Online workshop framework

Jorik Elferink
Published in
7 min readMar 14, 2020


A few years back Anneke and I started facilitating our workshops online. It’s very relevant now, so I decided to put our framework online.

Anneke starting a digital wave 🙌

I will mainly write this as a guide with some tips and tricks. It’s not meant as a one size fits all, but rather as some things that have helped us in our work. We’d love to hear your own experiences and input so we can keep learning.

We use these online tools for our sessions:
Zoom for video conferencing
Mural for collaborative exercises
Google Drive for collaborative exercises and capturing insights
Slack for communication outside of the workshop


Keep in mind that an online training is different than an in-person workshop. The group dynamics are very different with a screen in between. You can’t easily hand something out, move people around or even look at someone in particular. This is a key point to take into account when designing and delivering your workshop. To help, you can use the online etiquette tips.

Notes to send out to participants before an online session

Important notes to send out to your participants before the workshop

  • Make sure you have a reliable internet connection
  • find a quiet space
  • everyone who participates should use their own computer
  • Use your headphones
  • Test your microphone and your camera before you start
  • Ask everybody to have their camera on so everybody can see each other
  • Ask people to be ready 10 minutes before the start of the workshop to have a smooth start
  • Make sure your name is legible. Not firstnamelastname, but First Name Last Name
  • Put the screen in gallery view so you can see everyone. If you have a lot of participants, go to video settings and select to display 49 people per screen

Some more general notes on running an online session:

Use the online etiquette yourself and ask others to as well. It takes a bit of time to get used to so you might need to remind people:

  • Mute your microphone when not speaking
  • Raise your hand in front of the camera when you want to speak
  • Use the spacebar to temporarily unmute to speak. This only works when de chat it closed.
  • Use thumbs up & down for simple yes or no questions
  • Leave food for the breaks; chewing sounds and visuals are not appreciated
  • Use the chat only for questions and urgent comments. Chit-chat can be too disruptive for everyone
Etiquette to use during the workshop

People can be hesitant to speak up. What helps to get everybody in the conversation is to personally address people or teams when you ask a question. For example “Team X, what do you think about…”. This way you can also make sure everybody gets a chance to speak.

If you are not sure about something, then the participants are probably less sure. Don’t be afraid to ask for confirmation or take time to check if everybody is on the same page. For example: “Are there any questions about this?” is best answered with thumbs up or down so you are sure you can move on if there are no questions — miscommunication can happen very soon and leads to disengagement!

Be clear about how long things will take and remind people of the time.


10–20 minutes
Tools used: Zoom

A check-in is a simple way to open a workshop and get everybody in the same space. Especially online, when communication is key, a check-in is a nice way to get everybody present in the virtual room.

A way to do this is to start of with a specific question, or a small activity. For example: “Show us the space you are in right now.” Or more on the topic at hand: “What do you need for today?” You can be creative with your interaction here. The goal is to give everybody the space to share, and it’s an excellent opportunity to get a sense of the energy of your participants. Are they focused, stressed, shy, energised?

Mural has some great input for Online Warm Ups & Energizers.

Webinar with slides using screen share in Zoom

Maximum 30 minutes
Tools used: Zoom, screen share

If you have theory to share, that is most easily done in Zoom. There are different ways: sharing your slides or screen, talking to the group, or the group talking to you. We recommend not making this longer than 30 minutes and be sure to check if everybody is following or if there are questions.

Collaborative exercises in Mural

10–30 minutes
Tools used: Zoom breakout rooms, Mural, Google Drive & offline with pen and paper

Hands-on exercises are best done in Mural. Think of this as an online whiteboard: where you can brainstorm with sticky notes, harvest insights, or fill in a canvas or model.

If participants work together in teams, you can put them together in breakout rooms in Zoom. This way they can talk among themselves while they work.

Transitioning can take some time: be sure to check if you see all participants in the whiteboard. If necessary, check verbally for every group. It’s helpful to share at what time participants meet again in Zoom, so they know how long they have for an exercise.

When working with Mural, it helps to already predefine which team will be working on what part of the board — you can do this easily by providing colors or names.

10–20 minutes
Tools used: Zoom, breakout rooms

As with any presentation or workshop, people will have questions. Make sure you plan time for this and to guide everyone back to Zoom so everyone can see who’s speaking. Following the online etiquette makes interaction easy; thumbs up or down, hold up your hand if you wish to speak and when it’s your turn press the spacebar to temporarily unmute.

You can put people in breakout rooms if you want to have smaller groups or peer to peer conversations.

Broadcasting a message to all breakout rooms in Zoom (image by Zoom)

10–30 minutes
Tools used: Zoom, breakout rooms, Mural, Google Drive & offline with pen and paper

Reflections help us remember our insights better and by sharing them with the group, we can also learn from each others personal experiences. Feedback helps us learn more about ourselves and aims to improve our collaboration together. You can create a space in Mural for people to fill in their reflections and feedback. This way you can create a template with the questions you wish them to answer. Be aware that everyone can read each other’s feedback.

Another way to capture reflection and feedback is to work in a shared Google doc. Again, this is all “open sharing”.

If you prefer to keep the reflection and feedback more private, you can also ask people to take some time with pen and paper or typing in a separate document before sharing verbally.

If you work in teams, you can use breakout rooms to share reflections just with your team instead of the whole group.

10–20 minutes
Tools used: Zoom, Mural

The check-out is a similar proces to the check-in. This time it is a nice way to end the workshop. Ask everyone what their key take away is, or what energy they leave the session with. This helps to give everyone one last chance to speak up and say goodbye to each other.

You can have a lot of fun here. One of my favourites is to ask people to add their favourite gif to Mural and check-out with how they relate to it.

Most importantly have FUN!!

Some extra links to great resources for online meetings & workshops

If you want to know more, or like us to help you with your own online workshops, send us a message. We’d love to help you get your work done remotely.

Stay safe!

— Jorik



Jorik Elferink
Editor for

Co-founder WOW Academy / Co-creator of The Empathy Game / Curator for Toolbox Toolbox / Learning Process Designer / Facilitator / Hyper Island Alumn