There are challenges involved in running virtual workshops that need to be considered.

As workshops involve a number of participants, it’s important that everyone is prepared. They should have received the workshop agenda and schedule in advance, along with suggested pre-workshop reading, equipment required, etc. You can expect that people will have differing connection issues or technical problems. Give participants clear advice on what they need for the workshop, such as connection speeds required, audio and/or video equipment, and a good workspace. Be sure to communicate any additional needs – like software – in advance and clear instructions on how to log in to the workshop.

The facilitator has the responsibility of aligning the group around a common goal or purpose. Just as in a live workshop setting, design a process that is interactive and varied. The workshop design should work toward this goal by including a number of factors:

  • Ice-breaking exercises – these take the place of coffee and chatting before a session in the real world. Good ice-breakers let the remote participants get to know each other and feel more comfortable with both the group and the remote interface. There are a number of suggested ice-breakers to be found online;
  • Session timing is critical. It not only ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate, but, most importantly, that the purpose of the workshop is achieved;
  • Provide opportunities for participants to work in small groups or pairs on specific topics/projects then rejoin the group as a whole to share their findings; and,
  • Provide visual space – lacking real-world whiteboards and flipcharts, choose online versions such as online whiteboards or shared Google Drive.

At the conclusion of the workshop, reiterate key takeaways from the session and discuss any follow-up actions. Make arrangements to share the outcomes of the workshop and point participants towards any online recordings/transcriptions or resource centers.