Teaching is an art form. Great teachers hold our attention, make us laugh, help us to fully understand the complex subject matter, and, most of all, inspire us.
Achieving this kind of engagement from your students takes practice and experience. But even if you’re new to teaching, you can make your in-person or virtual workshop as interesting as possible with just a few fresh ideas. Start with these nine workshop tips.
1. Make it relevant
First and foremost, to earn people’s attention, you need to make sure that the content you’re delivering is useful to them. How do you learn exactly what they want out of your course? Ask them!
Conduct some initial research with your target customers to shape your course content, or send a pre-event survey to your attendees so that they can pinpoint problems or topics they’d like to explore.
On the day of your training or workshop, start by giving a brief overview of what attendees are going to learn and how those skills will help them achieve their goals.
2. Ditch the traditional presentation
People learn in different ways. Some of us are visual learners who prefer pictures, videos, and diagrams, while others respond to the spoken and written word, music, logic, or even physical activities.
To create an inclusive learning environment, try to combine traditional teaching methods with audio and visual presentations, written handouts, interactive tasks, and group work. For example, you could start off your workshop with a quick PowerPoint, but then move into a clip from a relevant podcast. Later, you could have attendees draw short comics based on what they have learned and ask a few to present their comics to the rest of the group.
When thinking about how to host a virtual workshop, consider software like Zoom or Google Meet that allows your students to chat and interact with one another. This way, the workshop feels more like an integrated experience than a lecture. For more ways to encourage audience participation, check out these nine interactive event ideas.
3. Change the room layout
Training rooms are often laid out in the same way – rows of tables and chairs. Challenge the convention and surprise your attendees by perhaps providing beanbags instead of chairs, standing podium tables, or tables with just a few chairs to encourage small groups.
Your choice of venue can also have an impact on engagement. A space full of light, color, and texture can prove far more inspiring than a bland, windowless meeting room.
A virtual workshop can even include breakout groups or teams to allow attendees to discuss topics or play games in smaller, more intimate numbers. Platforms like Zoom allow presenters to create these separate virtual rooms for attendees to enter without completely leaving the presentation.
4. Use props
Props can make teaching even more engaging. These could be practical that literally represent your subject matter (think scales, an abacus, or a mannequin), or they could be ridiculous (try a rubber chicken or magic wand). Props liven up your session and will help people remember what they learned.
Your training or workshop might be serious, but people learn best when they’re interacting and having fun.
5. Play games
Need to keep your attendees focused? Tap into their competitive sides. Puzzles or riddles, crosswords, memory games, ordering tasks — all are great ways to keep your attendees engaged and on-task. For added drama, impose a time limit.
Try introducing a quick quiz at the end of each content section, helping to recap on what’s been learned, and offer a small prize for the winner.
For online workshop ideas, consider games that attendees can access via a shared link, like Scattergories or online bingo.
6. Tell a story
Whatever you’re teaching, try to make it relatable to everyday life by using real examples, case studies, and creative metaphors. People will sit still for hours watching a movie — why not use some cinematic tricks as engaging workshop ideas?
Stories, in fact, are central to the way memory works. We search for narrative not just in media, but in everyday life. If you can find a way to integrate the information in your course into an overarching narrative, attendees will be more engaged and have something to look forward to during breaks.
For inspiration, check out Speechless, an improv comedy show where people give PowerPoint presentations — on slides they have never seen before. Watching people create a narrative from even the most ridiculous content will show you how easy it is to do the same with your real (and actually related) content.
7. Play some tunes
Music can set the mood and get attendees energized before your session and during breaks. Play something upbeat to pump them up, and lower it back down to let them know it’s time to start.
You can also use music during the session – soothing classical pieces help people concentrate while completing tasks or group work.
Bonus idea: provide some instruments and let people jam between sessions. Not only will it be fun, but it will also build camaraderie between attendees.
8. Cut it in half
One of the best ways to keep your audience engaged is to not overload them with information. Give them too much, and their brains will simply shut off. This is particularly important for virtual events — attendees are likely to be dealing with more potential distractions than if they were attending an in-person event.
Either make your session a maximum of two hours or, if it’s taking place over the course of a day, schedule in plenty of short breaks. Give attendees a chance to get up, walk around, and grab a cup of coffee. Give them time to write and organize notes and assist them by providing pens, pads, sticky notes, and highlighters.
Our new and improved online event tools can help you to plan a great event that doesn’t overwhelm your virtual audience.
9. Provide recognition and reward
Attendees will be more motivated to successfully complete the course if their efforts are recognized — and if they have something to show for it at the end.
Let attendees know that they will receive personalized certificates to mark their participation. You should also consider extra incentives such as a competition or small prizes for the best students. Again: tap into those competitive streaks!
Get ready to lead a workshop your attendees won’t forget
Make your training or workshops lively, varied, fun, and unexpected, and your participants will learn more — and be more likely to come back. If you need more engagement workshop ideas for online events, review our virtual event best practices.
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