Finalizing your virtual workshop

In the last articles we talked about how to plan a virtual workshop ( link ) and how to use different creative methods like brainstorming ( link ) or eventstorming ( link ). In today’s part you’ll learn why a successful workshop conclusion is important and how you can achieve it. The whole article is packed with case studies and a lot of experiences, so enjoy!

Why you should think about how to end your workshop

” That’ s it, see you next time!” Many workshops we’ve been a part of have ended like this, or something similar. In the best case, the workshop leader loses valuable information by such an ending. In the worst case, his participants lose their motivation to work together in the future. So, think about the conclusion of your workshop in advance. Think of your workshop like the suspense of a story. You need an introduction – a lead-in to the topic. When you get to the topic, you work intensively on it (the tension rises to the climax and then falls again). And you need an ending. The conclusion offers space for a summary, an outlook and reflection, for you and for your participants.

The components of a conclusion

What you choose to implement from the following selection of possible components for your workshop depends on what your goals are. If you want your participants to continue working on the workshop topic, you may need a list of open issues. If you want to improve your workshop, a feedback session is appropriate. Think in advance about the goals of your workshop and how the conclusion of the workshop will support those goals.

The summary

A summary is always good, actually obligatory. It rounds off your workshop and shows what you have accomplished together. Name your most important agenda items in the summary. Show what the goals of each topic were and briefly summarize the results. If you have had time to prepare for the summary, feel free to show the results again as you talk about them.

If you don’t plan a feedback session, then you can recap what went well and where you can improve. But avoid singling out individual participants as positive or negative examples. The results of a workshop are always a collective effort and your summary should reflect that.  

For the introduction of the summary, you can use words like, ” To conclude our workshop, I would like to summarize the main points.” Always address directly in a workshop when you begin and end a new topic. You can also end the summary with a question like, “I hope I’ve covered all the important points. What other points can you think of?”. If there are still points, thank the person for their input and then close the summary.

If you are not recording minutes and do not have a list of follow-up tasks, the summary will also serve to create a common understanding of the workshop’s outcomes. However, we still recommend that you record important results. Without intention, the common understanding among the participants that existed at the end of the workshop can otherwise diverge afterwards.

A summary motivates because it makes your participants proud to see what problems you have overcome. It creates a shared understanding and a “we” feeling.

At the end of the summary, thank your participants for their participation and hard work. Even though the summary is the first thing in this article, you should end the workshop with it.

The list of open points and next steps

Often the time in a workshop is too short to really work on all aspects. It makes sense to keep a list of topics during the workshop that you were not able to work on, but which are important and should not be forgotten. At the end of your workshop, you can go through this list together. Maybe topics on it have already been clarified, so much the better! Agree on what to do with the remaining items. Do you need another workshop, or can the topics be worked on by individual participants?

If you decide to follow up on the points by individual participants, make a note of who will work on which topic and by when. As a workshop leader, you must make sure that those who are to take on a task also accept the topic. Only when they confirm it, you should write down who is responsible. It is also important to note that there can be a team working on a topic, but there should only be one person responsible. Otherwise, the roles are unclear, and it can happen that the topic is not followed up at all.

If no one can be found to be responsible, you will just have to keep discussing. If no one is willing to take on a task, you should discuss removing the topic. A topic that everyone considers important, but no one wants to take care of, can’t be that important.

From experience, sometimes a situation arises where everyone considers a topic important, but none of the participants feel confident to work on it. Then vote for a participant who needs to find an expert on the topic who is able to take care of it.

The feedback

Feedback is very important, on the one hand to better understand your participants and on the other hand to improve in your role as a workshop leader. It makes sense to ask for feedback not only at the end of the workshop, but also in between, e.g., at the end of a topic or after / before longer breaks. You can certainly overdo it, but there tends to be too little feedback asked for in workshops, so don’t hesitate!

There are several ways to solicit feedback. If you have few participants in your workshop, then you can briefly give everyone the opportunity to express themselves verbally. Virtually, you may have to nudge your participants a bit. Proceed as follows: First, tell them what you need to know, e.g., how they are feeling about a result. Wait a short time to see if someone starts on their own. If not, explain that the feedback is important to you and why. If still no one speaks up, then start yourself and explain that you will then go through all participants from top to bottom (right to left or however the participants are listed in your video chat). Note the feedback, ask if anything is unclear to you, and thank them. Don’t judge the feedback though – pay attention to your nonverbal communication as well.

