Meeting up for a workshop is a great way to get project buy-in, promote collaboration and get everyone onto the same page. But what happens if you are unable to meet in person? How can you match the energy and productivity of an in-person workshop? Here are 10 tips to help you run your online workshop.

Tip 1. Do your homework

To keep the discussion flowing during a workshop, you need to do your preparation work. Prepare a workshop template, agenda and a timesheet. The workshop template supports you in meeting your workshop objectives while an agenda and timesheet helps you stay on time. These are invaluable tools that will set you up for success!

Tip 2. Find the right tools

Familiarise yourself with the tools that will be used for the remote workshop. Whether it is something you use frequently or something a client prefers, having familiarity means you can navigate through the workshop quicker and smoother.

It is also important to support participants if the tool is new to them. Give them access before the workshop and let them have a go, at the start of the workshop take them on a tour and provide tip's for using it and make sure you schedule time for the participants to be able to ask questions or seek help.

Here are some tools we use at Nomat for workshops:

Tip 3. Trim your schedule

One of the most difficult things to manage during a remote workshop is the attendee's attention. There are so many distractions when running a remote workshop like a mobile device or a child.

It is important to respect the time of your attendees and keep things moving forward. Remember to have plenty of breaks (every 90 minutes), allowing attendees to sort out their distractions. Be kind and be human!

Tip 4. Run a pilot session

When we work on a project for a long time, it is easy to overlook things. It never hurts to get a fresh pair of eyes on the workshop to help pick up things you have missed. For important workshops run a pilot session with a colleague (or friends and family if you’re going solo).

Ask them for feedback: Is this activity easy to understand? Do you think this helps us solve the problem? Is this topic relevant to the client or stakeholder?

An illustration of of a plane in the sky

Tip 5. Set expectations with the attendees

Always set expectations with your stakeholders before the workshop. Ask them to be ready with materials (if needed) and ensure they understand the purpose of the workshop. Share the agenda and other workshop materials with them before the meeting. This allows the session to run quicker and ensures people can be prepared, saving precious time and supporting you in achieving the desired workshop outcomes.

6. Video on, mute as needed

Keep your video on to create a connection with your attendees there is nothing worse than speaking into the void! Ask attendees to reciprocate so that they stay engaged.

An illustration of cartoon figures on a screen

This also helps attendees to focus, keeping the camera on supports active listening on everyone’s part. Of course, exceptions always apply, so be understanding if some people need to opt out of showing their camera for bandwidth or dealing with bad hair days.

Tip 7. Over-communicate

“Sorry, I can’t hear you”, “Sorry, can you repeat that?”, “The internet cut out for a minute” sounds familiar? When running a remote workshop, it's always safer to over-communicate instructions and topics. Reiterate the important information, give attendees the space to ask questions and keep reminding them of the task at hand. Never assume that the attendees know everything and make sure to clearly explain what is expected. This helps everyone to be on the same page and move forward together.

Tip 8. Let people sketch on paper (or their preferred medium)

Sketching with a mouse is difficult at the best of times. Allow attendees to sketch on paper or whatever tool they find convenient (i.e., iPad). We recommend that attendees sketch with a marker (whiteboard markers, sharpies etc.) because this makes it easier for others to see and understand (especially when the sketch is photographed).

There will be times when an attendee has difficulty uploading their sketch onto the digital whiteboard. In these situations, it is helpful to have someone ready to receive their sketches via SMS or email. This will help attendees to be able to upload their sketches.

Illustration of a sketch on paper

Tip 9. Be inclusive

Everyone communicates differently. As facilitators, it is our job to ensure everyone can share their opinions and insights. We do this by building rapport, showing respect and curiosity for their thoughts and opinions. We also engage our attendees by calling on them at different times to share their insights and perspectives. No one likes to be left out!

Tip 10. Take advantage of the technology

One of the benefits of running a remote workshop is being able to save all the work. Remember to record and save the workshop as it will be a useful resource later on.

And that's it! Let us know if you found those tips useful and provide any tips you may have in the comments below.

About the author

About the author

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Author photo
Author photo

Bao Nguyen

Senior Designer and Researcher

Bao focuses on design solutions that find the right balance between the user’s needs and business’ goals, while prioritising visual aesthetics. He brings more than five years of experience in visual and user experience design. Bao is a passionate problem solver, creative thinker and enjoys working collaboratively with clients and stakeholders to get to the root of any problem.

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