And quickly too!

If you’re used to running webinars for learning sessions and already have a decent e-learning offering, that’s one thing.  But what about converting your two-day leadership programme into a virtual session at short notice, so that you can keep your development programmes running?

That’s the challenge facing a few of our clients, so we thought we’d share our top tips here….

Set Some Ground Rules

We all know etiquette on conference calls and webinars can be poor.  Some people don’t even mute their lines, so you can actually hear them carrying on about their business and typing their emails in the background.  Having everyone put their camera on makes a huge difference here – as we are no longer invisible.  Set out what you want the virtual session to achieve, for example, highlighting that this is not about shifting the highly interactive workshop into a death-by-PowerPoint slide show, but more about working where possible to replicate the workshop experience.

There can be a tendency for silence and passivity in these virtual settings, which completely removes the benefit of this being an experience with peers.  When we think about the consistent positive feedback received on face-to-face workshops, it’s always the benefit of hearing from peers – how they face similar challenges and how they cope.

So when we move to a virtual setting, we don’t want to lose this.  Set the expectation that people will be asked to comment and share with the whole group their personal experiences, challenges and ideas on how to overcome these.

Set up Breakout Rooms

Asking people to share their experiences in front of the whole group is far easier when smaller conversations have taken place first.  This is the benefit of small group discussions and breakouts in your face-to-face workshops.  Replicate this in your virtual sessions by splitting people into small groups and getting them to have a discussion.  Depending on the platform you are using, you may be able to actually run breakout rooms (e.g. on zoom) or you could just ask people to set up skype calls.

Again, ask everyone to have their cameras on for this, so that they are more likely to really listen and engage with the conversation than just carry on with emails etc.

Sift your Content

We have to acknowledge that some of the content we prepared for the face-to-face workshop just will not translate to a virtual setting.  Whether that’s the escape room game you had planned or an activity where delegates would take it in turns to influence a stakeholder, forum-theatre-style as a whole group, you’ll need to remove that content or ideally find alternative ways to hit the learning objectives.  Run through your agenda and work out what can be removed and what can be altered to work better in a virtual setting.

In one example on a recent session, we had a game that highlighted the importance of good communication during delegation.  We instead asked the delegates in breakout calls, to discuss their experiences of delegation and to share when it had not worked well and when everything had gone smoothly.  What made the difference?  What themes did they find in their experiences?  And therefore what practical tips would they suggest for future delegation?  This produced the same learning outcome, as the delegates realised how important the communication had been.

Keep it Short

A two-day face-to-face programme will probably not take two days when run virtually.  Think about how you could break the time down into sub-sections and give people space in between for breaks, time back on the day job, or indeed as they are probably working from home, time to put the washing on and see the kids.  Just balance this flexibility with the ground rules, so that when people are in the session, they are truly present.

It’s interesting to consider which of the changes to our lives caused by Coronavirus might stick.  Might we find that this way of running virtual, interactive workshops is beneficial – certainly for saving travel costs and therefore the planet?  The benefits of face-to-face networking are huge, so perhaps not.  It will be interesting to see what happens out the other side of all this.