Running a Virtual Workshop

Using Online Whiteboarding solutions

Big disclaimer note: These are tips specifically for a virtual workshop — all the tips and tricks for running a workshop still apply; have an agenda, stick to your timeline, give frequent breaks, etc.

Tips for Running a Great Virtual Workshop

Upfront I’ll say that we use Realtime Board for our diagramming and ideating. I have tried Mural as well, however I find its compatibility with trackpads problematic and couldn’t use the interface very well.

A few caveats:

  • It does cost a little money to get everyone in Realtime, but you can swap out team members if someone doesn’t need continual access.
  • Everyone using it needs to have a computer that can handle the software.

We find ourselves using Realtime Board constantly, so the investment has been well worth it.

Everyone’s Remote

This is a tip for virtual meetings in general , but it’s important enough to call out specifically. If one person is remote, everyone should be “remote”. It can be tempting to have some people in a room sticky-noting a wall and have those that are remote watch, but imbalances between team members are created with this environment.

And yes, having a few people in the building be in one room on one camera and still using Realtime Board does not count.

You’ll find the best environment is when everyone joins the call individually. In our case, we had the 3 people who were present in the building join from their office, work from home, or book a small meeting room.

We’ve made it a hard rule that everyone is on video too — seeing facial expressions is important.

Give everyone a space

In an in-person workshop, you’ll often break for individual work and then come back and present what you came up with.

This is tough virtually, but a really simple solution we came up with was to give everyone a “space”. I just put everyone’s name spaced out far enough that if they zoomed in and work they couldn’t see anyone else’s work and they were on their honor to not zoom out until time was up.

Little spaces for each of us to think and play

Use “Breakout Rooms”

In-person workshops may have activities where people break in groups by tables or go to separate rooms. This too is replicable online!

We tend to use Zoom for our video conferencing. Zoom has built in rooms, where you can assign participants to a breakout room and it separates people out and then brings them back to the main room at a certain time. If you’re not using a service that has it built-in, you can still do this!

When we’ve used Teams for video conferencing and needed to break out, I’ll designate a leader for each room to keep an eye on the time and for them to start a new call with those in their room. Then, when time is up, we’ll hop in a new call. This is a little cumbersome, but plan about 5 minutes of room-moving time and you’ll be fine.

It can be done

It’s nice to be in-person, it really is, but so far I haven’t found any deficiencies to running a workshop remotely that can’t also happen in an in-person one.

Ashley Crutcher is a Digital Designer at InterVarsity located in Madison, WI. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her furkiddos, crocheting/knitting, ringing handbells, and thinking too much about everything.