Are you planning to run a virtual workshop in the next couple of months? Don’t really know where to get started or what you should do?
We're here to help! Be it virtual webinars or engaging in focus discussion groups with relevant stakeholders, we wanted to share 10 tips to get you started so you can discover how to run an engaging and effective virtual workshop (trust us, we do it all the time!)
1. Invite the right stakeholders
With your topic of discussion in mind, invite the relevant stakeholders to your workshop to address the issue at hand. As the host of the workshop, you should be well-versed with the problems or issues your audience hopes to resolve during the workshop and target the relevant parties and departments who can work towards improving such problems.
For instance, if an HR team is struggling to recruit fresh graduates into the company, the relevant stakeholders for a workshop or a discussion group could include fresh graduates from universities or polytechnics or those who have gone through a grad programme depending on your criteria and the time you have.
2. Set a clear agenda
Like all meetings, it's necessary to set a clear agenda for the workshop.
This gives all participants a sense of direction and allows them to prepare themselves while knowing what to expect for the duration of the workshop. Nobody likes to be surprised by a sudden activity that they have to participate in, so it is always good to have a timeline of events that everyone can be aware of. It also helps you to stay on track as well!
3. Choose the right platform
A virtual workshop can be challenging when the right platform is not used. With the increasing shift towards digital collaboration, popular video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have been utilized to facilitate virtual discussions. It is important to understand your employees’ needs and challenges and whether such virtual conferencing tools are effective for a workshop. Test out the platforms with your team before the workshop begins and use virtual messaging tools, alerts and calendars to remind them of the dates of the workshop.
Not everyone will be willing to speak up during the discussion and that’s when virtual tools like the chat function can come in handy! Encourage participants to indicate their responses on the chat and turn their videos on during the discussion to generate greater engagement and response for the workshop.
4. Use a virtual whiteboarding tool
When conducting a workshop, a whiteboarding tool can be useful for discussions. It helps you to collate ideas easily and identifies key problems to address and tackle efficiently.
Some virtual whiteboarding tools along with their key features include the following (Myre, 2019):
Mural (Multi-member team meetings)
Miro (Formal Presentations)
Stormboard (Creates multiple boards in a single brainstorm session)
Sketchboard (Saving and organizing multiple, unrelated boards)
Depending on the type of discussion you’re having, there are many whiteboarding tools and platforms to choose from!
5. Understand the problem
As the host of the workshop, it is important to have a clear picture of what the issue or problem is at hand and how you can be a useful mediator to facilitate healthy and collaborative discussion among stakeholders.
Research common issues, strategies and solutions to tackle the issue and suggest ways in which team members can contribute individually to solutions without falling into the trap of groupthink. When stakeholders feel that the workshop is beneficial and can truly help to make a difference in their businesses, they will be more empowered to contribute and make things work.
6. Adopt silent ideation
According to the World of Work project, silent brainstorming is a quick way for a group to come up with a lot of ideas about a topic (Carrier, 2019).
It is a quick and efficient process that generates a lot of ideas, suggestions and thoughts while encouraging everyone to make an individual effort to contribute. If your company is considering doing a workshop, silent ideation is a way to get participants involved in between talks and seminars. It can also help to improve your employee experience strategy too!
7. Allocate time for each section
During the workshop, there should be a time allocated for each section. Be it silent ideation, brainstorming, discussion of ideas or analysis of findings, each section of the workshop should be clearly outlined with a specific duration.
This gives ample time for participants to think of solutions and suggestions before discussing them with the general group. Shorter durations of time spent on ideation allows participants to think fast and critically, generating many ideas for discussion.
8. Make it fun
What’s a workshop without some fun? Amidst the seriousness of work and the topic of discussion at hand, add some fun and light-heartedness during individual silent ideation sections.
Throw in some soothing music in the background (or even EDM) or suggest an activity for discussion! We hear that piano music and Lo-Fi playlists often do the trick.
Other brainstorming methods that one can explore in a workshop include Figure Storming, an activity where you pick a well-known figure and discuss how they would approach the issue, or Brainwriting, an activity where participants bounce off ideas in a round-robin fashion through writing.
9. Take ample breaks
A 2-hour long workshop can be tiring and dreadful to attend. To manage this, plan ample breaks of 10-15 mins in between for participants. This can not only break the monotony of the workshop, but it also allows your participants to rest their minds and come back to the discussion refreshed and ready to contribute.
Depending on how long your workshop is, schedule breaks accordingly and at appropriate times of each section so as not to abruptly cut short good discussion points that may be raised for each section.
10. Recap your findings
To wrap up discussions and make sure everyone is on the same page, it is important to analyze your findings and recap them by verbalizing them to participants after every section. This is also a way to checkpoint all that you have gathered so far and to help identify strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you're bringing it back to the larger problem at hand and remind relevant stakeholders of the role they play in improving the businesses.
That’s it! 10 tips on how to effectively manage a virtual workshop! Though times may be unprecedented, the ways to manage a virtual workshop can also be applied in real life. Avoid judgement and always encourage mutual respect and understanding 😊
The wrkflow team has also crafted a workshop checklist to help you with your workshop. For more enquiries on how to effectively engage and reach your audience, do contact us!
Carrier, J. (2019). Silent Brainstorming: An Essential Facilitation Tool. Retrieved [insert date] from The World of Work Project: https://worldofwork.io/2019/03/silent-brainstorming/