Creating High Impact Virtual Workshops: What You Can Learn From Our Experiences

June 15, 2020 | Kori Baker

At FinListics, we were an organization that delivered a lot of in person workshops. Sure, we also did virtual workshops too but in our minds there was never any substitute for that in person touch.

Well, since COVID-19 that’s certainly all changed.  And since early March, we’ve conducted 30 virtual workshops.  And it’s an understatement to say we’ve learned a whole lot about what to do (and what not to do.)  Here’s what we’ve learned:

  1. There’s no room for “it can’t be done.” If you made it happen in a classroom setting, make it happen virtually. Contests, group activities and discussions, competitions, presentations – all can be done virtually. Be creative. Think bold.  Make use of features of your online platforms with video, virtual breakout rooms, chat, polls, responses and online games.
  2. Shift the mindset from lecture to conversation. Virtual settings require a concentrated effort to interact and engage with participants. Be interactive or you will quickly lose the crowd. Questions to the general audience often are met with silence so calling on a specific person is required. Balance that with polls and chat to engage all participants. Invite participants to use chat to comment on what you are saying or in response to questions others ask.
  3. Bring the energy and more. Virtually, we all come across more serious and drier than we do in a classroom. The full body language of both the instructors and participants are not communicated virtually, so we must increase our energy to be engaging and to create that same energy in participants. Careful as slang and jokes are harder to communicate virtually. Rule of thumb, increase energy 25% more than you would in a classroom
  4. Be clear. Instructions for activities must be as clear as possible, even more precise than you would in the classroom setting. Exact is the best! Take the time to communicate instructions and expectations clearly and allow for questions. Instructions need to be both verbal and written – provide handouts and worksheets as guidance.
  5. Other best practices from a classroom setting still apply in the virtual setting. Text heavy slides are still less helpful than visuals. Learners still bring multiple learning styles to the virtual environment so diversifying and engaging learners in multiple ways remains important in both design and delivery. Lastly, allowing enough time for breaks and physical movement applies in the virtual sessions as well.

While we don’t know when we’ll back in the training rooms, we can turn right now into an opportunity and not just a temporary fix. Use this opportunity to learn what works in the virtual setting that you didn’t expect would, reinvent content and slides, improve your design and delivery skills and reinforce through participant feedback what is needed to be delivered face to face when we can again.

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