What’s a workinar? A workshop-webinar of course!
What’s a workinar? A workinar is a workshop-webinar, of course. In other words, it’s a virtual workshop – action-packed and engaging. In a workinar, attendees address a concept, then they apply that concept in group workshops. With today’s tools, even large groups can be actively engaged in experiential learning, co-creating, or team building. Workinars require a higher level of preparation, facilitation capability, and technical savvy. Here are six suggestions to consider when planning your next workinar:
(1) Don’t leave anyone behind
Choose the right platform for the audience and the tasks. Some platforms don’t allow breakout rooms, which is important for large virtual groups. If the workinar crosses companies, regions and languages, there’s often a wide range of expertise. To ensure that no one is left behind, you can distribute a tutorial or provide training at the beginning of the event. Training needs to be very simple because international differences make even basic training difficult. MACs, PC, and pads have different layouts and each country instructions in different languages. “As needed” training is not effective because giving directions without screen shots is difficult. If everyone is comfortable from the start, they’ll be ready to contribute or learn.
Virtual communication tools allow us to attend meetings with lots of distractions close by. Chats are flying, phones are beeping, and maybe a few extra tabs flying open. To keep your audience focused, ask them to mute their phones but keep their video rolling. Suggest that everyone turn on the lights so you can see each other’s faces, then give them a task every 10-20 minutes. They could take a poll, comment in a chat, add to a shared Google doc, or comment verbally. If they know that they’re being watched, and that something is coming, they’re more apt to pay attention.
(3) Use break-out rooms
It’s difficult to have virtual discussions online with big groups, so send them to virtual break-out rooms. These are fantastic tools that enable meaningful exchanges. People can start in one team room then be instantly be moved to another room, or back to the main room for a debrief. Breakout groups can explore different questions, share screens, and create shared documents. However, planning is key. Test your directions and use trained facilitators for each break-out room. People become easily distracted and confused if directions aren’t simple and clear.
(4) Expert advice
Technology is the enabler and also the destroyer. It’s magical when it works, but it often crashes.
If you’re running a big event (for example even 50 people), make sure to get expert advice. Large events can slow your system, change screen layouts, and even cause a computer crash. (Trust me, I know!) Anyone that runs these projects knows that technical crashes are part of the game. So, what do we do? First, get technical advice on the platforms, hardware needs and set-up. Make sure that your system has enough RAM to host the communication platform and other apps. This is particularly important with breakout groups, as everyone is talking and showing their videos. Using a cord instead of WIFI, adding extra screens, and upgrading your hardware may be called for. To make sure that the show goes on, back-up everything. A back-up host, extra copies of the presentations, and back-up speakers if something goes wrong. I also suggest developing a code. For example, holding up a red paper in front of the camera, or a thumbs down sign, could be designated as a technical problem or “we need a break”.
Then, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. After you’ve practiced, don’t let anyone make further changes as this is a recipe for disaster.
(5) Divide and conquer
Managing the systems, the breakout rooms, multiple screens, the chats, and hosting events is more than most people (and most computers) can handle. So, why not separate roles? Assign someone to handle the zoom registration, hosting and breakout rooms. Ask someone else to become the on-camera facilitator, while another person could watch the chat. This creates more involvement without anyone or any computer crashing!
(6) Do it now imperfectly, rather than never perfectly
Now is the time to jump in. Everyone is out there making mistakes. Systems are crashing because they’re overloaded. So, what are you waiting for? Jump in now and learn. Everyone is incredibly understanding. Don’t worry, you won’t drown, and getting wet is the only way to learn how to swim.
Kimberly VanLandingham is the CEO, a consultant and trainer for European Market Link Sàrl, focused on international communication training for business and techies. European Market Link offers live and virtual training courses for international presenters, cross-cultural teams and leaders, and cross-border growth. Kimberly is also on the board of SIETAR Switzerland (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research).
Pictures in this blog are from Pexels.com.