Virtual Workshop Excellence

This is a guest article by Stephanie Bickel of Speak by Design

Do you cancel the event...


Countless events have been postponed because they were originally designed to be in person. If we continue to push off big events, it only leads to delays in the actions we want to spark. As a result, many conferences are going virtual. This is exciting to see! And when done well, you can get the results you desire. People who are able to lead excellent virtual meetings will see their businesses expand while cutting all the physical costs associated with being in person: travel, catering and facility costs. Here’s how they are doing it:

  1. Thoughtful Planning with Virtual Communication Strategists
  2. Highly Interactive Facilitation
  3. Surprise Factors

Thoughtful Planning with Virtual Communication Strategists

Define your Direction

Is this a listening tour, vision setting meeting, problem solving meeting or commitment seeking meeting?

Choose a Theme

Pull together your mission with a theme and design all materials around this theme. Some examples include: (1) Curiosity, (2) Courage, (3) Connection, (4) Focus on One Thing, (5) Be the Change.

Choose Speakers

Have at least 3 faculty per 1-hour meeting. Include guest speakers for a full day workshop. Segregate duties clearly for faculty.

What Do you Want People to Think, Feel, and Do?

To help people to feel connected to each other and the content, allow participants to be a part of brainstorming, building and deciding. Encourage them to immediately chat something privately to one another to get this process started.

Plan your Opening Moments

Know the first human words you want spoken. Develop the first words seen on the screen. Choose your music. Outline the movement you want to create between words and visuals.

Plan your Close and Follow-up

Include 2-3 touchpoints for follow-up.  (1) Survey, (2) Tools, and (3) Reminder one week out.

Highly Interactive Facilitation

Zoom Breakouts

You can send people into breakouts to gather ideas, solve a problem, or practice an exercise.  Make sure your faculty moves from room to room to observe and offer suggestions.

Polling Tools

Poll Everywhere and Mentimeter have great tools for gathering your audience’s thoughts and decisions.  You can ask questions, create a survey, build ‘word clouds’ and work on 2x2 Matrices. MIRO boards and Mural provide beautiful virtual spaces where participants can use sticky notes to share ideas.  These are great for virtual retrospective meetings to discuss what you liked, learned, lacked, and longed for.

Build in Interactivity

Never speak longer than 3 minutes without them doing something. Give them plenty of opportunities to vote, chat, or doodle on pages.

Design Unforgettable Posters

Brand the mission with breakout posters. Plan to have a facilitator in each breakout and make sure they are prepared.

Agile Workshop Exercises

Agile workshop exercises can be translated into a virtual format using sprints, estimating and planning. Use ‘Breakouts’ and ‘White Boards’ to capture these ideas.

Surprise Factors


Show a video, play a game, reveal a new microsite, have an unexpected speaker, use virtual backgrounds or personalize your meeting in an authentic way (introduce your family, a pet, or do a show and tell).

Do something BIG

If you have a bigger budget because you are not paying for travel, hire a production professional and make a music video with hired celebrities or use your own employees.  Develop a new online board game related to your theme, topic or mission. Have printed SWAG sent to their homes. Schedule a virtual reality hang-out and send virtual reality headsets to all participants.

With Thoughtful Planning, Highly Interactive Meetings, and Surprise Factors - you will create meetings to remember and your business will continue to thrive virtually!

Author Bio

Stephanie is the Founder and CEO of Speak by Design.  She created the Lead by Design methodology for all Speak by Design programming.  She recently launched Speak by Design University to help sustain the impact from their programs. Speak by Design has deep expertise launching new CEOs, coaching TED talks, preparing management team presentations to investors, and helping Sales professionals win new business.  

Their signature courses include: Presence, Presenting with Impact, Storylining, High Impact Meetings, 360 Leadership Communication, Handling Difficult Situations, and Trusted Advisor Training. Speak by Design help people become consistently compelling forces for their organizations.

Need help planning your virtual communication strategy?

See courses available from Stephanie and the rest of the Speak by Design Team and get in touch to find out how they can help you reach your goals!

Learn more

Last updated: 15 May 2020

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