Running online workshops effectively – some practical advice

01 May 2021 | Research & Business Knowledge

Jill Elston has summarised the advice she was given by the ICG Hive when exploring how to run effective remote online workshops.

A few weeks ago I asked the egroup for ideas/input into running online workshops and promised to share the results. I have been feeling very guilty as I haven’t yet got around to sharing the feedback, but now I am not trying to homeschool as well as do everything else, I’ve finally managed to summarise the feedback for everyone – copied below. And my thanks to everyone who responded.

My own workshop happened about 10 days ago – unfortunately we weren’t able to do any pre-work (which was the main recommendation everyone had) as my client wouldn’t allocate time for people to do it, so we just had to rely on everything working on the day – which luckily it did.

There were a few tools suggested, but the one we used was Google Jam Board – I have to say it worked really well, it was very easy to use (easier I think than something like Miro, although without so many functions) and is free!

My other key takeaway is that breakout rooms work better if you can have a co-facilitator in each of the rooms so it’s clear what is happening when you don’t have visibility on everyone.

I’ve summarised the feedback & advice from everyone who responded below.

Before the session:

  • Send out a pack before the session with pre-tasks, ground rules and expectations, and to familiarise them with any online tools you’ll be using
  • Send out blank sheets for them to fill in during the session
  • Try to uncover issues / themes ahead of the session to reduce time needed in the workshop


  • Ask people to introduce themselves then pass onto to someone else on the screen (helps develop links between the participants rather than setting expectation facilitator will always be in control of who speaks)
  • Be strict with timing
  • Consider doing icebreakers where people need to move away from their computer (e.g. go and find an item, one suggestion was to go and get a ‘creativity mascot’ and introduce it to the other participants)

Varying tasks:

  • Mix of tasks using tools (see below) and discussions to relieve boredom and introduce variety
  • Ensure breaks and communicate at the start when these will be
  • Rotate who the spokespeople are
  • Consider giving them the opportunity to share screen if materials have been prepared in advance
  • Plan for everything taking slightly longer than in a F2F situation

Breakout rooms:

  • Can assign people beforehand; or let people choose according to topic if appropriate
  • Facilitators can move from room to room to dip in and out of discussions; if possible co-facilitators who can be placed in each room works better
  • Set up Zoom whiteboards for each breakout group


  • Try to send out information in advance so that people can familiarise themselves with the tools, but include a recap at the beginning for those who don’t do the familiarisation
  • Make use of the chat function in Zoom to get quick responses from everyone in the room (saves time and is quicker than going ‘round the room’)
  • Tools to use: Miro; Murall; Google Jam Board

Further info:

Potential training course from Paraffin / Insight Platforms: