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How to run a virtual workshop

Nail your online workshop first time with these top tips


Remote working doesn’t have to be a barrier to collaboration. Even if you aren’t in the same physical room, you can still dream up new projects and bounce around ideas with your colleagues.

Of course, brainstorming virtually isn’t as natural as simply grabbing someone and talking it out face-to-face – nothing quite beats being together in person.

But a virtual workshop can still capture that spark and energy if you have the right tools and preparation in place...

The right mix of personalities

Virtual workshops, especially those based around coming up with new ideas, need the right mix of people to make them a success.

Don’t just invite the obvious candidates. Great ideas need to be stretched and challenged – so invite people from a variety of departments to hear from as many different points of view as possible.

Also try to include a variety of different personality types. For example, empathetic people are great at thinking through problems from a customer’s perspective. Data-driven people, on the other hand, may be helpful in providing more objective, logical solutions.

Workshop design

When setting up your workshop, there are certain details to bear in mind.

First, think about timing. All-day workshops are definitely not the way to go. In fact, you shouldn’t be scheduling anything longer than four hours. And that includes breaks – which you should have plenty of.

On the subject of time, you don’t want to waste it with attendees reading background information. When you send out your invites, include all the information they’ll need to read beforehand. That way, when the workshop begins, everyone’s ready to get started straight away.

Throughout the workshop, make sure everyone has a chance to be heard. This can be tricky when you have a lot of attendees – so if you invite more than ten people, break the session down into smaller subgroups.

Also remember that everyone communicates differently: some people are vocal, while others prefer chat or virtual whiteboards. So make sure there is a variety of communication methods open to the attendees.

Finally, it can be easy for a virtual workshop to become dominated by enthusiastic characters. For this reason, be sure to set goals at the beginning of the session to keep everyone on track, and ensure you ask those who are quieter for their opinion.

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How to run a virtual workshop infographic

Tools and technology

Don’t let failed technology become the story of your workshop – make sure everything works as seamlessly as possible so that everyone can focus on achieving the goal of the meeting.

In all likelihood, you’ll need the following tools:

How to run a virtual workshop - icon 1

An online calendar
(e.g. Google Calendar)

How to run a virtual workshop - icon 2

Video conferencing software
(e.g. Zoom or Skype for Business)

How to run a virtual workshop - icon 3

A digital workspace
(e.g. HeySpace or Mural)

How to run a virtual workshop - icon 4

A digital whiteboard
(e.g. Miro or Nureva)

Don’t leave anything to chance – if it’s your first time using a tool, test it beforehand. And if they are needed, ensure everyone has the correct sign in details so no one is left behind.

Needless to say, there are different options to choose from, each with their own capabilities. Explore the benefits of each, and if needed, share instructions on how to sign up and use them beforehand.

Finally, always remember the golden rule: have a Plan B. There’s nothing like a questionable internet connection to ruin the momentum of a workshop. Whatever tools you’re using, try to arrange a backup method to resort to if things go wrong. And if possible, have someone on hand to take over your hosting duties in case you’re no longer able to.

A lot of what makes for a smooth workshop may seem like common sense. But in a collaborative environment, these small details can make a big difference. So, think carefully about your technology, scrutinise your workshop plan, and do everything you can to create a space where ideas flourish.

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