Do you want to design online workshops that aren't just informative, but also creative and engaging? And you want your remote meeting to be fun and add value at the same time? In this article, you'll find out how to conduct both meetings in small groups and larger-scale events in such a way that engages and impresses all your participants.
There's nothing worse than a poorly planned online workshop. A well thought-out, dynamic workshop agenda is needed to keep participants motivated. The methods for a remote workshop are comparable to an on-site workshop. Just the implementation needs to be adapted to the digital tools. Online workshops are, however, very different from classic on-site events in several respects. That's why you need to take enough time to familiarize yourself with both the content and the techniques you want to use to convey it.
To make your next online meeting a success, I'll give you strategies and tools for planning the perfect online agenda. There are many different methods for creatively designing and conducting digital workshops.
What you'll learn from this article:
- The right elements for your online workshop
- How to establish and communicate working agreements
- How to design and run the warm-up and networking of the participants
- The right introduction to the topic
- Entertaining presentation of your talk
- How to promote collaboration between the participants
- Tips for more energy and interaction
- Final moderation
The crucial factor for your online workshop: a dynamic agenda
A dynamic agenda is even more important online than offline. The online agenda must meet very special requirements, precisely because it's more difficult to maintain the attention of participants in the digital space.
So how do you have a successful online meeting that's both productive and entertaining and also stimulates collaboration among the participants? The answer is using a variety of methods. The agenda for your online workshop benefits from a mix of lectures, discussions, Q&A sessions and exercises.
Keep the input phases short. Regardless of whether your online workshop lasts two hours or two days, the pure lecture time should not exceed 15 minutes at a time. This is followed by a task or group work that asks the participants to become active.
The likelihood that your meeting will be well received increases the more group phases you plan. These can be organized very well with breakout rooms. During these sessions, participants have the opportunity to talk to each other in small groups, not only professionally but possibly even on a personal level. You can be sure that this method is very likely to increase individual engagement.
The length of the online workshop also increases the need for varied exercises, group phases and exciting discussion rounds. Prepare a correspondingly large number of tasks that encourage the participants to actively participate, either individually or in groups.
It's very important to take breaks. This is where online workshops differ fundamentally from face-to-face events. Every 60 minutes, you should take a break of at least ten minutes, so that all participants can catch their breath and have time for basic needs. If the online workshop extends over a whole day or even longer, more breaks should be planned accordingly.
1. The right elements for your online workshop
The methods for a remote workshop do not differ much from the methods for an online workshop that takes place on site. Basically, there are five elements that you can use for all types of events. In the case of an online workshop, only the implementation needs to be adapted to the digital tools available.
Generally speaking, the more variety, the more interesting (and effective) the online workshop will be. In the context of an online event, each of the elements listed here should therefore last no longer than 15 minutes:
- Lectures on knowledge transfer (ideally at the beginning or as a core element of the online workshop)
- Discussions in small groups: Exchange on a specific topic or question
- Exercises: Development and presentation of concrete contents by the participants.
- Assessments: Discussion of a scenario or case study by the participants.
- Questions and answers (in the large group, in small groups or in individual work)
2. Establish and communicate working agreements
What if your participants are not yet familiar with the video call service you use? In such cases, you should familiarize them with the most important technical functions at the beginning of your meeting. In addition, communicate the rules of the game and the rules of conduct to be observed during the meeting.
This includes important information such as meeting times and break arrangements or your expectations regarding active participation. It's also useful to explain what you expect from the online workshop and what learning outcome you hope for the participants. In addition, you should tell your audience whether and where you'll make the content of your presentations generally available.
Checklist for video calls
3. Design of the warm-up and networking of the participants
To break the proverbial ice, participants of in-person events often come together in advance to exchange ideas over coffee or to start a personal conversation. Or the facilitator starts the meeting with a teambuilding activity. In a remote workshop, on the other hand, it's not only important to arrive in the group, but also to find your way around the tool. These circumstances require a little planning so the mood doesn't turn right at the beginning.
As a rule, the very beginning of the online workshop decides whether the participants are willing to give you their attention or not. It's important not to overwhelm anyone and at the same time to involve everyone. As with offline workshops, it's basically about developing team spirit and connecting the participants with each other.
Working together at Raidboxes: Our Code of Conduct
A promising way to create a sense of community among the participants right from the start in to plan a check-in. This is an introductory question that wakes up the participants and encourages them to interact. In groups that have been working together for a long time, this question works like a morning pick-up.
How personal the check-in should be depends on the social fabric. Is it a team whose members are interdependent? Or is it a group whose members are unlikely to see each other again? In the first case, the team bond is more intense and the check-in can become somewhat personal. In the other case, it's often first of all about getting to know each other – personal or emotional check-ins are rather out of place here. A tip: If time is short, the check-in can also take place in a chat. Ask a question and let the participants answer it at the same time. The answers can then be read through together.
4. The right introduction to the topic
Various methods can be used to get participants excited about a new topic as quickly as possible:
- Scale questions: The participants can visualize their previous knowledge in a graph, perhaps on a scale from a little to a lot of existing knowledge.
