions, we ask participants to complete the selected stage of the workshop on their own, where possible. They add sticky notes independently of each other and at some distance from each other on the virtual wall without discussing them among themselves. Only in the next step do we join together as a group and analyze their proposals, selecting what makes sense and eliminating duplicates. We use such a procedure for the "chaotic exploration" phase and to pre-define the list of "actors and systems" before we assign actors to events.

An alternative technique is also to use so-called "breakout sessions". We can then divide the participants into smaller subgroups of 2-3 people, for example, if there are 12 people at the session. However, this often requires them to make an extra effort in the form of calling each other for separate online meetings. On the other hand, some online meeting platforms like Zoom support creating breakout rooms on demand by the meeting owner. This way, they are separated at the initial stage and do not influence each other while working on one phase of the workshop. Once the subgroups have completed their task, the participants return to the main meeting, where we combine their ideas.

3. Achieving all essential workshop phases.

Each type of the Event Storming workshop has phases in which key information is discovered. For example, in Big Picture Event Storming, these phases are often: “chaotic exploration”, “enforcing the timeline”, “reverse narrative”, and “actors and systems”. These translate into information about business processes:

  • what's happening
  • when it happens
  • who is calling it
  • in what order
  • which systems it interacts with

There are also optional phases that we can successfully use as an extension of the Event Storming notation, e.g., searching for "opportunities and threats" in the discovered processes. After all, flexibility here is conducive to various goals. However, we must not overdo it by focusing too long on optional/additional information. We may then run out of time for these key, core phases.

To provide valuable knowledge for the client's project, we should go through these essential phases of the workshop within the specified time and budget. After all, we don't want to ask the client to extend the time significantly or pay a larger budget if we fail to extract at least a cursory amount of information during each of these phases. The basics are more important, even though there may be more levels of complexity and depth in business processes.

If the client's project needs to be explored more deeply, then an Event Storming workshop can be held at a deeper level, like “Process Level” or “Design Level”. These are the types of workshops that focus on a selected slice of business processes much deeper. They usually require the involvement of a smaller group of participants. In this respect, they are less expensive than Big Picture Event Storming workshops. If we already know the holistic picture of business processes, we can continue with deeper levels of knowledge at any time in the later phases of the project.

Effectively maintaining time management discipline and setting timeframes for workshop phases to fit in time is a difficult task, even in on-site mode. However, in remote mode, we are more limited in our interpersonal interactions and may feel the effects of the time zone difference. For example, some people cannot spend more time on a session because the end of work is approaching at their place, while at ours, the time is beginning. So we have less schedule flexibility.

Therefore, it is important to observe the activity of the participants, keeping a balance between the time spent on discussions and the completion of the various phases of the workshop. The facilitator should provide participants with a space where each person can speak at least once on a given topic. This is often helped by the functionality of online video group chats, where you can "raise your hand." In practice, it happens that one person speaks for a long time in such a way that it is difficult to interrupt him. Therefore, such "raising hands" is both a discussion tool and a feedback tool. Observing the situation, the facilitator can help people with discussion, then lengthen or shorten the timeframe of certain phases of the workshop, depending on whether people need more time to complete their tasks.

Another technique is to limit the time to discuss areas that are a lower priority for the project. For example, online payment processes are very generic and can be replaced with an off-the-shelf solution from an outside company. Is it worth wading into discovery and organizing events at this point? Rather, it is not relevant at this point. If we have little time until the end of the workshop phase, we should focus on processes that are core to our client's business or support that core. Even if we don't manage to go through all the processes, picking out the most important ones will provide some residual value. This may be what our client needs most at this point, but it is rather sufficient.

4. Technical issues and tools behind them

Workshop participants may have different screen resolutions, computer performance, operating systems, bandwidth, and Internet connection stability. This can occasionally cause problems when, for example, we use a tool that requires high computing power on the participants' computers. Then, people with low computing power may get lost in the context of what we are currently presenting or doing. We are committed to avoiding this and other similar scenarios.

If you want to conduct remote Event Storming workshops effectively, you need to consider technical factors. A facilitator should choose tools such as a “whiteboard” so that they do not pose a problem for most of the workshop participants. You can do a small survey before meeting with them. For example, what operating systems do the participants use? How long have they owned a current computer? Its age is also a good clue. With the survey results, the facilitator can decide which tools to use, which to forgo, and whether to ask them to turn off video streaming when possible to save bandwidth, etc.
It's worth mentioning that an interesting way to minimize problems is to make an appointment with participants before the workshop date to see if everything works for them. For example:

  • Are they able to share the screen?
  • Does the camera work?
  • Can they be heard?
  • Do they have access to the whiteboard platform?
  • Will the computer run smoothly with all the tools running at once?

