How to run online workshops

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Using a real-life case study, Paul shows you how to revolutionise your workshops by running them online rather than face to face

Online Workshops
Do you remember those old decrepit overhead projectors that dominated boardrooms and training rooms in the 1980’s and 1990’s? The plastic acetates could display anything – pictures, cartoons, words, graphs – and these would be beamed onto the wall, usually in black and white.

Invariably we would type up bullet points and display these when training or presenting. Some of us would add cartoons and pictures, but the graphics technology was rather limited.

Along came Powerpoint and in the late 1990’s, suitcase-sized laptop projectors with incredible potential.

Where Others Go Wrong
We stuck to the lists although the new projector equipment allowed images, movement, videos, photographs. Bullet lists predominated, and it’s only in the last few years that we’ve moved to photos, images, movies, animations and proper graphics TED style. It’s taken us 20 plus years.

We’re making the same mistake with online workshops or webinars as we call them. We’re making them PowerPoint heavy with voice overs and the occasional oddly angled video image of a person’s shoulder. Reaction from our audiences is mostly negative, many preferring to watch the recording that you obligingly supply. Few actually do.

The answer is to turn it into an online workshop where people can attend either at home or from their office using technology that exists in every office

How to Avoid Everyone’s Mistakes
Current technology allows for so much more, and I’m going to show you how you can utilise this now. This will help you to mirror how you would run a face to face workshop which is entirely interactive containing a myriad of learning exercises and activities to ensure maximum learning.

To aid my description, I’m going to use a real up to date case study to show you how it can be done. The case involves a workshop that I’ve been running face to face for quite some time now, which goes down very well and produces great results. It’s a totally interactive workshop with learners being involved and benefiting from the groups’ experience and examples. The problem I face is that more and more of my audience are struggling to attend a full day and are baulking at the long car journeys. At least they make off with a decent lunch, but even that is no longer a pull.

The answer is to turn it into an online workshop where people can attend either at home or from their office using technology that exists in every office.

The Tech Needed
Firstly the tech piece.

Yes, you do need to have some up to date kit, and your learners also have to have a minimum spec as well, but nowhere near yours.

Studio
Let me describe what I use. I have a purpose-built video and livestream studio in the basement. This is naturally cool and quiet – no noises, dogs barking or aeroplanes flying over and for those that have heard my very early livestreams, cockerels cock-a-doodle-doo-ing.

I have four screens attached the desktop PC running Microsoft Teams which is a solid piece of software. I have two Logitech HD webcams hooked to the PC providing HD quality livestream video.

Cameras
The first webcam is attached via a bendy tripod and screens to my whiteboard on the far wall. This enables me to stand up and present information to my group using my whiteboard. The webcam picks up a wide image of me and the board. Standing is so important. I use the spotlight on the web software, which ensures that my whole video image is reproduced on each learner’s screen in full.

The second webcam is also tethered to a bendy tripod which allows it to appear in front of one of the screens. This might seem odd, but it’s important to look your learners in the eye when chatting to their video images. This setup allows me to look at them, and they see me looking at them too, just like real life. This is vital. My far screen is devoted to displaying the video images of the people on the workshop; the other screens are for PowerPoint and handouts. A separate screen for each one.

Whiteboards
As you can appreciate, I move around the studio when running a workshop. I sit down when I’m doing PowerPoint or running through handouts on screen. I stand at the whiteboard when chatting to the group or presenting information. I sit for group discussions. It’s energetic and always moving.

Occasionally I’ll livestream when running workshops. Here I have a DSLR Camera rigged to the PC, and I use OSB to livestream the video to YouTube, LinkedIn and Vimeo. I rarely do this on workshops, because the time-lapse issues – they’re not quite real-time as YouTube will render the livestream to get a perfect picture.

Audio and Headphones
My voice is carried with a small set of headphones with built-in microphone by Logitech. These may look a little geeky but they Bluetooth to the PC so I can move around quite happily without being corded to the PC.

WiFi
The internet connection has to be reliable, so I have an Ethernet connection linked to the Virgin 300 MB speed broadband router. I also have a spare WiFi provided by BT at a speed of 60MB which I can switch over to very quickly if the main connection goes down.

Lighting
My studio is well lit, but I have extra lighting. 8 battery-powered LED barn door lights which light up the whiteboard and me when I’m presenting and my face when at the PC screen. Spare batteries charging allow me to change these when they run out of juice after 2 hours or so. Bear in mind my workshops can run up to a whole day in length.

Their Tech
As a minimum, they need access to a PC or laptop to make the most of the workshop. Tablets miss out on the experience and phones are woefully too small. Headphones or earbuds plus a microphone are essential to prevent echoing and feedback from speakers. Besides they may be around other people, so you don’t want interference. A webcam is required, but most laptops have these as standard.

