Top tips on running practical workshops - online or at a virtual conference

Phil McElnay, Harry Carr, Alex Lea and Thomas Thorne

Conference speaker

Practical workshops in the virtual setting come with their own unique set of challenges and things to trouble shoot. Over the past year, we have hosted 3 separate workshops with the following insights distilled:

Evaluate if your workshop idea will actually be suitable for the online platform.

  • Will you have enough time to cover the material?
  • Will participants be able to interact adequately?
  • Is all the equipment/software free and accessible to all participants
  • Is there a better way of delivering your content?

Have at least 1 full practice run through, ideally 2.

  • This is in essence a mandatory requirement for any virtual workshop.
  • Test it out with each other, colleagues, your family and your dog.
  • It will highlight what works well, what doesn’t and your ‘willing’ test subject may likely offer some helpful advice about delivery, pace, or indeed technical issues.
  • One example we had from our Surgical Skills at Home workshop, was to use light coloured shoe laces against a dark background and mug (the opposite of what we had been doing), which greatly improved video clarity. This advice came from a delegate who likes to watch knitting videos!

Make sure that all attendees have any equipment ready, or software installed prior to the session.

  • At the very least, factor in some time at the start of the workshop for this. Make sure to remind attendees on the morning of the event to be prepared!
  • You will be surprised at just how precious your workshop time is! Time taken to install software will detract from both yourself and delegates’ experience.
  • Sending out emails or a whole conference message serves this purpose really well and we found has been very effective for our Surgical Skills workshops.

Delegate a technical chair and a questions chair

  • This role may circulate between workshop leads over the course of the session however, at any one time it is incredibly useful to have a dedicated person troubleshooting any technical issues for delegates and presenters as well as a dedicated person monitoring the chat box for any questions that may be asked by the delegates.

Decide beforehand when you are going to take 2-5min pauses for delegates to catch-up, troubleshoot or ask specific questions related to the immediate content.

  • If you don’t factor this into your timings, you will find that some delegates may fall behind and not catch up.
  • This is a disaster, no delegate should be left behind!
  • This will be highly bespoke to your specific learning outcomes but as an example, when teaching simple reef knots, we had 5-10 second pauses at each step of the tie + a 2-5min practice pause at the end of the demonstration.
  • It may feel like it is a very slow process but your attendees will appreciate you taking extra time to demonstrate, re-demonstrate and unpick issues. Only one delegate may ask a question, but many more may have the same point.

Where possible, use live demonstrations.

  • Pre-recorded videos are absolutely fine, but they do suffer with lag/streaming issues and you will find it harder to interact in a natural way with your attendees.
  • Live demos will allow you more flexibility with regards to timing and also keep delegates on task.
  • Such live demonstrations allow for demonstrations in different angles and with different techniques. For our Surgical Skills at Home workshops, the use of surgical instruments and handedness became especially important, something not possible with a pre-recorded video.

Lastly, always ask for feedback, ideally at the end of the session itself while it is fresh in your attendees minds. Why?

  • It lets you know more about your teaching style, what worked well, what could be improved etc.
  • Every so often, you will be given some great little pieces of advice about how to improve the workshop that you had not thought about.
  • It shows great evidence of teaching as a medical student/ junior doctor, something which always looks great on your CV and provides future learning opportunities.

MedAll.org has a lovely feedback tool FYI 😎

Help attendees catch up on slides

  • Add slides from an event on MedAll for Organisations
  • Your members can view the slides easily on MedAll.org - no more content lost in emails or lots of requests for slides after the event

Build branded feedback forms.
Automatic Certificates.
Made for healthcare events.

MedAll helps you to easily build and send powerful feedback forms for your event or teaching session.
It generates an analysed summary for your portfolio and can automatically offer a certificate to delegates.

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