5 tips to make your remote workshop a more interactive experience
With technology rapidly changing and new software constantly hitting the market, continuous learning is the key to make sure that you stay on top of the game and at peak productivity. More people are now getting employed within a distributed workforce, making physical workshops and training difficult to carry out for all employees. Online and remote learning is the future and employers, employees and thought leaders will all need to embrace this new trend.
Before planning a remote workshop, there are a number of different things to consider to make sure that it’s a success. By keeping the workshop engaging and interactive even though you’re not in a physical location, your attendees will gain more out of the process. During our recent Remote Future Summit, we learnt a lot from the four live workshops we hosted. We collected some of the best tips we’ve discovered to help you make your remote workshops even better.
Make the most out of your chosen hosting tool
There are a number of different tools and software out there to host your remote workshop. It’s worth fully exploring the functionality they provide and what features can help improve the interactivity of the session. One great tool we found was Zoom, which allows for breakout rooms to be created whilst hosting the workshop. These smaller rooms allow people to be split into groups for discussion or to complete any tasks set by the instructor. The groups can be prepared in advance and the host is able to jump between each group to give feedback or observe the learners.
Use shared documents instead of flip charts or a whiteboard
In order to replicate the experience of a normal workshop with post-its, a flipchart or white board, create a shared document that all participants have access to. This will allow for everyone to participate instantly and in an easy manner. Trying to broadcast a physical white board through a webcam almost always ends being unclear and unengaging. You can also make use of pre-prepared session toolkits that can be shared with all learners which are filled out interactively during the session. There are great tools out there that provide some more advanced features, but even a shared google doc or sheet can be enough.
During Paul Nunesdea’s workshop on Facilitative Leadership, he used GroupMap when getting participants to collaborate on a task. GroupMap is a great tool for designing your own activities, inviting participants and capturing their responses and answers. Results are then viewable in real time, providing an interactive way of conducting your remote workshop.
Another great shared tool is using an interactive world map. Stephan Dhorn and Julianne Neuman made use of one during their workshop on How to Lead High-Performing Remote Teams, allowing everyone to see where each participant is joining from. This acts as a fun and engaging warm-up exercise that utilises the remote environment to its advantage. This activity, or one similar, can make the check-in process more interesting and enjoyable, whilst allowing you to carry out a technology and comms check on attendees.
Enable all participants to use videos and chat
By making everyone in the workshop use their webcam and chat capabilities, you automatically create a more engaging and productive atmosphere. Without having the webcam on, it’s much more likely for people to tune out or lose concentration. This is the same for not encouraging active talking, as those who don’t contribute or use video can become inactive participants. One method of getting people more involved is calling on people by their name. This is much easier in a remote workshop, as you can see everyone’s username in front of you. This provides a distinct advantage over a more traditional session where people might not have name tags, or you forget someone’s name.
If the group isn’t too big, letting people introduce themselves can also help create more natural interactions between learners. This technique was used by Ieva Vaitkeviciute in her workshop on Designing Data-driven People Experiences in a Remote Company. People can break the ice in a way they feel comfortable, and share with others a short introduction into their background.
Engage volunteers to take part
In order to maximise involvement and participation, make use of volunteers for live demos and tasks. Simply asking if people have any questions often isn’t enough to really get your speakers to take part more. Caterina Kostoula successfully used volunteers in her remote workshop, presenting to them the newly found knowledge and putting it into practice with a live demo of the technique being discussed. Getting volunteers has a double impact on people’s engagement with the session, as the volunteer themselves actively practices a skill and the rest of the learners can experience the interaction.
Incorporate breaks within your presentation
When listening to a presentation in a remote workshop, participants often find it more difficult to bring up spontaneous points and questions than when in a physical space. This makes it easy for people to become disinterested or bored when having to sit through a long talk. To avoid this issue, don’t talk for too long at a time or show too many slides. Allow and actively encourage people to interrupt and comment. Put in engagement breaks every so often when you actively promote involvement.
In Caterina’s workshop at the Remote Future Summit she made sure to take such breaks and force some level of participation. By presenting, giving a dedicated break for questions and then using a volunteer for a live demo, she kept interest high and provided an interactive experience.
Make remote workshops a part of your company’s process
It can feel daunting giving a remote workshop due to the different nature of feel of it. Getting people engaged and interested can feel like a challenge when looking at the more traditional method of running a session. However, you can use the remote environment and technology available to your advantage. This, in combination with the different strategies mentioned above as well will make your workshop a success. Take some time to take part in remote workshops yourself as well, gain experience on what worked or didn’t work for you as a learner and then use this knowledge in the future.