How to make virtual workshops work for you
How to make virtual workshops work is still a challenge for some organisations, especially if they haven’t adapted their preparation procedures and techniques to suit the virtual space. Nearly two years into the pandemic, holding workshops virtually can no longer be something to put off, especially any company seeking to innovate their processes or product and service offerings. This requires a collaboration of minds that, for the foreseeable future isn’t going to happen in person. What’s more, the nature of the online environment means we lose a lot of our “communication bandwidth” since body language signals are lost. This creates added difficulties in communication between team members. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done!
At Flying Fish Lab, we have successfully transitioned from holding live discovery workshops in person with our clients to porting the whole experience online. At first, we faced some resistance with some companies asking us if it’s even possible to conduct such sessions on conference platforms such as Zoom.
Our answer was, yes, of course it is.
Is it a different dynamic? Yes.
Does it work less well because of it? No.
In fact, we’ve found so many advantages to having our sessions online. There’s an added dynamic, a more pronounced sense of collaboration. It’s a question of knowing how to make virtual workshops work for you. It’s all about mindset and being innovative with the tools you have and knowing how to make the most of them.
So, in next 2 blog posts, we want to take you through some of the ways you and your teams can innovate while conducting your workshops remotely – because, like innovating for your company, working with different tools to achieve the same objective requires a little innovation too. In short, you need to know how to make virtual workshops work for you.
How to make virtual workshops work?
Set clear ground rules and expectations
Accept that virtual workshops are not the same as in-person sessions. They need to be handled differently. Any company that goes into a virtual workshop in the same way as they used to hold their physical ones is asking for trouble. Here are some points to consider when setting up your next virtual workshop:
Not everyone is familiar with your app of choice – When you assume that everyone knows how to use your selected app, delays in connection and use are bound to happen. There are many applications on the market used to hold virtual events. Make sure your participants are trained beforehand on how to use your app of choice. Set up a meeting specially to get everyone familiar with the functions so that you can get the reactions you need during the workshop and avoid frustrating delays because you are having to sort out one person’s tech issues live.
Limit the size of the group – Communication will be challenging enough in the virtual space without you adding more faces than you can see on a single screen. So, keep your workshops to a maximum of 12. If you really need to go above, make use of breakout sessions (see more on this below) so you can still maintain eye contact with those you are talking to. Microsoft Teams and Zoom are great tools for this.
Set rules around camera usage – Correct use of cameras can make all the difference when it comes to knowing how to make virtual workshops work for you or not. In physical workshops, people naturally come looking their best. They’ve got out of bed, showered, put on make-up, styled their hair and changed out of their PJs. That’s typically not so of a virtual event, leading many participants reluctant to appear on camera. Or they may simply not want to show their home in the background.
So, set rules and expectations so that your teams show up to your virtual workshops the way they would in person – presentable. Insist on cameras being on at all times. This makes for better communication and conversation. It also helps to avoid multiple attendees trying to speak at the same time. Many apps have a “blur background” function that fades out home backgrounds. The use of virtual backgrounds and added filters can also add a fun collaborative aspect to your event. But do take care not to end up like this infamous judge!
Set rules around speaking – You want to encourage a dynamic conversation and active participation, but multiple people trying to speak at once can slow down a meeting online. This can be easily avoided by setting some ground rules on how people show up to speak. It’s advisable to have a moderator control the conversations and invite participants to raise their virtual hands when they have something to say. The moderator can then invite people to speak in the order they raise their hands. Encourage too the use of emojis and stickers as other ways to get engagement besides just speaking.
Want more tips? It's not the end yet! In part 2 of our virtual series, we dived deeper into making your virtual workshops work during the session.