When planning an online workshop do you think ‘event’, or do you think ‘process’?

How has the collaborative online experience over the past weeks and months under the Covid-19 restrictions influenced your workshop planning?

  • Have you tried to bring your planned two- or three-day face-to-face workshop into the virtual realm as a two- or three-day online workshop? Or
  • Have you stretched the workshop over time with series of shorter online workshops and some complementary activities in-between?

If there is one big shift I have experienced myself in facilitating online over the last weeks and months, it is ‘bringing a workshop online = bringing a process online’.

Over the last months, I have been faced, like many of you, with the challenge to bring planned two- or three-day workshops online. Replacing the physical room with a virtual one without adapting the workshop concept was no option. Copy & paste does not work. The experience of time is different online. The attention span is shorter, interaction happens less naturally, screen work is more exhausting. Distraction is only one mouse click away. Thus, the duration, pace and rhythms had to be adapted to the virtual environment.

An online workshop is still a workshop. Sure. But pretty fast it becomes obvious that moving online opens up a whole new series of opportunities. The whole context is different as people join from where they live and work (no travel time), thus we gain flexibility. We do not need to take care of venues and catering. We do not have to pack all into one day. We can do things differently online and create a living process.

Some benefits I see of bringing the process online:

The space in-between is interesting

From a learning perspective, the time in-between is interesting. We actually win some time! That is a chance to deepen our collaboration and learning. In on-site workshops, I loved the morning reflection on day two or three because there was some thinking going on over night. Online processes allow for more breaks, in-between time and nights to sleep things over. As facilitators, we can use the time to collect and reflect on questions, invite for some ethnography work or interviewing each other, some one-to-one conversations, joint writing or some individual practices. This can be synchronous or asynchronous, online or offline, individual work or small group work. Wan can plan for the gaps!

Coming back together builds connections

It is a bit like in a Netflix series, when you are happy to meet ‘old acquaintances’ again and are curious what will happen in this episode. It is similar with online proceses: Meeting a group of people over time creates familiarity and eventually a feeling of belonging that influences the quality of the conversation and finally the results of it.

More focus and depth through continued conversation

The space before and between the reconvening is an opportunity for sharing inputs. So that the valuable meeting time can be used for what matters when we bring people online: interaction! Dedicating a session to one complex topic is more beneficial than rushing through too many topics without enough time, attention and depth. With several touchpoints of reconvening, we can focus better and learn more effectively.

Creating engagement

A workshop designed as a process creates more options for involvement and engagement. Participants can get ready to step in as actors, contributors and co-facilitators. If we work the networked way, we strengthen at the same time the process muscle of everyone involved in the process.

How to plan a workshop as a process?

Some questions to ask ourselves:

  • What is our shared intention, why do we organise this workshop/ these workshops and what do we want to achieve?
  • Who should be participating and why?
  • What are the key issues and questions we will explore throughout this whole process?
  • How many online workshops/ sessions will we need to attain the intended results? What is the adequate duration of the sessions?
  • What will happen during the online workshops and what will happen in the time between the workshops? How do the different interactions and touchpoints weave together?
  • Which platform and collaboration tools are most adapted to support our workshop process?
  • How do we harvest insights and learning? How can we include participants into the reporting process to boost reflection and learning?

Planning workshops as a process creates a bit of a Netflix effect. If you do it well, people are keen to come back and be part of the conversation.

Thank you Corinne Sprecher and Jany Barraut for inspiration for this blog post!

Upcoming online workshops

Bringing Your Meetings & Workshops Online: Confident, Creative & Convincing!
5 weekly highly interactive workshops starting on October 22 online on Zoom.
–> More info and registration here

Unhurried Conversations – gesprekken zonder haast
Thursdays from 11-12h15 am CET: Oct. 22, Nov. 12, and Dec. 10
–> More info and registration here

Unhurried Field Trip: Subtle Activism: An exploration into what effort we have to make that ‘something’ gets active and gets in motion for change. Thursdays, 9-10h15 am CET on Oct 29, Nov 5, Nov 12 and Nov 19
–> More info here

Liberating Structures for Participatory Monitoring & Evaluation specialists
Nov 2, and 3 and 4, 2020 on Zoom, each day from 9h00 – 12h00 am CET.
–> More info and registration here

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