Running a Zoom Workshop? Here’s What You Need to Know

7 lessons that will make your transition to online workshops a little easier.

As a facilitator, I regularly deliver face to face (F2F) workshops for organisations all around the world. Well, that was until the COVID-19 outbreak.

The inability to travel or even share the same room with others made me have to rethink how I delivered workshops. Traditionally, I would stray away from online learning as it doesn’t compare to being physically in front of a group of people and having their undivided attention. Nothing beats F2F.

Time to turn lemons into lemonade — as Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it,

So I asked myself — How can I deliver a workshop on Zoom that is just as effective as a workshop that was delivered face to face?

Below, I have captured the key learnings from the online workshops I have delivered over the last month.

What You Need To Know

1. Set Ground Rules

As with F2F, it is essential to set some ground rules for your audience at the beginning of your online session. Here are a few grounds rules that I use:

  1. Please remain on mute unless talking.
  2. Keep your video on at all times (if possible).
  3. Use the raise your hand emoji if you want to build on the discussion.
  4. Capture any questions in the chat window.
  5. If you need to head off for a moment, that is okay!

Ground rule #5 is probably the most important — it sets the tone and acknowledges that you understand that we all face challenges when working from home. Like this guy:

2. Use Breakout Rooms

The Breakout Room function in Zoom is easy to use and works surprisingly well. It allows you to separate people into smaller groups so they can work on activities or have discussions. The facilitator can jump in and out of breakout rooms.

Prior to your workshop, Make sure that you enable breakout rooms in your Zoom settings.

Note: When you move people into breakout rooms they can no longer see the facilitator slides. You can, however, broadcast information (text only) to the people in the breakout rooms.

3. Ice Breakers

I am a big fan of ice breakers, as they allow you to set a positive mood for the day. Unfortunately, my normal go-to ice breakers aren’t conducive for online workshops.

As most people are working from home, an ice breaker I use online is to ask each attendee to pick one item in their house and tell the story behind it. This ice breaker allows participants to open up and learn something new about each other.

4. Use Polls

Break up the workshop by incorporating polls for the attendees. Zoom has a poll function and these can be set up prior to the workshop. Here are over 40 examples of polls you can try in your next workshop.

5. Time Goes Fast

Make sure to add in some buffer throughout your agenda. Online activities seem to take a little longer than those delivered in person. Rather than playing catchup throughout the day, try and overestimate how long activities/discussions will take when planning.

6. Lots of Breaks

My F2F workshops would normally include three breaks (morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea). However, online workshops are a different ball game. Make sure to give your attendees at least a 10-minute break every hour.

A good strategy is to break up the day in one-hour chunks — deliver for 50-minutes and then provide a 10-minute break. Also, ensure your full-day workshop does not go for longer than 6 hours.

7. Include a Collaboration Tool

Zoom is a great tool but it does have its limitations when it comes to collaboration. To replicate the collaboration of a F2F workshop, it is essential to pair Zoom with a collaborative tool. After much research, the best ones I have come across (hands down) are Mural and Miro.

Note: Have all your Mural links set up in a word document so that you can just share them easily with attendees when your activities start.

Final Thoughts

In addition to these lessons, aim to keep the way you deliver as close to F2F as possible. What do I mean by that? Keep up your energy and look directly into the laptop camera. Try and use hand gestures and mimic what you would do when presenting in person. Even stand up while you present if it helps!

The learnings will continue to come as more online workshops are delivered and this way of delivery becomes the new norm.

Customer Experience + Design Thinking + Innovation + Dad

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