How to facilitate meaningful online workshops

Meeting online seem very relevant these days. In our daily work we are used to online meetings and seminars, but when it comes to co-creating and participating in workshops remotely, this calls for another mindset.

At Antrop, remote meetings have been part of our toolbox for many years. The obvious benefit, in times like these, is of course to meet without actually meeting in person. Another advantage is removing the actual travel, saving time, money and CO2 emission.

Maria Klint

Service Designer at Antrop with special expertise in behavior and sustainability design. Maria is an experienced workshop leader and is right now attending The Hows course Leading and Building Remote Teams. Here she shares her best tips on how to become a workshop ninja.

Preparing your workshop

Maybe you have facilitated many workshops in the past. You should take into account that a completely digital meeting demands that you prepare and modify it to keep it meaningful.

  • Make sure the technology works and is right for the task. Do a testrun before you go live.
  • Be selective with whom you invite. You want to have engaged participants, not people who read email in another browser window during the meeting.
  • Let the participants prepare by doing some tasks before the meeting, for example write answers to questions on a digital whiteboard.
  • If the meeting is long, divide it into shorter sessions to help keep people engaged. Maybe two workshops instead of one? Or just shorten the time together to let the participants work individually and then meet up to discuss the result.
  • Remember - if one of you is remote, everyone is remote. Try to see the meeting through the eyes of the participant.

During your workshop

A really good thing with digital meetings is that the content you produce is saved immediately - in chats, recordings, Keynotes och notes for example. And just think - to have the 500 post its from your workshops digitized without having to it yourself. Here are some suggestions that make your workshop even better.

  • Encourage participants to turn on their video cameras. This creates a feeling of presence and helps you as a facilitator to get feedback.
  • Be kind to yourself as a facilitator and ask for interaction when you need it. It can be frustrating to lead the workshop as you will miss out on part of the social interaction and direct feedback from a physical meeting.
  • Present the participants with tools for interactivity. Encourage them to send a “thumbs up”, say something in the chat, wave to the camera etcetera …
  • Remember - a person who is listening may not be nodding or smiling. It does not mean that he or she finds what you are saying uninteresting.
  • Exaggerate your body language for more effect.
  • Use more than one screen, making it possible to see the participants all the time, even when you are presenting on your own screen.

Activate the participants

To take part in an online meeting calls for engagement from the participants. It is easily done to lose focus when there is a lot of things around you calling for attention. There are a few things you can do as a facilitator to help out.

  • Ask the participants for help and keep them active at the same time. One of them can keep time, one can take notes, one can be responsible for keeping an eye on the chat window and one can take care of the technical parts.
  • Divide the participants into smaller groups during parts of the meeting. Give them a task to solve together.
  • If you have to do something that might take a few minutes, like change application or prepare a new step in the workshop? Send the participants away for a coffee break and ask them to come back in 5 minutes. They get a break and you won’t feel stressed.
  • When you are about to end the workshop - ask the participants for feedback by asking them to answer a few questions before they log out. You can prepare a google form or something. Some programs have built-in forms to use.

After your workshop

The workshop is done, all the participants have checked out and you can relax for a moment. Then it is time for the final steps.

  • Read through the feedback comments and decide if there is something you want to answer right away.
  • Share the presentation deck, recording and the material you have produced.
  • Add a personal reflection, some highlights from the meeting and what the next step is.
  • Evaluate the meeting from your point of view. How did you feel, and why? What can you do to make it even better the next time?