Hosting an Online Workshop

Once you have your online workshop scheduled, here are some suggestions and tips for hosting. These guidelines are not prescriptive, but they can be helpful!

Work with a Co-host

A Co-host (also known as a Moderator, Buddy, or Helper) can help your Online Workshop go more smoothly!

You may be wondering why it’s a good idea to have a second person helping with the workshop; couldn’t a single person do everything? Having a helper is beneficial for a number of reasons. It can reduce the stress a speaker might feel to keep an eye on everything while presenting. It lets the host focus on presenting – without having to worry about missing a question in the chat, troubleshooting participants’ Zoom technical issues, getting derailed by an unrelated question, or admitting people from the waiting room.

It can help for the helper to have at least some basic understanding of the subject being covered. For workshops where the moderator is unfamiliar with the topic, it might be useful for them to go through the presenter’s slide deck ahead of time, and ask the host questions before the workshop, if needed.

Before your Online Workshop, ensure that you let your co-host know what their specific tasks are, which can include:

  • Admitting attendees in the Zoom from the waiting room
  • Greeting newcomers (i.e., saying “Welcome, Joe!” in the chat)
  • Respond to anything needing immediate action in the chat
  • Look for and present related information to what the speaker is talking about
  • Contributing to the discussion when it is silent
  • Direct the speaker’s attention to any questions that have come in at an appropriate lull in the session
  • Help fill in “dead air” – i.e., if participants aren’t asking questions – with some pre-prepared questions or comments.
  • Bring it to the presenter’s attention if a key point in their presentation was inadvertently overlooked.
  • Keep time and let presenter know if they need to speed things up to stay on time.

If you are searching for a co-host, feel free to ask in the Training channel in Slack if there are any volunteers available to help.

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Advance Preparation

  • If you’re nervous, it’s okay to pre-record sections, or use existing Workshops / Resources to help scaffold learning. Not everyone knows how Learn WordPress works–they find us through MeetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area., so it’s okay and encouraged to use resources that already exist.
  • Consider using existing lesson plans on Learn WordPress as inspiration and material for future Online Workshops. These are resources you are allowed and encouraged to use, so if you’re not sure where to start, check those lesson plans out!
  • Plan questions in throughout your presentation to make the space more interactive — these questions can be yes/no, opinion questions, or have a “right” answer, but the more you can invite people to share their brilliance and questions, the better!
  • Meet people where they are; you can ask a question on Meetup when people sign up to ask what people already know about a topic, what they want to learn, or anything else. Plan your workshop around this to personalize this space to each group of learners.
  • Plan a pre-assessment and post-assessment question, such as: “On a scale of 1-5, 1 being ‘nothing’ and 5 being ‘everything’, how much would you say you already know about X topic?” If you ask the same question twice, you can measure growth from what people write in the chat.
  • The polls function in Zoom work well if you plan ahead and add questions in advance.
  • If you are working with co-host moderator, prepare a list of links from the presentation and provide it to the moderator ahead of time. This lets the moderator drop the appropriate links into the chat at just the right moments, when the relevant item is being discussed.

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Arrive early

  • Test your tech beforehand! Ensure that Zoom has video, microphone, and screen-share permissions before you start, otherwise you’ll have to grant those permissions and then restart Zoom.
  • Meet with your co-hosts or moderators 10–15 minutes before the start of the workshop to discuss responsibilities and test the presentation.
  • People will start to arrive as early as five or even ten minutes before the event is scheduled, so having your Zoom up and ready will allow them to at least enter the waiting room.
  • If you are working with a co-host/moderator, be sure to admit them to the Zoom meeting early and grant them the co-hosting permissions they need. That way, they can automatically take over the workshop should something happen that causes the host to leave the call. Also, as co-host, the moderator can take on the task of admitting people from the waiting room, which avoids the host getting distracted by, or forgetting about this task, especially after the workshop has started.
  • Turn on Focus Mode in Zoom. This keeps focus on the host’s video and screen sharing, as well as the co-host if they speak. Attendees will not see other attendees’ video, but the host and co-host can see anyone else’s video if it is turned on.

