5 ways to lead a remote workshop like a pro

It’s almost been a year since the switch to digital meetings and workshops. Digital events like remote workshops aren’t always guaranteed to run smoothly. Whether the culprit is a technical glitch, a family member who needs your attention right when you’ve started delivering your perfectly-crafted speech, or a nosy pet who is determined to spend the entire workshop trying to jump on your keyboard, fostering a spirit of focus and connection in a virtual meeting or workshop can be a major challenge.

This doesn’t mean that any remote workshop is doomed to fail. In fact, with the right perspective and a little bit of work, your virtual workshop can provide all of the value and human connection of an in-person event. Read on to learn about how you can craft a remote workshop that makes its attendees feel calm, comfortable, and connected — and has all the benefits of meeting in person with none of the risks.

Preparation is Key

One major key to hosting a great remote workshop is preparation. Give yourself plenty of time to determine when and where your remote workshop will take place. Set yourself up for success by selecting the virtual platform you want to use for your remote workshop. Make sure you understand how it works, and get comfortable with its ins and outs. Consider selecting a backup platform in case you run into issues as the date of your remote workshop draws closer.

But don’t limit your preparation to just yourself. No one wants to get emails the morning of their workshop and find themselves scrambling to download a virtual tool. Send out plenty of information in advance to your attendees about how to access the workshop. Add an itinerary of what you’ll be doing, and any materials they might need. Take the time to plan your remote workshop in advance to ensure you are more focused on your team.

Get Involved

A good in-person workshop should leave its participants feeling excited, inspired, and connected with their fellow participants. So, there’s no reason why a remote workshop should be any different! Instead of spending each section of your remote workshop delivering presentations or leading rote Q&As, think outside the box. Let your teams engage in virtual design thinking exercises or spend time in assigned or randomly generated breakout rooms. Don’t be afraid to break up the monotony of an endless string of Zoom presentations!

Little things can make a difference, too! While you’re waiting for your remote workshop to start or you’re enjoying a brainstorming session, play some fun, energizing music to make your remote workshop feel like a more open and welcoming space. Making the attendees feel excited, inspired, and energized is a great way to turn a remote workshop into a success.

A female employee in a virtual workshop seminar using her laptop.

Be Flexible

It’s nearly been a year since we made the switch to virtual meetings. Additionally, it’s still true that remote workshops are often more exhausting than in-person workshops. Adjust for this truth instead of trying to fight it. Shorten your sessions to allow people to remain 100% focused for the entirety of each exercise. Also, add numerous short breaks throughout your daily itinerary that will allow attendees to grab snacks or stretch their legs.

It’s also smart to consider making changes based on your specific participants. Furthermore, think about what would work best for them. For example, a team of young professionals might prefer to power through a full day of a remote workshop. Whereas, parents juggling working from home with providing child care may prefer two days of shorter sessions. Implementing the schedule that works best for the team will make them feel seen, comfortable and respected. Also, this can mean that they’ll be more likely to be fully engaged during the entirety of the remote workshop.

Schedule Cleanup Time

Cleanup time is the perfect way to keep your virtual workshop from being too rigidly scheduled or too free-flowing. Like Goldilocks’ third bowl of porridge, it creates a perfect balance that will make your remote workshop feel “just right”. Scheduling cleanup time involves letting your workshop participants hang out and relax after the workshop is over. Instead of abruptly ending your Zoom session or moving onto another segment. Why take the time to hang? Well, not only is it great for capturing the magic of an in-person workshop and letting attendees connect with each other in a casual, low-pressure setting, but attendees may even feel comfortable enough in a more relaxed setting that they casually ask that question they were too afraid to ask in an earlier, more structured Q&A session.

Help keep cleanup time low-key by not listing it on the agenda. However, be sure to generate some ideas for a semi-structured activity in case people want to stick around but feel unsure of how to get to know each other. Having a fun icebreaker in your back pocket, asking a silly question, or even encouraging everyone to introduce their pets is a great way to foster connection — even when everyone is miles apart.

Don’t Forget to Debrief

With shutdowns being extended through at least the next few months, it’s possible that this won’t be the only remote workshop you ever run. An easy way to make your next remote workshop even better is to collect as much feedback as possible. Debriefing is a great way to figure out what your attendees liked and didn’t like, as well as to encourage them to provide suggestions for improvements. Consider incorporating a session dedicated to gathering and parsing feedback into your remote workshop, or follow up with a detailed survey or questionnaire after the remote workshop for your participants to fill out. Soliciting feedback can be stressful for even the most seasoned workshop coordinator but the information it provides can be helpful for bringing your future remote workshops to a whole new level of excellence.

Run Your Own Remote Workshop Successfully

Do you want to run a successful remote workshop but don’t know where to start? Voltage Control facilitates events of all kinds, including live online workshops, boot camps, summits, and meetings. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@voltagecontrol.com if you have questions or would like to schedule a consultation.