Virtual Workshops

Virtual Workshop platforms have risen sharply as an alternative to traditional classroom training. They come with a host of tools available, and are designed to make delivering virtual training even more effective and interactive. On this page, we will show you how to facilitate virtual workshops and share some digital facilitation tools such as annotation and polls.

Virtual Workshops

What is a Virtual Workshop?

A Virtual Workshop is a completely web-based workshop training experience delivered through the internet to you in the comfort of your own home, or office. Typically, during a Virtual Workshop, you will be able to see and interact with the virtual coach live, ask questions in real time, see and engage with the coach’s slides and interact with other attending participants.

Even before the sudden onslaught of COVID-19 and its related restrictions, Virtual Workshops were on the rise as an efficient and widely accessible alternative to traditional co-located classrooms. Most Virtual meeting platforms that are currently available already come with a host of tools, designed to make delivering virtual training even more effective and interactive. But we’ll get into that later.


How do Virtual Workshops work?

In short, Virtual Training, or VILT, takes the fundamentals of face-to-face training and replicates the experience live and online.

At the Virtual Training Team, all our Virtual Workshops are 100-minutes long. This can vary from provider to provider, with some lasting just 60 minutes and others ranging all the way to 2 or 3 hours. The ideal number of participants is between 6 and 10 per workshop, with some flex available either side of this for specialist requirements.

The content of Virtual Workshops should always be underpinned by sound science, psychology and business research and include practical ideas that participants can immediately apply upon leaving the Virtual Workshop.

What does a typical Virtual Workshop look like?

  1. The participants and facilitator/coach log into the chosen Virtual Workshop platform (such as Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Zoom or Adobe Connect) from their various different locations.
  2. The Virtual Workshop is run live with all learners participating at the same time.
  3. Virtual Workshops are usually bite-size to allow for increased frequency and regularity of training.
  4. Groups of 10 participants are typical for VILT workshops.
READ MORE - Virtual Workshops and Alternative Approaches

What are the common challenges associated with Virtual Workshops?

How to keep people engaged and create a relaxed and trusting environment

When Virtual Workshops are designed and facilitated correctly, participants will more readily be engaged with the coach and content. In the virtual environment, it is even more important that participants feel safe and secure enough in order to start dialogue.

With this in mind, be sure not to overlook the importance of check-ins as a virtual workshop tool. One of the easiest ways to do this is to pose a short question that can be answered from a personal perspective. This helps people to warm up and become more familiar with both the coach and the other participants.

Get webcams on, too. Being able to see one another helps to foster a greater sense of closeness and trust; in being able to see faces, we feel more connected to our fellow humans and more at ease.

READ MORE: Case Study - Moving a key in-person conference to a virtual think tank

What are the best Virtual Workshop tools to use?

It is very important that as the facilitator, you feel completely in control of the tools you are using during your Virtual Workshop. And there are plenty to choose from.

We favour video conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Cisco WebEx as our chosen virtual workshop platforms, for their ease of use and host of features to make Virtual Training even more interactive.

In order to have a fluid and seamless Virtual Workshop training session, we recommend that you take the time to get familiar with your chosen virtual workshop platform, test all the tools and find the ones that work best for you.

Some to pay close attention to are

  1. Annotation tools
  2. Screen sharing options
  3. File transfers
  4. Chat functions
  5. Voting options

How do you hold participant attention during a Virtual Workshop?

The thing about Virtual Workshops, as we have said above, is that they are bite-sized. This means only holding participants’ attention for an hour or so at a time, rather than the full-day workshops that traditionally come with physical training.

Admittedly, people do tend to have shorter attention spans when it comes to working in a digital environment, (there are a lot of potential distractions!) but there are also a myriad of ways to create strong engagement to keep your participants focused.

If you want more tips on How to Engage Modern Learners; watch our video for Catherine’s top tips on how to keep your participants focused.


How to Facilitate a Virtual Workshop - Best Practices

Running or facilitating a Virtual Workshop training session can be a daunting task for those new to Virtual Training. Even experienced face-to-face facilitators might find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge required when it comes to running a virtual sessions. After all, there is a lot to remember, between the content, tech and of course, ensuring that the participants are fully engaged.

So here are some of our Virtual Workshop best practices, when it comes to running your training online.

1) Preparation is Important

It will come as no surprise that preparation is key when designing a Virtual Workshop training session. It is vital to remember to start with your why; why are you having this session? What goals are you looking to achieve by the end of it?

Also consider the length of your workshop; are breaks required? If so, for how long? Where will they fit best, without disrupting the flow of your content?

And most importantly, PRACTICE! But be aware that practicing is different to rehearsing. Don’t draft out a script of what you want to say; keep it fluid and personable. Know what you want to say and practice delivering it at the same time as managing the tech. Be confident and be yourself; it will show.

2) Choose the right tool for the job

Choosing the right platform for your end goal is key. You need to find a platform that has the accessibility and ease of use to make it simple for participants to join and take part, but also possesses enough functionality to enable engagement and collaboration.

There are some great conferencing platforms available now. These allow participants to see one another through a video camera and communicate via audio. They often also possess the additional feature of allowing you to allocate participants into breakout rooms for more intimate discussions.

