What we’ve learned about…

…hosting online workshops.

As we look back on a year of Compass, we’re thinking about everything we’ve learned about launching our own business. A large part of what we do is holding online workshops, and when we set out in August 2020, we didn’t realise how much we would love doing them!

Prepare We do quite a lot of prep for each workshop, starting out with a broad chat between ourselves about what we want to discuss with our attendees. We’ll have our own notes beforehand from the research we have each undertaken separately, and we’ll add them to a shared document. We’ll sketch out the structure – what we want to discuss split into sections. We’ll then write our script, and leave it a day or two, and go back over it to edit, to make sure we’re clearly expressing ourselves.

Rehearse As well as reading our script and timing it – a bit tricky sometimes as our workshops are interactive and we like to give our attendees as much space to contribute as they feel comfortable with – we have a tech run-through with a supportive friend or two to make sure everything is working from an attendee point of view, and to give us some feedback.

Listen Sometimes when you’re ‘presenting’, you can be entirely focused on what you’re saying and not on what someone is saying to you. Your mind can also skip to the next section or possibly there’s a technical hitch you’re keeping an eye out for, so you’re not properly taking in what an attendee or your co-host is saying. When we started out, nerves played a big part in this for us, but as we relaxed into hosting and presenting, we listened so much more, and this has become one of the most important parts of our workshops.

You’re learning as much as teaching This is why listening is so important. We have learned so much from people who have attended our workshops. We love hearing about others’ workplace experiences and how they have approached certain situations, as well as their helpful tips and advice.

Be authentic Nothing is more engaging than someone just being themselves. Although we write a script and rehearse it, we use it as a guide and an aid to keep us on track, and we don’t try to sound or seem like others we have seen doing workshops.

Don’t panic Authenticity comes into this too. We’ve hosted workshops where there’s been all manner of things that have gone wrong – from attendees unable to access them, to power outages, to a west coast of Scotland storm so loud that the wind and driving rain hitting the windows made it difficult to hear what was being said. But we didn’t panic when all of this was going on, and also didn’t try to pretend all was fine. We just told our attendees what was happening and they were patient while we got things sorted/waited for the gale to subside.

We miss people As much as we love holding our workshops online, we miss ‘being in the room’. When we started working together in our pre-Compass days, we held workshops for young athletes, and it was always great to be there with them and their coaches, getting that energy you can only get from talking and listening in person. We’re looking forward to being in the room, as well as carrying on with our online workshops, soon.

Don’t worry about no-shows It happens. Who hasn’t signed up for an online event and then either forgotten about it or not felt in the mood to be sitting in front of a screen once again after you’ve probably spent most of the day sitting in front of a screen?

Enjoy the silence ‘Dead air’ is something else that just happens, especially in an interactive workshop when you’re asking attendees to think about their skills or consider certain scenarios. We used to try and cover it with chatting, but we got some great feedback from an attendee who said it didn’t matter if there were silent moments as everyone was thinking and wouldn’t notice!

Ask for feedback The above is exactly why we always ask for feedback. This has helped us improve so much, learn so much and enjoy it so much more, and hopefully make our workshops better for those who give us their time to attend them.

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