- Cyberstorming: This virtual method of brainstorming is used to get creative and find ideas. All participants freely associate a large number of ideas on a specific topic and exchange them in the chat. The aim is to pick up unusual ideas and leave well-worn trains of thought behind.
- Mind mapping: With a mind map you can find out which terms or subtopics are already known. After the participants have noted down their terms on the whiteboard, they each briefly comment on their note. Unknown topics that are to be dealt with in the course of the event can be marked in color.
5. Entertaining presentation
Many speakers who are still inexperienced with online moderation fear that imparting knowledge via Zoom and the like is more difficult than offline. I can reassure you that this is definitely not the case. It's only important to present the content in a suitable form and not to overwhelm the audience with too much input. Use a few concise contents and an appealing design – both will keep your audience's attention. By the way, the same applies to face-to-face events.
Many people find it difficult to break down lectures or presentations to the essentials. Make this important step easier for yourself and bear in mind that the participants of the online workshop will mainly see your slides. You as a speaker are only visible in a very small way (at least in lecture mode). Maybe there are also people who only participate in your event via smartphone or tablet. Your slides should therefore be well structured and only cover the most important points.
A good idea is to collect questions that arise during the presentation in the chat. This procedure protects your input and avoids lengthy interruptions during which some listeners quickly switch off. It's important to communicate this rule in advance, however, ideally with the other working agreements.
Another tip: If possible, you should stand up during the presentation phase. This promotes the resonance of your voice and thus your presence in the (virtual) room.
6. Promote collaboration between the participants
Because frequent and intensive exchange phases between the participants increase attention enormously, the promotion of interaction is probably the most important element of every successful online workshop. If you don't take advantage of this opportunity, participants could simply listen to a recording of your presentation instead of a live workshop. After all, you want to offer added value with your virtual seminar.
The following tools are helpful to stimulate interaction in group phases:
- Breakout sessions encourage discussion and exchange in small groups
- Opinion polls allow you to ask questions about a specific topic and obtain an opinion (for example using Mentimeter or Echometer)
- Chat Waterfall and Round Robin are used to quickly gather feedback and facilitate brainstorming rounds
- Digital whiteboards (for example FigJam, Concept Board, Miro or Mural) and other collaborative tools (for example Google Suite) support collaborative creation in the form of sketches and texts and also annotations in documents.
- You'll find hundreds of tools for collaborating in distributed teams here.
Tools for home office and remote work
7. Tips for more energy and interaction
Everyone knows that sitting in front of a screen for hours on end inevitably leads to a lapse in attention. Don't worry, this is a completely normal reaction. So the energy doesn't completely disappear from the virtual room, you can include small movement games in your workshop agenda. These not only lighten the mood, but also improve the physical condition of the participants. They loosen tense muscles and activate them for the next round.
You'll find a great collection of workshop games for more creativity for your team here. You can certainly got a bit "out there" with your choice of game, experience has shown that participants usually accept such an offer. If you already have experience in facilitating remote workshops, you can of course use the methods spontaneously.
Side note: Remote Work & Remote Leadership
8. Final moderation
At the end of each online training there should be a recap of what has been learned. Give participants a brief overview of the content, methods and activities used and make sure there are no unanswered questions.
A good check-out gives the group space and time to reflect on what they have learned. You can use the chat one last time and ask the participants questions about what is most important, what they have learned and what questions, if any, are still on their minds. Instruct the participants to send their answers at the same time all messages can be read at the same time as well.
The check-out can also take the form of a final round in which each person in turn has their say. In order not to lose track of time, it's helpful (especially with larger groups) to limit each contribution, say to a maximum of three words.
Sample agenda for an online workshop
Probably the most important rule for any online agenda is to regularly alternate between lecture and interaction phases.
|Welcome, technical introduction, check-in||Main room|
|Getting to know each other/warm-up (introduction of participants and first statement on the topic)||Breakout rooms, then summary in main room or chat waterfall|
|Introduction to the topic||Main room, supplemented with scale question or mind map|
|Lecture/Input (imparting knowledge)||Main room, selectively share screen if necessary|
|Discussion/working phase(s)||Breakout rooms and digital whiteboards|
|Present work results||Main room, share screen if necessary|
|Obtain feedback||Survey tool and/or chat waterfall|
|Conclusion, check-out, end||Farewells in main room|
Prolific North has developed a helpful guide for remote workshops. Here you'll find valuable tips and ideas for the preparation and follow-up of online workshops and meetings.
Conclusion: online workshops
A very important point for the success of virtual events is whether and how much experience the participants have with the corresponding technology. Participants with sufficient prior knowledge find it easier to concentrate on the content. If, on the other hand, the group has never worked with the tool used, the seminar shouldn't overwhelm the participants with more specialized functions.
It doesn't matter whether participants are sitting in front of their laptops at home or their PCs in the office, remember to activate them again and again. The appropriate tools are voting rounds or breakout sessions, a short exchange (verbal or via chat) or creative exercises on the whiteboard. As a facilitator, you can see from the reactions of the participants how their attention is and, if necessary, counteract this with targeted activation.