“Physical activity” and “moving around” may not be the first things that spring to mind when thinking about online workshops, but introducing some physical components into your virtual workshop is a great way to improve your participants’ experience. In this article, I'll explore the reasons why you should consider adding physical activities to your online workshop, and how to do so effectively.
Why Should I Include Physical Activities In My Virtual Workshop?
There are a lot of reasons to include more physical activity in your online workshops, but here are the three of the biggest ones:
1. Your Icebreaker Activities Will Be More Fun
Icebreaker games can be a great way to build positive energy at the beginning of a workshop and get participants comfortable speaking in front of the group. But let’s face it: not all icebreakers are made equal. Icebreaker activities with a fun physical component can help ensure you create the positive, engaging atmosphere you’re aiming for.
2. You Can Boost Participants’ Energy Levels
Any facilitator who has run both virtual and face-to-face workshops knows, their participants' energy levels will start to dip much faster online than they will in person. Running a quick physical activity part way through your online workshop can help keep participants energized and engaged.
3. You’ll Create a Multisensory Learning Environment
We’ve all heard the idea that different learners have different learning styles (like “visual,” “auditory” and “kinesthetic” learning styles). There’s heated debate about whether learning styles actually exist, but researchers seem to agree that providing a multi-sensory learning environment that includes different types of activities improves learning and retention. Mixing up your learning activities also makes for a more engaging workshop experience.
What Kinds of Physical Activities Can I Do?
There’s no limit to how creative you can get with the activities you run in your online workshops. Here are just a few ideas to make your icebreakers, mid-session energizers, and learning activities more physical:
Share an Object
This is a fun way for your participants to show a bit of their personality during the workshop. Give participants 30 seconds to get up and choose a random item from their home or office, and have them tell the group what it is and why they love (or hate!) it.
Made Up Dance Move
Have each participant make up and perform a simple, silly dance move for the group and quickly explain why they think it should become the most popular dance move in the world.
True or False
Ask the group a series of true or false questions about their day, their job, their city, or whatever suits you best. Participants will hold up one finger in front of the camera for each question they can answer “true.” The first participant to get five “true” answers wins.
Sell Me This Pen (Or Whatever You Want)
The classic sales interview question. Give your participants 30 seconds each to pitch their pen (or any other object) to the group and convince them why they absolutely must have it.
Rock Paper Scissors Tournament
Inject a bit of competitive energy into your workshop with a quick Rock Paper Scissors tournament. The fastest way to play is with “King/Queen of the Hill” rules, where one participant is designated the king or queen, and the other participants “line up” to play against the king or queen one-on-one. Whoever wins the face off becomes the new king or queen, and the loser is out of the game. Whoever is king or queen by the time everyone has played one round wins.
This quick and effective energizer comes from the folks at Hyper Island, and can be done either sitting or standing. Have all your participants shake their right arm eight times, their left arm eight times, their right leg eight times, and their left leg eight times. Have everyone count down each shake with you as you go. Repeat the cycle with four shakes, then two shakes, then one shake, and end it off with a cheer and a virtual high five. Speaking of that...
Virtual High Five
The virtual high five is probably the easiest way to get people to move during a workshop. Everyone simply gives a high five in the direction of their camera - easy as that!
Kinesthetic Learning Activities
Paper and Pencil
Working with good old fashioned paper and pencil can be a refreshing change of pace for participants who have been staring endlessly at their screens. Whether writing a self-reflection, drawing an image, brainstorming, or playing a game, working with physical paper and pencil provides a great hands-on kinesthetic learning opportunity.
In & Out of the Box
A wonderful example of how creatively and effectively you can use paper and pencil in your workshop is the In & Out of the Box system created by Jimbo Clark at innoGreat. Under the guidance of the facilitator, participants will fold a piece of paper into the shape of a box, with the inner sides of the box representing different parts of your internal self, and the outer sides of the box representing different parts of your external, “social” self. The participants are guided through a series of self-reflection and discussion exercises as they use words and illustrations to fill in each of the sections of their own box, and come away from the experience both with new insights about themselves and a cool tangible object to represent them.
Tips and Considerations
Here are some pointers to help ensure your activities go off without a hitch:
Be Mindful Of Your Participants
Of course, as a workshop facilitator you already have your participants and their at the forefront of your mind. When running physical activities, however, consider the following questions:
What Environment Are They In?
Some activities, like the Shake Down or Silly Dance Moves, are much easier to participate in from home than from a big open-plan office. You will want to make sure that both the physical and social environment of your participants is conducive to the activity you are trying to run.
Can Everyone Participate?
For every activity you plan, you should make sure that the instructions can be modified to allow everyone to participate. For example, how can your activity be modified to accommodate someone who, for various different reasons, needs to remain sitting at their desk?
Clearly Explain The Instructions
Nothing will derail an activity faster than unclear instructions. Take the time to make sure you have explained the activity clearly and given participants the chance to ask questions.
Many activities work better when you can bring one or more participants into focus for the rest of the group. For example, if a participant is trying to Sell This Pen, or two participants are playing Rock Paper Scissors against each other, it’d be best for their video feeds to be displayed prominently for the whole group to see. Using the fishbowl discussion format, or participant spotlight feature of your online meeting platform helps ensure that everyone is looking at the right person at the right time. Seshboard's table spotlight feature makes it easy to manage fishbowl discussions during your session. You can book a personal demo with us if you're interested in learning more about how Seshboard lets you do this.
Mind The Time
Time flies when you’re having fun! Make sure you are watching the clock when running these activities so that you can keep your workshop schedule on track. One of the neat things about Seshboard is that it lets you easily set a timer on the fly for your activities.
Introducing physical activity into your online workshop is a fantastic way to set an energetic and engaging atmosphere, maintain attention during the session, and help to improve your participants’ learning and retention.
Interested in learning more about how to maximize your participants' engagement during online workshops? Check out the other articles in our Guide to Online Engagement.