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Turn on accessibility features

Make sure to turn on any accessibilityAccessibility Accessibility (commonly shortened to a11y) refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility) features, such as Zoom’s auto-captioning feature, before the online workshop begins.

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Use security features

Enabling security features will help minimize disruptions. Here are the recommended settings for maximum security, which you can find in your Zoom account admin settings.

Note: If you are a Training Team Faculty member and using the shared Zoom account, these recommended settings will be enabled by default for any new meetings created.

  • Waiting Room: On
  • Meeting Passcode: On
  • Chat Etiquette Tool: On (Note: requires you to create a policy, e.g., list of prohibited words. There are two policies/lists on the shared account, but more can be added.)
  • Allow participants to join before host: Off
  • Mute all participants when they join a meeting: On
  • Screen sharing: One participant can share at a time
  • Annotation: If on, Only the user who is sharing can annotate
  • Whiteboard (Classic): Off
  • Remote control: Off
  • Gesture Recognition: Off
  • Allow users to change their name when joining a meeting: Off
  • Allow participants to rename themselves: Off
  • Show participant profile cards in a meeting: Off
  • Mute all participants when they join a meeting: On
  • Hide participant profile pictures in a meeting: On
  • Focus Mode: On

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Start with a hook

How can you grab learner’s attention? You can use question hooksHooks In WordPress theme and development, hooks are functions that can be applied to an action or a Filter in WordPress. Actions are functions performed when a certain event occurs in WordPress. Filters allow you to modify certain functions. Arguments used to hook both filters and actions look the same. to engage learners, but you can also use a “hook” to make sure everyone has figured out how to use the chat, speak aloud, or practice using any other Zoom features you might include in a lesson.

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Consider Icebreakers

Over Zoom, it’s important to invite people to speak aloud, to write in the chat box, or even use emojis/reactions to share their thoughts. Whatever tool you’re choosing to use for your online workshop, ask a few icebreaker questions to familiarize people with the options. Some questions you can ask are:

  • From where in the world are you joining us?
  • Are you a coffee drinker or a tea drinker?
  • From a scale of 1-5, 1 being “not at all” and 5 being “expert!” how comfortable are you with X topic?

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Set Expectations

Let people know what to expect, invite them to speak, and make sure they understand what an online workshop is — a community-focused learning space! Not one person knows the answer to everything, and we all bring varying levels of knowledge to the table. Invite users to share what they know, answer another attendees’ question, and provide space and time for everyone to share in whatever way makes them feel comfortable.

If you are recording the session, let the attendees know so they can opt out of having their camera on. This is not necessary if you are using Focus Mode, since only your (and your co-host’s) video will be seen in the recording.

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Share your slides

  • Consider sharing your presentation slides with folks as soon as the presentation starts! If attendees are slower or quicker on any topic, they can flip through the slides at their own pace throughout the session.
  • You can also choose to share you slides at the end of the session, so folks can review them even after the workshop has concluded.

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During your Online Workshop

  • Don’t go too fast as some people struggle following. Repeating yourself or repeating certain steps help solidify what is being taught.
  • Don’t get derailed by questions. Stick to your agenda, but make time to answer questions and trust other attendees and the co-host to answer questions while you are busy presenting.
  • Many people learn visually, so it is helpful to include as many demos and examples as possible in your presentation.

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Conclude

  • At the end of a presentation, ask people what they are going to do with what they learned. Their responses may surprise you!
  • Many people like to come back to learn more about WordPress — make sure to let them know where they can learn more (learn.wordpress.org), and link to any relevant websites or resources mentioned during the online workshop.
  • Let attendees know where they can find the recording of this and other Online Workshops (on WordPress.tv)
  • Invite them to join us again (share the calendar of upcoming Online Workshops), and thank them for their time.

Do you have any tips to add to this resource for Online Workshop hosts? You can share them in a comment on this post about best practices, or reach out in the Training channel in Slack.

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