Virtual workshops – top tips from the best

Definition of a workshop: a meeting at which a group of people engage in intensive discussion and activity on a particular subject or project.

With more of us switching to online meetings, consultations and socials, inevitably, workshops have also gone online. But how do you create the same level of ‘intensive discussion’, avoid lulls in energy, allow everyone to speak and even manage child care issues?

Answer – learn from the best.

Experienced consultants, Mike Vallis and Chris Whitley, take us through their top tips for conducting a successful workshop:

Partner up. Running a workshop with a colleague is helpful even in face-to-face scenarios, but this becomes even more important online. Having more than one of you running the workshop means that if the connection drops out for one of you there is always a backup to keep the session flowing. Swapping presenters and having both of you capturing and sharing any key points real-time will make sure that the energy is kept up and your workshop is kept on track.

Take regular comfort breaks. This is even more necessary as unlike face-to-face, people are not moving around to different areas of the room with post-its notes etc. Also, factor in people’s circumstances – they may need to check in on their kids, pets or relatives. Make sure that at the beginning of the session you set expectations; tell people they are welcome to drop off for two minutes whenever they need – just ask them to pop a comment in the chatbox so if anything important is discussed or decided whilst they are away, you can bring them up to speed when they return.

Use a second screen. If dual screen is an option for you then make the most of it. It means you can easily switch between apps, take notes and refer to other documents and whilst facilitating. If you have access to an iPad, the Duet app is a good alternative to purchasing a second monitor.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3. Check in with attendees regularly to ensure they can hear you. Particularly over the course of several hours, it’s not uncommon for headphones to slip or connection to falter meaning that parts of the conversation are not clear. Make sure you check in regularly to ensure everyone can hear and of course, as mentioned in point 1, pair up so any technical hitches can be identified straight away.

Embrace the ‘awkward’ silences. It can be even more uncomfortable in calls to have any silences, but sometimes you need these to encourage attendees to get everything out, just as you would in a face-to-face meeting. Don’t be afraid to have 15+ second spells of quiet to let people think, reflect and add anything else before moving on.

Be creative. You can’t use post-it notes and brown paper (a must in any self-respecting workshop facilitator’s arsenal), but you can improvise. There are many tools; we often use Trello as a good substitute for post-its. Ensure your attendees can login beforehand, and then you can use it ‘live’ to add information and even rank/prioritise or add a status. It updates in real-time, so attendees can all use it at the same time, get involved themselves and see instantly the progress that has been made.

Valuable workshops don’t have to stop when we are all working remotely. With a few simple adjustments, you can ensure that you get the most out of these sessions and keep pro going. If you have any questions about how to run successful workshops, please contact Mike Vallis (mikev@ninefeettall.com) or Chris Whitley (chrisw@ninefeettall.com).

If you would like to take the pain away completely, let us run your next workshop for you…including:

  • Expert facilitation
  • Tech set up combining video, post-its and real-time note-taking
  • Planning & preparation to make the session run smoothly
  • Engaged team
  • Tangible output

Contact estherm@ninefeettall.com for more information.

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