Zoomshops Don’t Have to be Boring!

blog iconThis is the second blog in Beth Gragg’s “Switching to Zoom? Tips for maximizing interaction in your Zoom(work)shops” blog series. Read the first blog in the series: Preparing to Zoomshop!

You know how easily distracted we are by emails, news feeds, Twitter, cat videos, or the report that sits unwritten on our desktops. The same is true for participants in your Zoomshops. If they are not engaged, you’ll lose them now and in future workshops. But all is not lost! Some tips:


Use good adult learning principles: I am a big fan of the Experiential Learning Cycle—I use this Cycle whether the workshop is one-hour long or one-week long.¹ Here is a sample of how to “marry” Zoom tools to the Learning Cycle and to help keep your participants engaged and learning:

Experiential Learning Cycle
The Experiential Learning Cycle

Find out what participants know and do:

  • Use a poll to have people choose if they agree/disagree with a statement. Make sure to show their responses, and don’t forget to use their input in the next activities.
  • Use Zoom whiteboard as an icebreaker to find out what your participants already know or do about a topic. Post a question on the whiteboard and ask everyone to write or draw their responses.

How to use data
An example of a Zoom whiteboard

Build on what participants know and do:

  • PowerPoint presentations are fine, as long as they are broken up into short, 4-5-minute segments and have a clear objective. To keep participants engaged with the information, interrupt presentations with a question, polls, or asking people to chat their responses.
  • Case studies are a good alternative to presentations. I use “100-word case studies” to provide information in a short format. They include only the most important content, plus the length keeps slower readers from feeling overwhelmed and encourages them to participate. See a sample case study (and discussion questions) here.
  • Videos are a great way to engage people, if they are short and to the point. They are easy to share with Zoom, and they bring different voices into the mix, which reduces the monotony of hearing the same voice throughout the workshop.

Practice new concepts: This step in the learning process helps people become confident that they can master the information you’ve presented.

  • Full group discussion: Pose a question or a critical incident and ask participants to use the “raise your hand” function in Zoom or the chat function to make their contributions.
  • Breakout groups: Set up breakout groups manually, or Zoom will automatically place participants into random groups for you. Pose discussion questions and let people work together to solve problems or prioritize issues. If your questions are concise, 15-20 minutes is a good amount of time for breakout groups.
  • Case studies can be combined with breakout groups. Put participants into groups to read and answer questions about the case study and through the magic of Zoom, bring them back into the full group to discuss.

Reflect: To help new information “stick” with participants, ask them to reflect on how they will apply it to their work, or lives.

  • Ask people to draw the picture on a whiteboard – where will you use this information? With whom will you use this information?

Contact me! Let me know how it goes! Leave a comment here or contact me at gragg.bethanne@gmail.com. I offer technical support for NGOs that are transitioning into using Zoom (or other virtual platforms) for their workshops. I can help your team develop storyboards or “run-of-show” documents that will get you the results you need and keep your participants engaged.

This is the second blog of the “Switching to Zoom? Tips for maximizing interaction in your Zoom(work)shops” blog series by Beth Gragg. Make sure you have a LeaderNet account to be notified of the next blog!

¹ A summary of experiential learning can be found at Boston University Center for Teaching and Learning. Accessed on 28 September 2020


Ms. Beth Gragg is pivoting from face-to-face workshopping to designing and facilitating virtual learning opportunities for NGOs and not-for-profit organizations addressing social justice and international public health issues around the world. She is excited about using online tools to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, and is the author of Tools from the Field: Participant-Centered Techniques for More Effective Training. She holds an advanced degree in international administration and adult education and is fluent in English and Spanish.

Beth is an independent consultant who can be reached at gragg.bethanne@gmail.com or at www.bethgragg.com

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