How to Plan and Run an Effective Virtual Workshop
Looking for virtual workshop ideas, or are you looking for more information on what a virtual workshop is exactly? You’ve come to the right place. Here at iVent, we’ve had a hand in helping many of our partners get their virtual workshops up and running.
In other words, we have a great understanding of how to plan and run this type of virtual event; we also know what works well and what doesn’t, which is valuable information for anyone looking to run an effective virtual workshop.
The use of virtual workshops is universal, in that they can be used in all kinds of scenarios, take the medical and pharma sector, for example.
Virtual workshops in that instance might be used to train staff on using new technologies, or simply to educate them on a certain topic. Do keep in mind that this is but one example and that there are countless virtual workshop ideas out there (most we’ll cover throughout this post as we go).
Don’t worry if this is all quite new to you – or if you’re in need of a refresher. Our goal here is to provide you with all the information you need and then some when planning and running your own workshops.
Let’s begin with a quick 101.
What is a Virtual Workshop?
This section has been included here mostly as a reminder. We understand that a lot of you already know what a virtual workshop is, so feel free to move to the next section.
A virtual workshop is a structured online classroom-style delivery method for training and professional development. Like face-to-face training courses, they are typically facilitated by industry professionals and are focused on specific goals that are outlined beforehand.
These workshops are incredibly interactive and can be used in all sorts of ways, regardless of the sector or purpose of the workshop (as mentioned).
How interactive they are has a lot to do with the technology used to run these events. Here are a few examples of what we mean for reference:
- Break-out rooms can be used for further discussions
- Gamification can be used to increase workshop engagement
- Virtual presentations can be used to present information
All of this is possible thanks to the technology you utilise, or, more specifically, the virtual event platform you utilise (more on that later).
What Makes For an Effective Virtual Workshop?
In our experience as an expert in virtual events, the combination of three very important elements makes for effective virtual workshops. These elements include:
- Your virtual workshop objective – what is the desired outcome of your workshop (i.e. to train new staff members)?
- How attentive your attendees are – are they stimulated enough to engage with you and learn?
- What you do to facilitate it all – how are you relaying the information to others and getting from point A to point B?
Do keep in mind that the above elements could also apply to face-to-face events, not just virtual workshops. That being said, there are a lot more logistics to consider when running the latter, which can make running an effective virtual workshop tough.
For example, not a lot of people are used to learning through technology in this manner, so it will be up to you to navigate this in a way that doesn’t alienate anyone else.
What Steps Need to Be Taken to Plan and Run Effective Virtual Workshops?
Now that we know what makes for an effective virtual workshop, it’s time to look at what you can do to ensure that your events are as effective as possible. Like with the previous section, we’ve come up with multiple elements to remember:
- Define your Objectives
- Develop the Content
- Design the Exercises
- Deliver the Workshop
- Document the Workshop
Below we look at each step in much greater detail.
Follow each step to the wire and you’ll have no trouble meeting your workshop objectives time and time again.
Defining your Objectives
For you to know how effective your virtual events are, you first need to know exactly why you’re running the workshop in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions if you find yourself getting stuck:
- What will the outputs of this virtual workshop be?
- What must attendees be able to do once this workshop ends?
- What will they come away with at the end of this?
Understanding the purpose of your workshops will help get the ball rolling during the planning and preparation stage. It provides clarity, which is essential when it comes time to design the exercises.
Designing the Exercises
Let’s make this abundantly clear:
When planning a virtual workshop, you need to make sure that all exercises and frameworks help bring you closer to your main objective.
In some cases, this objective might need to be broken down over multiple sessions, depending on the subject in question. Most topics to do with healthcare and pharma tend to require more than one session, which you’ll need to plan ahead for.
If you’d like to learn more about healthcare and pharmaceutical event planning, generally, be sure to check out our dedicated post right here.
The sessions you plan should try to engage everyone involved. If your virtual workshops contain a bigger group, then it might be worth splitting participants up into groups and then having them communicate with one another in a breakout room.
From there, everyone should meet back up and discuss or present their outcomes and/or views. This is but one virtual workshop idea, how you design your own exercises will depend on a variety of factors, as mentioned.
Just know that there are few limits to what you can/can’t do when you use the right virtual event platform.
Get started on your events.
Are you ready to get started?
Developing the Content
Investing extra time in the planning and development of the content you’ll share in your virtual workshops is a must. In other words, having a rough idea of the exercises you’ll use will only take you so far.
You see there are other considerations to keep in mind, such as who may join you in leading the workshop and what you’re presenting generally. Again, it all needs to be fleshed out ahead of time.