We have had cases in the past where one participant's computer hung while using the tools.

Going through the mentioned steps to prepare participants a couple of days before the session allowed us to minimize the risk of technical problems.

Tips and tools for a remote workshop that will help you face those challenges

Finally, we have prepared a small list of tools and tips that can help a facilitator to successfully conduct a remote Event Storming workshop. This is a visualization of what preventive treatments can be applied. This information is based on the challenges discussed above and our own experience at SoftwareMill.

Timeframe vs. focus

Depending on the initial assessment of the project's complexity, we divide the workshop into 3 to 5 meetings. Each session lasts 4 hours, including breaks. It is a top-down time limit where participants can usually maintain focus and engagement, especially when burdened with so-called "digital fatigue" from the monitor screen.

We stick to the rule of 1 workshop session per day so that participants are not exhausted and return for the next day rested and ready for the next challenges.

A video call with a chat

Each workshop session is an online meeting with video enabled, where the facilitator shares the screen. From time to time, the screen sharing is interrupted for phases of the workshop that participants should do on their own or in subgroups. On the technical side, it should be a video communicator that has a chat (such as Google Meet).

Encourage participants to run their cameras. It allows the facilitator to at least partially read participants' verbal signals and body language. It helps regulate the length of breaks and their frequency, resolve conflicts, and avoid communication errors.

Common workspace

In addition to the online meeting, the facilitator uses a tool called "whiteboard", where sticky notes and other notes are added in real-time. It is this space that is shared at the meeting. Access to the board is granted to each participant. So they can modify its contents at the same time. It must be a single board, not several separate ones.


This is how a common workspace may look like. One of the whiteboard tools is the platform, commonly used for various types of remote workshops, which take the form of brainstorming.

Three modes of work

Most of the time, participants do the work of the whole group of people in a single online meeting led by a facilitator. This is the default mode of work.

On the other hand, there are times when participants are assigned tasks to be completed independently. Then, they don't have discussions among themselves, but they also don't have to disconnect from the meeting. They have a designated timeframe for this phase, after which they return to the aforementioned mode of working together.

The exception is the third mode of work. These are tasks to be performed in subgroups. We are divided into several subgroups of 2 or 3 people each. For a certain predetermined period, each subgroup must join together for a separate online meeting to discuss things together without influencing the other subgroups. Again, we have a time constraint through a pre-imposed timeframe, after which they will return to default working mode.

The division into three modes introduces additional effort, but as a reward, it reduces the priming phenomenon, which you have learned about previously in this article.


The beginning of the “Chaotic exploration” phase can be achieved separately to avoid initial priming. You can see here each participant took a slightly different surface of the whiteboard to not intersect their events with each other.

A stopwatch

The last important and helpful tool of the facilitator is a stopwatch. It allows you to control the passage of time of the various phases and work modes of the workshop. It also informs about the time of breaks, which is important for participants. They don't have to keep track of time themselves seeing the stopwatch, so they focus on what's important - the workshop itself.

Ideally, the stopwatch should be visible to each participant, either on the facilitator's shared screen or as a plug-in in the whiteboard tool. In our case, the platform already had such a feature, so we were happy to use it.


Stopwatch usage during the remote Event Storming session.

What have you learned?

You learned what facilitation of a remote Event Storming workshop can look like and what challenges can be faced. We went through the most important ones with examples. Knowing them can bring you value because you know what to expect. It will help you prepare for the potential facilitation of such workshops.

On the other hand, you also learned about suggestions for solutions to facilitation problems and possible tools to help with them. The goal was not to give you the best possible solutions, which are, after all, dependent on the characteristics of the project, its budget, and other factors. The goal was to give you a solid foundation that will allow you to start or continue your adventure with the remote version of Event Storming.

If you liked what you learned today and want to learn more, please visit our other blog posts under the "Event Storming" tag. Furthermore, we are currently preparing another article on the less common Event Storming challenges of which you should also be aware. It should appear in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

We also encourage you to add a comment if you know of better ways to do this workshop remotely or know of any interesting online facilitation tools. This workshop variation is still evolving; perhaps you will also contribute to its development by making it even easier to work with.

Check all the articles from the series:

Reviewed by Michał Ostruszka & Rafał Maciak

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