Whether you like it or not nearly all team sessions are now online. And right now is not the time to defer them! Teams (actually almost everyone) now more than ever need that connection. This is the time to invest in and support your team, to build stronger connections and alignment, keeping everyone moving forward in the same direction.
You might be thinking “But an online workshop just isn’t the same. It won’t be nearly as effective. We won’t create the same connection or alignment”. And you are partially correct – it won’t be the same! But it can still be highly effective. With a few adjustments your online workshop can provide important support and connection that your team needs right now.
Most of your team workshop design is the same regardless of format. There are some key elements that can make a significant difference and create a highly effective online team workshop that really WORKS!
You might already have your ‘in person’ workshop planned, and in that case you’re 80% there. Reviewing and modifying your workshop plan will ensure the necessary adjustments are made for it to WORK in an online format. The key to doing this effectively is to ‘step into the shoes of an online participant’, ask yourself questions like:
Once you’ve answered those questions, then modify your workshop design, considering:
Don’t be tricked into thinking you can get away with less planning for an online team workshop! That’s a big NO NO from my perspective. A face-to-face session allows you to ‘wing it’ to a certain extent, a good facilitator can skilfully guide the group and deal with adjustments in the room seamlessly. During an online workshop you are reliant on using pre-written content (eg. PowerPoint slides), it can be far more difficult to pursue a tangent or easily switch your content and workshop plan around. There is less ‘seat of the pants’ stuff going on that’s for sure! My tip is to thoroughly prepare and plan for your Teams’ online workshop, work through the session design carefully to set it up for success.
In terms of preparation PRE-WORK & WORKBOOKS are important tools to leverage. Pre-work gives your team a first look at key concepts and messages from the workshop. It can also be an effective way to help less confident team members get comfortable with the content so they are more likely to contribute during the online workshop. Workbooks & session notes are an effective way to help guide your team through the workshop. The important tip is to ensure your workbook carefully mirrors the agenda and flow of your workshop, including all key information.
During a face-to-face workshop an experienced leader or facilitator can ‘wing it’ to a certain extent. They can read the room, adjust in the moment, ask more questions, take a break or keep going. But it’s not so easy in the online format (although still possible to some extent).
Two important things are missing from your FEEDBACK loop in an online workshop – body language and tone of voice! It is very difficult to see or hear where people are at. Are you moving too fast? Are they bored?
With this in mind it is essential to ASK for feedback often, to understand where the group is at. There are multiple options to do this online:
If you’d asked me two months ago if I could create great engagement and interaction in an online workshop, I would have said… Yes I can, but not nearly as good as face-to-face sessions. And I still think face-to-face is better, but we don’t have that luxury so let’s get on with creating great online workshops that really WORK!
Each technology platform has slightly different options but most of them have something similar to these suggestions:
BREAKOUT GROUPS – this is an ideal way to create more interaction and allow parts of a larger team to interact and problem solve. I suggest groups of 3-4, bigger groups might need someone to ‘lead’ each breakout group.
POLLS – this is a great way to understand where your team is at. It can be very useful early on to assess the needs of the group, or during the workshop to assess progress.
GET CREATIVE – If you want to change it up a bit, consider using your normal flipchart or whiteboard to capture comments and feedback. Make sure it’s easily visible and the writing is large enough for people to see. In addition there are all sorts of Apps and digital tools available through varying systems, and depending on the size of your workshop there are many great options.
Creating a highly effective online team workshop is completely doable! The key is to remain open to different ways of achieving your workshop objectives. Get your team involved, ASK them what they think will work! Treat it as an opportunity to learn, to collaborate, to connect, and to grow as a team.
The perfection of any workshop is in the possibilities that appear when you begin to harness the energy, experience and knowledge of the team.
Personal Growth & Team Development
If you are interested in learning more about Morgan and her Team Development workshops on Essemy, please visit this link.