If you want to gather feedback in a larger group, you need other ways. For this purpose, there are surveys that you can create online. An overview of open-source programs for creating surveys can be found here and we have put a good option as the first hit.

The feedback at the end of your workshop can include several questions, also about the structure and organization of the workshop. This will help you learn what worked well and what didn’t. If you have several questions, again a survey is a good choice. You can discuss the results of the survey in the plenary, perhaps individual participants would like to comment on the result or their evaluation.

No matter what the feedback is, thank everyone for it! And don’t be discouraged if the feedback is not so positive. Every feedback helps to improve either your workshops or the subject of the workshop.

The minutes

Minutes are helpful for documenting the results and decisions in order to derive further action from them. Minutes can also contain information about participants and open issues.

You can write minutes during the workshop (or have them written) or afterwards. Thus, it does not necessarily belong in the conclusion of a workshop but can also be understood as a follow-up. However, experience has shown that it is helpful to keep a bullet point log during the workshop. Similar to the list of open points, you can then go through and discuss the minutes at the end of the workshop. If the minutes are being prepared after the workshop, keep in mind that you cannot consider the minutes valid until they have been approved by all participants. Therefore, create and distribute the minutes as soon as possible after the workshop so that the information from the workshop is still remembered by your participants. Ask participants for improvements and comments and set a deadline after which the content of the minutes will be considered approved, with or without further comments from participants.

The wrap-up

You’ve made it, your virtual workshop is done! However, as the workshop leader, your task doesn’t quite end there. The wrap-up is an elementary part of the workshop. Several tasks are important here:

  1. assign the results from the workshop to the goals, store and distribute them to the participants and other stakeholders. Decide who needs which information and if you have classified topics in the workshop as confidential (e.g., the feedback) you will not distribute them further.
  2. You have to distribute the minutes / the list of open issues to the participants and stakeholders and follow up on the processing.
  3. Reflect on the workshop. Ask yourself the questions: what went well and what are you less satisfied with? Also look at the outcomes and goals. Did you achieve all the goals and are the results beneficial? These questions will help you to find ways to improve the planning or the execution of the workshop. For example, if you selected the wrong participants, it is understandable why some topics could not be fully addressed. If, on the other hand, too many participants were selected, you may have gotten bogged down with certain topics and therefore not met all of your goals. Be self-critical and derive specific changes for your next workshop from your findings.

The case study

Mia, Peter and Zou completed the eventstorming ( link ) in the last workshop. They want to use the information from this to derive and plan specific work packages later. For now, however, Mia would like to conclude the workshop. For this purpose, she has already taken notes for minutes during the workshop. During the last big break, she put the minutes into shape and included the workshop results. She also wants to use the minutes right away as a summary. But before they discuss the minutes together, Mia wants to know from her friends how satisfied they are with the workshop and the results from it. Zou wants to start. She is amazed at the clear picture she already has of the video chat. She is now aware of the tasks ahead, the benefits her video chat will have, and she is excited to get started. She liked the structure and set-up of the workshop and liked both the brainstorming ( link ) and the eventstorming ( link ). Peter especially liked the open discussions. He thinks Mia did a good job of facilitating and preparing the workshop. His goal to have fun at the workshop has definitely been fulfilled. Mia thanks her friends for the feedback and the great workshop, which would not have been possible without them. Together you simply achieve more!

Mia has already created a template for the protocol in advance:

Example template minutes
Example template minutes

She briefly presents the agenda and then singles out the brainstorming and eventstorming sessions. She explains what goals they had set for the topics and describes their approach. She then summarizes the key findings and contrasts them with the goals. A few topics remained open, she points this out as well. She does the same procedure for the eventstorming.

Together, they cross out a few of the open topics from the overviews. Mia transfers the important points to the summary of the open points. In addition, she notes that everyone will derive specific work packages for their area of responsibility from the eventstorming. For the other topics, they each agree on a person responsible and a target date.

For the end, Mia has thought of something special. She has created a graphic that she shares on her virtual whiteboard and now asks everyone at the end of the workshop and after reflecting on the results to once again give their opinion by choosing a color and placing a dot on the graphic. Adding your name is of course optional.

Example feedback survey
Example feedback survey

Mia is happy about the result, thanks her friends for the good workshop and says she will organize all the documents, file them and send them to everyone. In the next article, Mia, Peter and Zou will get down to the detailed planning. Then you’ll find out how they do it and which tools they use.

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