Running workshops online… What we’ve learnt

Workshops are a core part of our output here in the Insight and Strategy team. So, when the pandemic hit and we were all confined to our homes, we knew we had to find the best way to run workshops online. After a year and a bit of lockdowns, intermittent Wi-Fi and the mute button, we’re ready to share our learnings from running things online.

As the world opens up again, we need to be mindful of new ways of working, and being able to run a successful workshop online can be a powerful weapon in your arsenal. So, here are our key findings, tips and tricks for getting the most out of your workshops, even when you’re all behind a screen!

Timing is everything

Think about your timings, not just during the workshop but also your prep and write-up time. It can be high pressure running an online workshop and being focused for a long time can get exhausting quickly. Make sure you give yourself enough time to prep, have a robust plan that you can stick to and involve as many helpers as possible so during the workshop you can focus on your role.

Oh, and don’t book any meetings in for straight after a workshop or you’ll be falling asleep, trust me!

Take a break

Being online and staring at a screen can also be exhausting for your participants. Make sure to build in breaks (around five minutes every hour or so) and put in energisers to help keep everyone motivated and on track.

Show ’em you care

If you’re feeling really organised, send out care packages beforehand with some snacks, games and exercises in to help keep people going. Everyone loves a free gift!

Pick your platform

Find a workshop platform that works for you. We use Miro, an online whiteboard that allows us to build exercises, make virtual Post-it notes (oh how we miss Post-it notes) and easily add in stimulus. Make sure you include a how to guide for your participants, go through an exercise that shows them how to use the platform and lock down EVERYTHING that you don’t want moved on your board.

Set homework

If you can, create a homework task that gets your participants to use the board before the workshop. This can give them time on their own to work things out, come to the session with thoughts and ask questions before the workshop starts.

Encourage conversation

Remember the power of the breakout group. Creating smaller groups will help prompt discussion and make it easier for everyone to be heard. Just remember to send your breakout invites early and double check that the links work!

Take note

Appoint a note taker, for both your main group and for the breakout groups. This will help you focus on your moderator role and ensure that everything is captured for the write up.

Set the atmosphere

No one likes an awkward silence, right? So, if your platform has a music function, make use of it! When you’re reading stimulus or plotting ideas, it can be good to listen in to some tunes, rather than tumbleweeds.

Ultimately, a workshop is about answering questions and making discoveries in a new environment. It’s supposed to be fun, so if you have a hiccup, a bad connection, a very loud typer or someone who just can’t get the Miro board to work – try not to stress, it’ll work itself out in the end. And if you need help, you know where to find us!

Written by:

Eleanor Pick


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