Here are a few tips to help with that:
- Share some of the content ahead of the virtual workshop to allow attendees to prepare and gain insight into what will be covered.
- Draft parts of the content ahead of time so that attendees have a decent starting point (this helps with the flow of the workshop).
- Develop clear instructions covering each exercise in great detail, so that everyone is well aware of what they’re doing.
- Develop additional exercises to respond to any topics that could come up during the workshop.
Delivering the Workshop
At this point, you should have everything you need to get going. However, it might be worth conducting a technical dress rehearsal beforehand. Doing so will make sure that everything is good to go and give you a better idea of how the workshop will actually run.
Do this a few days before the workshop. This should give you enough time to shuffle things around, or get something sorted before the workshop takes place.
Your next step should be to outline clear roles for facilitators and a running order. Creating an itinerary for these individuals will help to establish roles and responsibilities (assuming that there is more than one person involved?).
Top Tip: As a general rule of thumb, try to keep all sessions to a maximum of three hours, complete with regular breaks in between. Any longer, and you could end up losing the attention of your attendees.
Once you have everything in place, it’s time to begin!
Effective workshops run well when attendees play a much bigger role, meaning its important that you give them the tools to do just that. This is possible through polling, anonymous voting, and live chat, all three of which can easily be implemented when using the appropriate virtual event platform.
Before we move onto the final step, let’s take the time to look at a few considerations/tips when running an effective virtual workshop:
- Start the meeting with an energiser/icebreaker, along with introductions and a basic running order of how the workshop will go.
- Give enough time for discussions and remember to check that everyone understands what has been discussed.
- Leverage gamification to explain complicated concepts (doing so might help others in their understanding of said concepts). And to encourage engagement.
- Be flexible with the agenda if necessary; if a particular issue needs more time, then give it that time.
Documenting the Workshop
Just because your virtual workshop has concluded doesn’t mean that the work is over. Once the event has concluded, organisers should write up a clear summary of the workshop sessions, key conclusions, and any noteworthy actions.
Not capturing it here is like it never happened, and won’t help you should you decide to run another workshop in the future.
Be sure to collect feedback from your participants too. Their feedback is instrumental in helping you understand what worked well and what could be improved to make for a better experience; again, this data is very handy to have if you’re planning on running more workshops.
If you want to collect comprehensive feedback, we’d recommend handing out a post-workshop survey.
Need a hand with writing a virtual event survey? We have a post on that topic too which you can find here.
Virtual Workshop Ideas
To help you with planning and running effective virtual workshops, we thought we’d include a dedication section for just ideas.
These virtual workshop ideas will help you engage with your audience and can be applied to most workshops, regardless of the topic or what industry you operate in.
Just keep in mind that a lot of this is possible thanks to an optimised virtual event platform – a platform that does everything in the same place, unlike other ways of running this type of event where you need to hop between one platform to another.
Our list of virtual workshop ideas includes:
- Integrate live chat, polls, and anonymous voting to give attendees more of a role.
- Separate members into virtual breakout rooms for tasks and other sessions.
- Have attendees submit any questions they have before the event.
- Conduct regular temperature checks through physical cues.
- Play virtual quizzes where the questions are tailored to your topic.
- Run virtual presentations to break up your workshops.
*For those that don’t know, temperature checks are used in virtual workshops to get a read on how an individual is doing as far as the workshop goes. It’s a check to see if they’re understanding all of it, parts of it, or nothing at all.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask attendees to give you a thumbs up or thumbs down after each section. Or better yet, have something implemented within the platform that people can interact with to better outline how they’re doing.
How to Plan and Run an Effective Virtual Workshop
While the popularity of virtual workshops soared during the pandemic, their appeal has continued to grow, as businesses and institutions look for innovative ways to educate and inform their target audience without limitations.
Hopefully, the above information is more than enough to help you plan and run an effective virtual workshop. Before we finish up here please note:
To run an effective virtual workshop you require effective tools. Utilising the same old platforms will only get you so far; they have limitations that could negatively impact what you can and can’t do with your workshops.
Running your virtual workshop on a dedicated virtual event platform is how you bypass any bumps in the road. Here at iVent, we specialise in fully-customised experiences through the event platforms we create.
Additionally, one of the great things about our digital hubs is that once you create your event once, you can use it all year round! What’s more, our tailored approach allows us to build your virtual environment from the ground up, so that you can have it on-demand, or make it live again at another point.
This could save you a lot of time and money if your workshops are roughly the same each time. And even if you do decide to alter your workshops, or run a different one entirely, we’ll be there also to lend a helping hand!