Sadly, we may not be convening in-person for a while. I miss that dance where we bring a group of people together in a room, harness their energy, and come up with creative and innovative solutions to tough problems.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t produce and stage compelling and successful remote conversations with our partners and clients. With that in mind, our team has compiled a few tips to help you make sure your next virtual workshop moves the needle. Because no matter where you dance—Zoom, Teams, Skype, Hangout—or how many partners you expect, a little choreography can make all the difference.
Plan the Party
- Prepare an agenda. Take time to review the agenda at the start of the session (and/or send it in advance) so participants know what to expect from you and what your expectations are of them. Bonus points if the agenda is visual – this can set the stage and tone for the rest of the session.
- Agree on the flow. For virtual workshops where you want attendees to ask and answer questions, allow time to get them comfortable with those features. For shorter sessions, it may be a better use of time to have the leader or facilitator share their screen and direct the conversation.
- Anticipate side channels. For a larger group or a longer session, you may want multiple facilitators to lead breakout discussions. Smaller forums give your team a chance to mingle (and troubleshoot) while the session is underway.
- Design the visual style. Brand meeting documents—agenda, presentation deck, and readout—and online workspaces and whiteboards so that the experience feels cohesive, intentional, and well-planned.
- Hold a scrimmage. Something will always go wrong. Holding a practice session allows you and your team to anticipate potential issues with the technology or the agenda and put a contingency plan in place.
Direct the show
- Warm-up the room. Allow time upfront for people to get to know each other. Encourage everyone to turn their webcam on, even if just temporarily. Don’t underestimate the importance of an icebreaker to set the mood.
- Announce transitions. Communicate clear countdowns before you move between topics on the agenda (or between rooms if you are using breakouts). This helps everyone feel more a part of the conversation.
- Take a vote. Voting is an easy way to encourage participation, especially with a large crowd. It’s also a quick way to take the temperature of the room on a topic or to gauge a consensus before you end a segment or a meeting.
- Let facilitators be themselves. Find the balance between structure and flexibility for facilitators who have their own presentation style. Allowing their personality to come through keeps things interesting and participants engaged.
Stick the landing
- Sum it all up. Before you drop the mic, provide participants with a quick review of the key ideas and the takeaways. Landing on a provocative ‘so what’ leaves everyone involved feeling more positive about the session
As the saying goes, “well begun is half done.” For virtual workshops, that goes double. Think about all the things that help “you do you” when you are at your best hosting in-the-same-room events. Then create new ways to bring those to life online.
Gina Gritzuk is Senior Design Researcher on Essential's Innovation Strategy team.
Essential Design is a leading Innovation Strategy & Design consultancy. We work across the healthcare, consumer, and commercial industries, helping our clients conceive and drive to market comprehensive digital, physical, and service experiences.