The Workshop – Case Study

The Equity Release workshop is a technical course by nature, so does lend itself well to online. It runs for a whole day but not with the normal timings. I run for 45 minutes, then a 15-minute break. This occurs from 9am until 4pm. Including an hour for lunch, you can offer six 45 minute sessions, more if you run on after 4pm. I don’t. Online workshops are just as tiring as face to face, more so to a degree.

For the day, I have six modules:

Module One
Module One – overview of the exam, introductions and a Q&A warm up. This has me sat down on webcam and the group on video as well as we introduce each other. I will only ever have six maximum, no more, often less. This allows interaction and lots of chat. I utilise screen sharing of a PDF handout to run through the exam, PowerPoint with some multiple-choice questions on them and webcam discussion. Having multiple screens allows me to have their images on the screens clearly displayed, almost like we’re face to face.

Module Two
Module Two – regulatory and the sales process. This is a fully interactive activity. I display the sales process and then a list of 35 components of the process. The objective is to place each piece against the section of the sales process where it belongs and to understand what that part is. Each learner is given 5 or 6 pieces, and for the next 15 minutes (offline) they need to research what they mean and be prepared to present this to the whole group.

They return, and we use a PowerPoint slide to move the components around to their rightful place, and I let the learners vocalise what they mean and answer questions. If I need to, I’ll stand up alongside the whiteboard and describe things visually. I draw a lot of pictures on the whiteboard.

Module Three
Moule Three – this is the product section. I dish out a product to each learner (myself included) and give them 15 minutes to research the product and complete a templated grid of the key features of the product. This handout is uploaded to the system in advance. A good web programme like Microsoft Teams, which I use, will allow you to upload PDFs, word documents, PowerPoint slides, video links and all sorts. This is just like your side table, which houses all your handouts.

The leaners grab a handout and go away to fill them in by typing and saving the document; I show them how to upload. They return, 15 minutes later, display it on the screen and talk it through over a discussion. I chip in and encourage/facilitate a group discussion. Bear in mind everyone can hear each other and see each other to answer so it’s not far removed from a face to face group discussion.

A tip I learnt a while ago is to teach the learners how the software works as you go, don’t do all the teaching of the software at the beginning, only when a feature is needed.

Module Four
Module Four – is a case study with around 12 questions. Again I ask each learner to go away and jot down some thoughts on the questions, and we then return to discuss the answers. I’ll use my physical whiteboard to clear up any technical areas since the case study involves taxation, benefits and legal aspects. Remember this is a physical whiteboard and a webcam picks me up at the board very cleary. Having a Bluetooth headset allows me to chat away as normal.

Module Five
Module Five – is a quiz show to test their understanding of the areas we’ve covered. I use an old PowerPoint template emulating “Who wants to be a millionaire” Its great fun and works really well.

Module Six
Module Six – we take the group through two of the exam case studies. Using PowerPoint with the information we enjoy this as a group, discussing the answers. I facilitate heavily drawing answers from them rather than me, just like we would all do on a face to face workshop.

We then wrap up, action plans an next steps. They have access to pre-recorded videos of me talking through various topics if they want to watch these. I don’t record the online meeting; this only encourages people to watch the “recording” rather than attend live.

Common Mistakes
Things that can go wrong.

  • Learners going offline suddenly. This can’t be helped, and it’s up to them to come back online. I do have a session from 8.15am where everyone can log on to test their software and to answer any technical queries. That means at 9am, everyone is good to log on safely.
  • My end going offline. I switched WiFis and come back online pretty quickly.
  • My PC crashes. I segway to a laptop that has the software already installed and quickly re-enter the fray.
  • People can’t hear. Educate them how to unmute their microphone and make sure they attend the 8am tech briefing. Likewise, their video can go blank. It’s up to them to get back online; I’m running a workshop not being their tech support.
  • Interruptions at their end. Dogs entering the room, small children. This happens, and I enjoy it and make fun of the situation. Interruptions happen in real life too.

Those old Overhead Projectors were beasts, but we loved them. They would sit at the front of the table like a tower, but the worst part was the electric cable. The only plug was at the front of the room on the wall so the cord had to lie across the presenting area. And yes, before you ask, I came a cropper on the cable once on a fateful day in November 1992, I still recall the memory and bruised knees it caused.

 

 

 

 

 

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About Author

Paul Archer

Paul Archer is the founder and Managing Director of Archer Training Ltd, a specialist training provider that brings practical sales and coaching skills to financial services firms. Paul has published 8 books and is a regular blogger and YouTuber - www.paularcher.tv and can be contacted at paul@paularcher.com.

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