The Benefits of Virtual Workshops & Tips for Hosting Your Own
If you’ve recently completed a journey map on the workshopping process, you may recognize some of these top pain points people often experience with in-person workshops:
- Workshops can be expensive. There are numerous costs involved including office supplies such as sticky notes, tape, flip charts, etc.
- Room scheduling difficulties are par for the course. Typically, there aren’t enough rooms available for the time needed or in the desired location. The room may be too small, or the room layout isn’t conducive to the workshop environment.
- Travel is often required. There’s a lot of time, money, and energy dedicated to traveling to a central location. If participants get lost or have to pay for parking before the workshop starts, they may begin the project in a bad mood – especially if travel time means excess time away from family.
- Space concerns can breed co-collaboration conflicts. Only a handful of people can effectively work on the same whiteboard or large post-it note. Utilizing resources such as these may make it hard to see materials being worked on across the room or create a strain from standing too long.
As if that weren’t enough, too many people and conversations in a crowded room can make it difficult for workshop participants to concentrate on the task at hand. These in-person environments can be intimidating, too. If only a few voices dominate the group, it can create peer pressure to align with their vision.
Benefits of Virtual Workshops
Thankfully, we have alternatives – and they’re a lot more socially and professionally acceptable now than in years past. Virtual workshops aren’t just a last-minute alternative to getting together in person. They’re a viable format with a lot of real-world benefits. Here are some examples.
Democratization of Voice
Everyone has a voice and needs time to give their input. Have you ever been in a meeting with a dominant participant (or maybe a couple of them) and everyone else shies away from providing their ideas?
Well, a virtual environment can help mitigate this issue. In a virtual environment, everyone has the room and time to give their perspective on the project. They can voice their opinions via a virtual sticky note where the author doesn’t have to be attached to it. Or they can take turns speaking while others are muted or make comments in the chat.
A virtual environment is more inclusive to those that may be introverted or those who might perceive themselves as more junior. In addition, it can open the floor to more people with diverse perspectives.
Recommended reading: Building A Collaborative Culture at Work for Success
People need space and a platform that everyone can see and work on together for efficient, effective collaboration. With an oversized Post-it note, only two people can huddle around and make changes to it. When collaborating online, there is more room for people to get involved.
There are numerous costs involved when meeting in person, including lunch, snacks, flights, travel, and office supplies. However, you can save on all these costs and lower environmental impact when meeting virtually from home. So, save the trees, and don’t needlessly waste paper and supplies on what could be an online collaboration.
If you’re using office supplies in person, then it can be hard to organize and create a virtual template for future use. However, when working online, people can easily reuse or edit all the artifacts and templates throughout the project and in the future.
No Double Duty
There’s little to no time spent converting all your physical outputs into digital formats to share or archive when working remotely.
Ability to Focus
Virtual breakout rooms create a “side room” for people to focus in small teams or by themselves. The ability to focus and think for a few minutes alone is difficult in a noisy, crowded room. Collaborating in a group is great, but sometimes people need time to collect their thoughts or discuss a particular issue together.
Going virtual allows for alternative mediums and content types in workshops, such as videos, screenshots, memes, and gifs. These content types can add levity to an intense process and provide a needed spark of energy.
Nothing will get people talking more than an unfacilitated breakout room with two or three people. This calm space can make people more comfortable chatting and getting to know each other better. And in the main chat, a few creative prompts or icebreakers can really get people talking and ease the collaboration process.
Removing Peer Pressure
When it comes to voting, the peer pressure that exists, especially if a leader is in the room or someone with a dominant personality, can negatively influence the outcome. The digital setting allows more anonymity in voting, which will provide more honest and accurate votes.
When working online, everyone is more centrally involved, and you can look at everyone’s comments and profiles simultaneously, so their involvement is easier to notate.
Ease of Booking
When working remotely, you don’t have to get 20 or more people together at the same place at the same time—there are no flights, travel, or meeting space issues. The only concern is finding a few blocks of time.
Maintaining the Schedule
Virtual workshops can make it easier to keep to a schedule for the project. You’re able to schedule set times for people to be away from their computers and take breaks. We recommend booking a session for an entire morning or afternoon. And then create 10-minute breaks every hour and a 30-minute break in the middle to clear your mind.
Actionable Next Steps & Sense of Conclusion
Virtually documenting the outputs from virtual sessions establishes an actionable artifact to accelerate the next steps. As a result, the participants leave the workshop with a sense of conclusion and an understanding of what’s next.
As you can see, creating a valuable and effective in-person workshop can sometimes be a difficult and frustrating task. There is a certain magic and connection that comes with in-person workshops, however, we have come a long way with virtual capabilities and they are a realistic alternative to in-person and in some cases can be more effective. There are simply too many variables that can end up ruining an in-person workshop, from travel costs and space required to collaboration concerns.
We’ve gone through all the impactful benefits a virtual workshop can offer. For your next workshop, consider going virtual. It can save you a lot of energy and time in the end and lead to an overall more collaborative experience. Leverage the benefits above to ensure you’re offering attendees the best possible opportunities to communicate, fully participate, and innovate together.
Need help? Consider engaging a collaborative services partner to facilitate more engaging and productive innovation experiences for your team.