Lessons from a flunked Zoom workshop
I just hosted an online workshop about finding a green job in Brussels. I host lots of online discussions, but this was the first ‘real’ workshop I’ve done online with slides and exercises. It was the first time I’ve used Eventbrite to publicise an event so it felt more serious. And I’d put a lot of prep work into it. We had 85 people sign up and 48 attended on the night which I thought was a decent turn-out. But it did not go according to plan!
Here’s what I learned for next time in case it helps you:
- Have a co-host: Even though I use Zoom all the time, I was distracted by the technology at the beginning. That meant I didn’t get off to the strong start I had planned for. I had enabled the waiting room so every two seconds there was a ping to let someone in. In future, I would either disable the waiting room or have a co-host to let the people in.
- Manage the chat: When I was sharing my screen I couldn’t see the chat. Or many of the people. There’s no way to do gallery view and see your own slides. So I need to explore that more for next time. It might not be necessary to put the slides in presenter mode for them to be shared.
- Have a back-up: About half-way through, my Zoom connection dropped out. Fortunately, I had friends on the call who kept it going while I tried and failed to reconnect, dashed across the house to get my laptop and finally reconnected. I missed a good chunk of my own workshop. Having the back-up helped me keep my cool but next time I would plan for it by having a co-host and a fully-charged back-up laptop at the ready with any Zoom updates done. When I reconnected, I couldn’t show my slides (just a black hole) and the recording of the first half wasn’t saved. That’s the worst part of it for me as I always watch the video later to see how I can do better. If I had charged for the event, I would have been embarrassed. As it was, I learned from it and I can share what I learned here.
- Figure out breakout rooms: I had originally wanted to put people into breakout rooms for some of the exercises but I ran out of time to figure out how to do it. I may not have the right level of Zoom account but it wasn’t obvious so I adapted the format to group sharing instead. This worked well but I would still like the option of breakout rooms.
- Stagger the feedback: I had prepared the feedback email and survey to go out 10 minutes after the scheduled end of the workshop. But we ended up extending by half an hour, partly because I missed that big chunk in the middle. Another time, I would prepare the feedback email but not schedule it. That way, I could still adapt the email to include, for example, a link to the slides or to a video that I could record of me talking through the slides.
It sounds pretty disastrous and from a technical standpoint, it was. But it really showed the strength of having great back-up (thanks guys!), even if they were there unofficially, and the feedback from the group was excellent. I wanted to help and I did. That’s the most important thing.
I can still turn the slides into a video which won’t have the interaction from the audience but can still be helpful. And I can do a follow-up with the questions I’ve received in the feedback. But for now, it’s time to get off the screen!