Blog Strategy

Virtual Workshops are the Future—and for Good Reason

Patrick Dennison

Product Strategist

  • Reading Time  Min Read
  • Publish Date November 12, 2020

Now that it’s clear this massive shift to remote work is more than a short-lived experiment, companies are having to rethink their remote collaboration and training strategies.

Video conferencing provides an effective way of bringing co-workers together but has some disadvantages if not handled correctly. For instance, being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat. Participants must work harder to process non-verbal cues and demonstrate their interest in the conversation.

Zoom fatigue is real.

Being empathetic to attendees’ needs is vital, and hosts and facilitators must consider what people need to make the sessions more successful. Following the temptation to deliver virtual training workshops and collaboration meetings in much the same way remotely as in-person means that not only are the employees and company productivity suffering, we can miss some tremendous opportunities to enhance the experience.

Issues related to traditional business meetings and workshops

Live workshops and meetings are the current tried and tested methods, but they are certainly not without problems. If we were to do a journey map on the workshopping process, some of the top pain points experienced might include:

Expense 

There are a multitude of costs involved in hosting in-person workshops. Everything from providing the necessary materials – sticky notes, tape, flip charts, making lunch available for attendees, and renting a suitable space.

Travel 

Travel can end up being another significant expense, especially if there are flights involved. Those driving face parking issues, getting lost, and more time away from their families, putting them in a bad mood before the session begins.

Room scheduling difficulties 

Issues with finding a location to host a workshop or meeting can include things like there not being enough rooms available at the designated time or in a place where all attendees can easily reach them.

Space concerns 

Further logistical problems might be that the rooms available lack sufficient space for all attendees. Their layout isn’t conducive to the workshop environment if, for example, many people need to move about the area safely.

Co-collaboration conflict 

Group activities, often a key focus of workshops, can be difficult to run if they require individuals to work in the same physical workspace. Only a handful of people can effectively collaborate on the same whiteboard or large post-it note.

Inability to focus 

Having people packed together in a large and possibly noisy space may not be the best way to encourage creativity or support learning. The ability to concentrate on a specific task can be difficult for many in this kind of environment.

Intimidation 

Often in large groups, a few voices tend to dominate the crowd. For instance, when one person holds the floor, others may shy away from expressing their ideas, creating pressure for everybody to align with their vision.

How virtual workshops help overcome these challenges

While the transition to virtual may have been uncomfortable at first, as employees begin to grow accustomed to these sessions, they may start to see that they offer significant advantages. The right kinds of adaptations mitigate many of the issues linked to in-person workshops.

There is a significant reduction in monetary and environmental cost, no lunches, flights, sharpies, post-its, printing, or whiteboards. Reducing paper usage saves trees, and materials and templates can easily be tweaked and reused in parallel sessions.

Not having to cram 20 people into the same space simultaneously improves the ease of booking for these workshops. There are no issues with finding a room of the right size and with suitable facilities. The host’s only concern is finding the time to suit all participants, but this is made much easier by not having to factor in travel.

Likewise, they also offer spacial advantages. There are no worries about fitting everyone into the same area to see and hear the material. With excellent collaboration tools such as Miro, many people can also work on the same project without scrambling around to reach the paper or whiteboard for improved collaboration.

The use of Zoom breakout rooms enhances the participant’s ability to focus. In groups of two or three, people can chat and get to know one another. With a few prompts, it’s possible to get people freely communicating. These virtual ‘side spaces’ also enable people to work as a small team on a single effort.

Virtual workshops also allow for greater democratization of voice. More mediums of expression, including polls, private messages, and virtual sticky notes, enable anonymity. Once you remove peer pressure, everyone can hear introverts, those who may perceive themselves to be more junior, and individuals with diverse perspectives.

Beyond overcoming the problems faced with arranging and delivering in-person meetups, remote workshops have several more essential benefits.

Maintaining the schedule is much easier to do in the virtual world than in the real one. Yet this is also where facilitators will need to adapt. Participants should have regular time away from the computer to reduce fatigue – 10 minutes every hour is ideal, with a hard 30-minute break in the morning and afternoon.

Going digital also allows for enhanced creativity as alternative tools and content types such as videos, screenshots, memes, and gifs become more effective. These can all add some fun to what can otherwise be an intense process and provide a much-needed spark of energy to meetings and innovation workshops.

With large groups, individuals can frequently get lost at the back of the room. However, giving each participant an equal presence on the screen means everyone can see each person in the meeting at all times. Increasing accountability motivates all attendees to remain fully engaged.

Virtually documenting both the workshop’s progress notes and outputs establishes an actionable artifact that can serve to accelerate the necessary next steps of a project. All participants leave the workshop with a sense of conclusion and an artifact they can share with their leaders and peers.

Finally, having everything already in digital form means there is no double duty. While some documents may require slight amendments or formatting alterations, overall, less time is needed for converting physical outputs into digital format for archiving or sharing out among other colleagues.

Want to learn more about successful remote events and strategy?

Of course, if you have questions about making your virtual workshops and events meet your team’s needs, get in touch, and let’s see how we can help.

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