Five ways to make your online workshops more engaging

Toby Sheppard 22nd July 2020 B2B Branding

Workshops are an integral part of the marketing industry, and a useful platform to get team members involved in presentations and new pieces of work.

But with an ever-changing landscape due to the backdrop of Covid-19, running them has become a much bigger challenge for B2B agencies and their clients.

That’s not to say that workshops should be avoided; thanks to technology we are all able to adapt to the times and deliver the same results regardless of the online-only challenges our world now presents.

To help make the most of your online workshops and ensure maximum participation, here are our five top tips to nail your next online workshop:

1. Start with an ice-breaker

In an online world, it’s all too easy for people to turn their camera and mic off and become a ‘silent participant’.

A fantastic way to avoid this and ensure everyone participates is an ice-breaker game, such as a quiz. We love and would highly recommend a platform called Slido, which allows you to input a series of multiple-choice questions and is an easy way for all your participants to get involved.

It’s also a great way to poll your participants. We recently used this technique for an industrial client, polling their team with a series of customer personas we’d created. We asked them to guess which customer group was most likely to have made a statement relating to their product. It went down a treat.

2. Create break-out groups

There is always a mix of vocal participants and more reticent members during any workshop. To give everyone a fair chance to get involved, create smaller break-out sessions for some group work – this way everyone can get some air time.

Group work is where the real value in workshops can be delivered and allows participants to express their opinion and takeaways from the items being presented and discussed.

Most online video conferencing software enables the creation of ‘rooms’ where you can virtually set up break-out groups.

3. Use shared collaboration tools to capture the output

Group work does provide a unique challenge though – the lack of a shared writing space or a team whiteboard.

To alleviate this, there are several collaboration tools – GoogleDoc or Microsoft 365 – that allow real-time sharing and document creation. This way everyone on the call can individually input and contribute to the workshop without putting a single person on the spot if they’re feeling shy. This also enables the workshop leader to see who is most active, and who may need some additional help or encouragement.

To ensure this works, the doc should be shared at the start of the workshop and set to public so everyone can make edits when ready. Another tip is to prepare it with divided sections or slides in advance. So that everyone knows where and what they are supposed to contribute.

4.Consider break-away calls

An additional way to facilitate active participation in split group work is to ask the individual teams to leave the main call. This allows for a far more spirited and in-depth conversation, without being forced to speak over the top of each other in a larger call. It’s also a great chance to give people a breather from a traditional lecture-style format of some workshops.

To ensure everyone stays on board, the host should set a deadline to return to the main call for the break-away groups to share their findings. This, combined with tracking live updates through the collaborative doc, allows the workshop host to keep control and remain engaged with the whole group.

5. Wrapping up and close

It sounds obvious, but it’s vital to have a wrap-up and summary.

 With the team members in smaller groups, having a final wrap up not only brings all the information together for everyone to hear succinctly, but it presents an opportunity to discuss next steps.

The summary information can then be sent around in an email with next steps, actions and people accountable, to ensure the session has some strong outputs.

To summarise…

Much like working from home or football without the crowds, virtual workshops might not be everyone’s ideal situation, but they are a product of the times we are living in, at least for now.

But, given the right tools and the right process they can become equally as powerful as face-to-face sessions by ensuring everyone participates, the session is productive and most importantly, all who attend have an enjoyable time.

Toby Sheppard

Toby Sheppard

Account Manager