10 top tips for facilitating a virtual workshop

Aerial view of 18 colouring pencils, representing facilitating a virtual workshop.

Running or facilitating a virtual workshop is a daunting task for new, or even for experienced face-to-face trainers. It is a different world to the one we were previously familiar with and while some of the tools that we used in traditional classroom training can be applied here. There are a whole new set of nuances to consider too.

You could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by virtual workshops, considering all the content, tech and ongoing challenge of ensuring your participants are all fully focused and engaged.

So here are 10 top tips that we have pulled together to help you facilitate a successful workshop. In no particular order…

1. Schedule breaks for long sessions

Engaging your attendees won’t be too much of a problem if your workshop is designed with our process for designing for the virtual classroom recommendations in mind; but even so, if your workshop runs over an hour or two, it’s a good idea to give your participants a chance to take a quick break. Scheduling a few minutes for this purpose allows everyone time to mentally recoup,  recharge their energy and prepare themselves to continue learning.

2. Manage the audio

Asking all your participants to mute themselves the minute the workshop starts can really ruin the potential for engagement. At the same time, with multiple participants, background noise and feedback are likely to be an issue. Encourage your participants to manage their own mute button, joining with audio when their sound quality is good, and muting themselves when needed. You will, as host, likely have the power to do this for them; so if a participant’s audio is causing issues, don’t be scared to jump in and mute them sometimes.

3. Record your session

When you’re in the moment delivering a session, you don’t have the opportunity to see how things may look from the perspective of the attendants. Recording the session to review afterwards gives you the opportunity to see where improvements can be made. It can also be a good idea to make a copy of the workshop available to attendees so that those who couldn’t attend or wish to review what they’ve learned can access it at their leisure.

4. Remember that everything takes longer in the virtual space

It can be tricky to gauge how much time you really have while delivering presentations virtually – sometimes, you may think you’ve got plenty of time, but things like eliciting responses from participants or organising groups for discussions can take far longer online than they would face-to-face. Being liberal while factoring this extra time into your plan for the workshop will keep you on track and prevent last-minute panic.

For more tips on time management, watch our short video:
Learn 3 Different Time Tips to Make Your Virtual Workshop Brilliant

5. Know your flex

In addition to the above point, make sure you know which parts of your workshop can be adapted to fit your schedule. If there’s a certain part of your workshop that your participants are gaining more benefits from than expected, feel free to spend more time on that; but make sure you’re aware where that time will be taken from, and adapt accordingly to meet your objectives and  finish on time.

6. Make the most of polls and anonymous voting

Most virtual training platforms have a poll function – make use of this to let your participants answer questions and give opinions in real time. This can be a good way to gauge whether everyone has understood what you’ve covered, and ask if they are happy to move on.

Learn how to use polls in Microsoft Teams with our short tutorial video:
How to Use Polling in MS Teams

7. Get everyone on webcam

While everyone knows that the trainer needs to have their webcam on during training sessions, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that participants having their cameras off is fine. Participants being able to see each other and be seen by the trainer is key to the success of the workshop; it improves communication, interactivity, engagement and learning transfer. So get those cameras on, bad hair day or not!

8. Look into your webcam

Until someone invents a webcam that allows us to give the impression of looking into the camera while also looking at the screen, we’re stuck with having to look at a camera lens instead of our participants’ faces. It may feel unnatural, but to improve your learners’ sense of connectivity, it’s far better to look at your webcam than your own screen.

If you want more tips on how to look like a webcam pro, check out our blog; 5 Easy Tips to Rock Your Webcam.

Or watch this short video –
Make Webcams Work for Your Virtual Training Workshops

9. Keep a learner log for participation and detail

A learner log can be the most vital tool available to a virtual trainer. One of the best ways to maintain regular engagement and involvement with your participants, it simply means recording contributions as they occur to ensure all are evenly involved. If you’re not sure how to start a learner log, we explain the process in this video: How to Use a Learner Log for Your Virtual Workshops.

10. Practice, practice, practice

Yes, it’s obvious, but “practice makes perfect” is a cliche for a reason. Run through your content, play around with the platform, practice using all the different functions you’ll need in your presentation; breakout rooms, uploads, sharing your screen and presenting slides. Knowing how to fix a problem if it arises still isn’t as professional as avoiding the problem in the first place. With plenty of practice, your workshop is far more likely to be smooth and successful.

Were these tips helpful for you? Here at The virtual training team, we’re always looking for new ways to share our expertise. If you have any suggestions for new content you’d like to see from us, feel free to contact us.

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