Top Tips for Adapting to Online Workshops
Many of us are currently facing the challenge of turning meetings and workshops that were planned to happen in person, into digital ones. Being a digital agency, we at Novicell are used to working and communicating online all the time, but we have always done workshops face-to-face. Up until now, that is.
Like many others, we have had to adjust quickly to the new circumstances caused by COVID-19, and in this article, we give you our best takeaways based on our very first online workshop with the investment management company and our client, 7IM.
Our five takeaways for a successful online workshop
1. Set a clear goal
No matter what kind of online workshop you are doing, you'll want to make sure that the whole team is working towards a common goal. Workshops are a waste of time if there's no clear aim kept at the center of the discussion. Without this, there's really no point in getting people together.
Our workshop with 7IM was a scoping workshop. 7IM wanted to build a new website and the purpose of the workshop was to ensure the project team was in sync and understood the project context and work to be done.
We do a lot of scoping workshops with clients to get to know them, their business and their needs and goals better. The aim is to define the scope of the project and to capture the requirements.
2. Be prepared
This isn’t always possible, but your workshop will go so much better if you aren’t covering information points for the first time, but rather going a bit deeper.
Prior to the online scoping workshop, we asked 7IM to send information about their business, competitor analysis, target group description etc. This way we had a lot of information beforehand so we didn’t have to start from scratch and could go straight to the challenges and opportunities ahead.
3. Book in time and be present
As tempting as it is, try not to do any other work or read articles or send emails when you are in an online meeting. Make sure to book in the time and block your calendar as you would if you scheduled a physical meeting. Put your phone and other distractions away, clean up your desk, and turn off notifications on Slack, Outlook etc. so that you’re focused and engaged during the workshop.
4. Avoid technical issues
The reality of remote working and running an online workshop or virtual meeting is that sometimes, people will have connection issues or technical problems. This is a challenge that cannot be 100% avoided, though you can take steps to prevent or limit the impact of technical issues. Give people clear advice on what they need for the meeting and plenty of notice so they can work from somewhere with good internet and have their equipment in order.
5. Break it up
Online events such as webinars or learning sessions are often advised not to take longer than 60 minutes. Most scoping workshops take longer than that. If this is the case, have some snacks and drinks ready, but also remember to make time for breaks during the workshop that allow people to go to the bathroom or to make a cup of coffee. Specify when the breaks will be in the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.
The online workshop with 7IM took four hours. We had planned two breaks but ended up only having to take one. Ideally, to keep people focused, the workshop should be maximum four or five hours. If you need more time, we suggest splitting the workshop over two days.
Thoughts after the first online workshop
One of the participants in the workshop was Novicell’s Head of Digital Interaction (London Office), Lars Hesselberg:
- Doing the workshop online was a very positive surprise. Everyone was well-prepared and engaged in getting the most out of it. Because of that, we were able to generate a lot of ideas and solutions as well as build trust and relationships which I normally find harder in online meetings compared to in-person. This will definitely not be the last online scoping workshop that we do.
Zoe Baird, Head of Digital, from 7IM was also happy about the outcome:
- We are very pleased that Novicell suggested to do the workshop online as it meant that we didn’t have to slow down our work on the new website and have been able to continue as planned. The online workshop went really well, was a good experience and we got to know our Novicell team. The outcome was just as valuable as we would have expected from a physical workshop.
After running our first online workshop, we can safely say: it can be done! The goals for online workshops are no different than those done in-person. When you are meeting online, you just need to make a few adjustments to achieve those goals. By preparing properly and participating fully, your online workshops can be just as successful as sitting in a room together.
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