100times remote — Make your virtual workshop a ‘rock concert’ in 3 steps
Since Covid-19, the environment and setting of collaborative events and client workshops have changed dramatically. While we are now on the way out of the crisis, remote workshops and events will probably last. As SinnerSchrader (Part of Accenture Interactive), a digital agency in the field of experience design, we’ve been used to working agile and collaboratively together with our clients. But even for us, the learnings after more than one year of remote-only events and workshops were tremendous.
“When we started going fully remote, we doubted that running huge workshops would work at all in a virtual setting. It became inevitable to try and now, for some rare constellations, we even prefer remote settings over co-located ones, mainly because of the low barriers to join an event for 1–2 hours without the need for traveling.” Hannes Onken, Director Experience Strategy
After a hundred events, we’ve gained insights that make remote-only events well prepared and extra unique. Follow our 3 steps as inspiration on how to turn your remote event into a ‘rock concert’.
Step 1: Ticket release & stage-construction
Our first mission is to build a robust stage that does not collapse during the concert. And since the effort for remote formats often explodes, you are never over-prepared — seriously! To start with an easy check at first, you can use the following questions in advance of every remote event:
- Do I have a communication plan to get everyone on board?
- How can I build anticipation?
- How can I combine working sessions with inspiration?
- Could it be cool to plan little surprises like free lunch delivery for the participants?
Then we go through the participants list and hire a bouncer.
‘Bouncer’: In remote times, it’s harder to anticipate who really takes part in the event and who doesn’t. Some participants are mandatory, some are optional, some have to drop out earlier, etc. There is no room booking or hotel booking you can rely on and basically, everybody can join. So, we came to appreciate a kind of bouncer also for remote events. Like at a concert, a bouncer is in charge of keeping the participants list under control. Whether it’s a keynote event with 50–100 people or a small interactive event that is most productive with a limit of 5–10 participants — the number of available seats has to be set and communicated.
With a suitable amount of people entered your gate, you can focus on these people — your audience. Because just as important as the number of people participating in your session are their perspectives and expectations.
‘Pre-event’: Let them know what awaits them and how they are best prepared. Therefore, be aware that e-mail information and attachments are often not read, so find a way to make sure everybody is on the same page. We’ve learned that an easy pre-event, for example, is helpful — just like the pre-band doing the warm-up.
Also, make sure every participant checks their ‘remote conditions’ beforehand:
- Free up your calendar for the event
- Make sure you have a distraction-free space
- Get your groceries
- Stack up your stationary
- Set up your devices and check them beforehand
Last but not least, what is the proper length for remote events?
‘Length’: We know that depends on different factors, but to put it in general terms: it’s better to have two half-days of workshops than one whole day. If your participants know they have free time for their daily work in the afternoon, it’s much easier for them to concentrate on the topic during the workshop. It’s definitely worth it to ensure this freedom for your participants.
Step 2: Team performance — on stage and backstage
In a remote session, everybody is sitting in front of their screen looking at small, muted images with no connection to each other. To kick off your concert, let your participants take the stage first and pass the mic to them.
‘Intro round’: The moderation is on you, but give your audience the chance to speak first and at least about ‘How are you feeling?’ or ‘What is your greatest challenge right now?’. Just a few words to ensure that everyone is actively in the ‘room’.
Before you start with the topics of your remote event, be aware that you never have enough time! Sounds obstructive but accept the fact that time is running fast in your session and unexpected things happen. Have in mind to…
- …set your expectations low
- …don’t rush the participants
- …plan enough time for topics that arise during the event
- …be spontaneous and skip parts of your agenda if necessary
- …plan enough breaks
After the warmup is done, it’s time to deep dive into the topics of the event.
‘Backstage area’: Psst, we have very good news: we have a backstage area now! A recent refreshing benefit of remote events is the backstage area where you can hide the chaos, make everything look super easy, and use the backstage communication channels. Make it a team performance with clear responsibilities and your army always by your side.
Therefore, you also need some next-level moderation skills.
‘Backstage moderation’: Because there are discussions with topics that might have explosive tendencies, have in mind that someone has to moderate the chatbox. The chatbox? Yes, one of the most important new channels that came with remote events. It’s where people can raise their voice without raising their voice. And secondly, it’s helpful to prepare for the Q&A session. Give the role for the first question to someone (in advance or in the ongoing workshop) to make it easier for the crowd continuing to ask questions.
Additional quick tip: Have some surprises prepared. For example, organize a ‘catering’ like a little lunch or cake, to pick up in a local restaurant or send via mail to the home addresses of your participants. For sure that’s not always feasible, but have in mind, little surprises delight your participants and you win a lot of favor.
Step 3: Cooling down and getting merchandise
After the sweaty and (hopefully) productive performance is done, your participants want to get their souvenirs to remember the concert.
‘Digital merchandise’: For remote events, documentation is necessary since so much is going on like interaction on digital whiteboards, questions in the chat window, real-time surveys during the event, and so on. The good thing though, it’s already digitized. Remember the time we collected physical post-its to sum them up as workshop results. That is much easier, faster, and convenient now. Collect and summarize all the collaboratively gained outcomes effectively and offer them to your participants as souvenirs quickly after the event. For example, provide a well-designed infographic with the key outcomes of the meeting, or even a video recording of the event.
To feel the pulse of your audience during the event, and to collect feedback after the event, there are some helpful tools we can recommend.
- Menti for short surveys during the event
- Miro or Mural as real-time whiteboards
- Google Forms or Survey Monkey as follow-up surveys for feedback
Let’s come to an end — the concert is over. ‘Do I see you folks at the bar later?’ Oh wait, we haven’t left our homes at all. And we see, there are more nuts to crack! What about casual networking? What about feeling the room? Therefore, we will run another 100 remote ‘rock concerts’ and gather our learnings together to share them with you. Remember: It’s still day one!
For any further questions, feedback or insights you’re very welcome to contact us. And last but not least, a big thank you to Mira and Erika, our lovely colleagues who facilitated this article with their insights.