Working remotely has become the new norm for many companies and teams around the world. These limits to physical interaction have created opportunities to work and relate in different ways, which come with practical and technical implications.
Confinement, and more recently, social distancing, have significantly altered the way people work, socialize and ultimately deliver impact with our work. While working remotely may be familiar to most professionals, delivering successful virtual workshops is a less explored territory.
Even as restrictions are eased, many of us continue to adapt, running previously scheduled in-person workshops in a virtual setting now, or needing to design virtual set-ups from the outset.
As many of us have experienced, a workshop can be a powerful tool for sharing information, generating new ideas, rallying teams around a plan, agreeing on goals or making key decisions.
While the ingredients to deliver a successful face-to-face workshop still apply to a virtual setting, one needs to pay closer attention in order to achieve a specific purpose/goal, and design activities to keep the audience engaged, wherever they may be.
Nevertheless with the right selection of collaborative digital tools, thorough workshop preparation and tailored facilitation, it is possible to deliver good, if not better, outcomes via a virtual workshop.
From our experience several elements contribute to success in delivering a workshop through a virtual setting: 1) Setting the right expectations (purpose/outcome) from the outset and crafting the agenda accordingly, 2) Selecting the right technology and maximizing its benefits, 3) Investing in pre-work and carefully organizing the deliverables, 4) Rehearsing through ‘dry-run’ sessions beforehand, 5) Optimizing the use of time in a virtual set-up and tailoring facilitation to meet the agreed purpose/outcome, 6) Following up after the workshop on the agreed actions, decisions and topics identified that need additional consideration.
Virtual workshops can also bring a new set of concerns and challenges to the table that should be considered for preparation and delivery, particularly if you are working/consulting within diverse clients:
Most of us miss face-to-face interactions and might think we are most effective in in-person settings, yet this situation offers a good opportunity to reflect on different ways of working and cooperation across the globe, social distancing measures aside. Some individuals may be equally, if not more, effective working remotely, while gains in productivity and efficiency may turn out to be significant across the workforce.
As we move towards the new norm companies might be more mindful and selective when choosing between a face-to-face and a virtual workshop, considering the benefits and added value observed in virtual workshops:
Personal and corporate time savings
Cost saving and reduced logistical efforts
Reducing carbon footprint and positive
With this reflection in mind, we hope that by sharing our learnings, we will contribute to our readers’ abilities and desires to deliver a highly effective virtual experience.
Preparation: Before a virtual workshop / our curated recommendation
Framing the interaction: Starting this phase earlier and involving key stakeholders is even more critical. Focus on defining a clear purpose, objective, agenda, the list of must-have participants and:
Selecting participants: The goal must be to have the right people in the right sessions and, ideally, that all of them come with a clearly assigned role.
Choosing Digital Tools: Driving engagement, fostering creativity and capturing insights in a dynamic way with minor disruption of the flow, are among the key factors to consider for a coherent virtual experience
Setting up the timeframe:
| Preparation checklist|
Delivery: During a virtual workshop / our curated recommendations
| Building rapport and trust: Allowing time for introductions is fundamental and particularly if participants don’t know each other very well|
Facilitating effectively: Face-to-face workshops are immersive, making it easier to guide discussions and allowing facilitators to read body language. Virtual workshops make it harder to sense the “feelings/emotions” of the group, to keep the levels of attention high and to minimize interruption. Great facilitators find the balance to maximize impact by:
Getting to outcomes/agreements: Although more challenging, reaching clear outcomes/ conclusions and/or making decisions is equally critical
Technology: Test your tools before the meeting and minimize, to the extent possible, challenges such as wi-fi breakers, or issues with sharing documents or untested tools
| Preparation checklist|
Camera ON policy communicated
External microphone/ headset
Screen share visible for all