Examples of popular conferencing platforms are -

  1. Zoom
  2. Microsoft Teams
  3. Cisco WebEx
  4. Google Hangouts
  5. Bluejeans

3) Plan activities for participants

The most engaging and efficient workshops are the ones that participants feel connected to, where they feel enjoyment and learn something new along the way.

In order to do this, we recommend running a series of activities for participants to engage in with one another, thus deepening their connection and further their learning transfer.

Ideas for group activities such as

  1. Discussing questions
  2. Sharing previous experiences
  3. Problem analysis
  4. Ideation
  5. Critiquing scenarios

4) Engage everyone in discussion

Ensure that your questions are inclusive and that everyone has the opportunity to answer. Asking participants to put their answer into chat or vote in a poll allows everyone the chance to share their opinions and answers.

Sometimes when engaging everyone through audio, answers may get lost in the hubbub of general chatter. It is important as the facilitator that you try to minimize this. You want to give everyone a chance to be heard.

5) Summarise before moving on

Recapping on the content that you have just covered before moving on can be highly beneficial to your participants. It allows you to recap important information, restate the goals of the session and clearly show everyone the journey that they have been through so far.

It can be a great idea to show this summary visually on a slide so that participants can see that journey in front of them and note how far they have come. Everyone loves to see their progress.

If you would like more tips on how to facilitate a Virtual Workshop, check out our Rookie’s Handbook here.


Top digital facilitation platforms for Virtual Workshops

As we have highlighted above, there are a great many platforms that make Virtual Workshop facilitation more engaging and interactive.

Here are the virtual platforms that we recommend to help enhance your digital facilitation:-

  1. Zoom
  2. Microsoft Teams
  3. Cisco WebEx
  4. Google Hangouts
  5. Skype
  6. Adobe Connect
  7. Slack
  8. GoToMeeting
  9. BlueJeans
  10. LiveWebinar

If you would like to read more about these platforms and others, read our blog - The Best 14 Virtual Meeting Platforms For Modern Businesses.


How to facilitate a Virtual Workshop in Zoom

It is no secret that here at the Virtual Training Team, Zoom is our platform of choice when it comes to delivering Virtual Workshops.

That’s because it is simple to use, easy to set up and participant friendly (even more so since their 5.2 update). And, in a similar vein, it is a constantly updating platform with consistent updates and improvements to make your Zoom experience better.

So here is a list of our most used Zoom tool features, which we use to facilitate our Virtual Workshops.

1) Sharing your screen

We love this feature in Zoom. It’s fantastic. How it works (if you have been living under a rock for the last 8 months!) is that if you have documents you wish to share with others, you can do so. You can display software, reports, slide decks, anything you can think of, live, with your participants. It is the easiest way to share a Virtual Workshop slide deck and ensure everyone is looking at the same screen at the same time.

2) Polls and voting

This is a great feature for checking participant engagement and understanding. It can give facilitators an easy window into the participants’ mindset and clarity on the chosen content, but also, it provides a quick tool to check understanding before moving on to the next slide.

This is a great feature for checking participant engagement and understanding. It can give facilitators an easy window into the participants’ mindset and clarity on the chosen content, but also, it provides a quick tool to check understanding before moving on to the next slide.

Not using Zoom? Check out how to use the polling feature in Microsoft Teams instead

Record the Virtual Workshop

This might seem obvious, but the ability to record your Virtual Workshop provides benefits for both you as the facilitator and the participants. If you have learners who are unable to attend the workshop, a recording allows them to experience the workshop second hand but in real time. As a facilitator, recording your session allows you to look back over the workshop, giving you the chance to critique and look for ways in which it can be improved.

Make use of the chat features and Q&A

Both of these tools are priceless when it comes to facilitation and Virtual Workshops. It enables live conversation and feedback between facilitator and participants, and creates a channel that allows participants to communicate with each other, without disrupting the session.

Virtual breakout rooms

The ability to take your main training group and split it down into smaller breakout groups might be our favourite feature about Zoom. It allows us as the facilitator to split the learners into smaller groups so they can have more intimate discussions around the content, answer specific questions, or work on whiteboards together.

Then, when these groups come back to the main room, they can present their discussions back to the main room as brand new information to everyone from the other groups. It’s wonderful!

WATCH MORE - How to Set Up Zoom Breakout Rooms for Virtual Classrooms

The virtual whiteboards

We can’t get enough of virtual whiteboards! We love them. It is the virtual equivalent of a huge flipchart, but on the screen. You can draw, type, paste text or diagrams onto it, it is the ultimate collaboration tool available on Zoom.

They all save during the Zoom session and then can be shared after the Virtual Workshop has concluded, if you so desire. They are a great tool and they allow everyone to engage, whether that is in the main room as a group or when split into smaller breakout groups.

If you want more Virtual Workshop tools to enhance your training experience, check out this blog.


Virtual Instructor-led Training is an incredibly versatile and increasingly popular tool for Learning and Development teams around the globe.

If you would like help with your Virtual Workshops, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.

As a dedicated virtual training company, we would be happy to talk through your virtual training requirements and help you to get on your way to virtual success.