Secrets to Highly Engaging Virtual Workshops with Julie Hall #Interview

Meet Julie Hall from the School of Marketing. In this interview, Julie is sharing tips around the Secrets to Highly Engaging Virtual Workshops

Transcript underneath the video. If you have any questions, you're welcome to ask them in the comments.
[00:00:01.920] – Sarah Arrow

Hello and welcome.

This is Sarah, creative director at Content Nitro, or the Blogging Challenge, and quite a few other things! Today I'm really excited because I get talk about my special guest, Julie Hall, from the School of Marketing. Before going to introduce Julie any further, I'm just going to ask her to introduce herself. And then if you've got any questions, please do type them in. We can ask them to Julie. And if not, I will just ask her lots of questions about remote virtual training and you'll really enjoy the time that you spend with us.

[00:00:45.930] – Julie Hall

Thanks, Sarah.

[00:00:48.480] – Julie Hall

My name is Julie Hall. I run a company called the School of Marketing, which I launched about three years ago, and I run workshops for businesses, business owners, marketing workshops. And I work as both an associate for other companies, but I also have my own direct clients as well.

[00:01:09.060] – Julie Hall

And so I've been training for about 16 years now. I've trained for Google. I've trained for a company called Reformer's. I've done stuff with Ministry of Justice. I've been doing lots of leadership training recently and obviously marketing training. And so when lockdown happened, like most trainers, my work just stopped because I'm a face to face trainer.

[00:01:44.130] – Julie Hall

I do some stuff online, but mainly face to face. That's what I love. It's where my joy is. And I love kind of seeing those aha moments that people get when you teach them something that they've not considered before. And it really shifts of mindset or changes the way they view the world or the way that they're going to do something.

[00:02:06.840] – Julie Hall

So I was quite lucky because one of the companies that I work with, I do a lot of work with the leadership training company, and they were looking to move all of their training virtually because they're a live training company and asked me if I would run a workshop for them. Now, the thing is, with those workshops, they are three day and four-day workshops, three and four days via Zoom.

[00:02:40.050] – Julie Hall

So needless to say, I was somewhat intimidated by this. And even though I've done things like webinars and online training, I knew it had to be quite a different experience delivering workshops, virtually. Because if I was going to be keeping people on screen with me for eight hours a day for three to four days, it needed to be good enough to kind of keep them, right.


All the research that I did talked about the workshops would be 90 minutes, two hours with a break in the middle, maybe maximum half day. I couldn't find anything about how to run a highly engaged full day workshop. So basically, I needed to figure that out. And then at the same time, I had another client approached me to run a creativity workshop the same way like pretty much at the same time, you know, within the same week period for them, where we had to look at how were we going to get people to be more creative and using again, using Zoom as a tool.

[00:03:51.990] – Julie Hall

So, yeah, so a pretty high learning curve. And I had about three weeks to prepare and. Yeah. That's kind of how I got into doing the virtual training. And now since then I've, I probably run about eight virtual training days a month through a variety of different courses.

[00:04:17.340] – Sarah Arrow

Well, that's brilliant. Thank you for sharing that, Julie.

[00:04:20.010] – Sarah Arrow

And my immediate question is eight hours only you. Wow.

[00:04:27.210] – Sarah Arrow

That's a really long time for people to sit down and for you to keep their attention. So is this eight hours in one chunk or do you break it up? How do you deal with that entire day workshop remotely?


The first time I ran the workshop, obviously, we didn't really know what was going to happen, how tired people would get. You know, people talk about zoom fatigue a lot. And that's just from having short meetings with people, so I needed to make sure that that we were able to kind of keep them going and I'm going to be really honest. So this is really funny. The very first workshop I ran, one of the people, it recorded them without them knowing in the breakout room.


And I don't know quite how it happened, but it did. And this is probably about 2.30 in the afternoon. And one of the girls said to the other girl, oh, my gosh, it's relentless. So I was like, oh, no, OK, so definitely need to change this, right, because there's even though I thought I had all those pieces in place, there were still obviously some learning to be done.

[00:05:50.810] – Julie Hall

So the thing to do definitely is break up the day. And what I do is I tend to break it into 90-minute sessions. We do 9 till 10.30. We do so slightly over 90 minutes. We do from 10.50 to 12.30. We do take an hour for lunch. And then 1.30-3 pm. 3.20-4 pm or quarter to five. I tell always tell the delegates that we're going to be finishing at five o'clock just because the thing about virtual workshops, I mean this can happen in my workshops, particularly when you're doing virtual workshops. It everything takes longer than you think it's going to take.  I like to build in a bit of a buffer because it's always a relief to finish a session early rather than making them go longer. So again, one of those lessons learned, we said for 30 initially so that people would stop, would kind of think, OK, I can do it's only for 30.

[00:06:55.040] – Julie Hall

But actually when it runs over, then they sort of start to feel a little bit more. So that's how I break it for four, 90-minute sessions. But actually, if you were a trainer, generally you're going to be wanting to break your days into 90-minute blocks anyway. So it's really not that different than if you are running a live face to face session.

[00:07:19.370] – Sarah Arrow

OK, so what do you think are the major differences between face to face, where you're in the room with your delegates to actually training via Zoom or some of the remote tool?

[00:07:35.540] – Julie Hall

Yeah. So the very first thing. I'm terrible with names. Right. Really terrible. I'm just crap. So so the great thing about Zoom is it has everybody's name on the screen, which is amazing because it means you can build that rapport with people immediately. So when you've got that screen in front, you can see all the faces. And so that's that for me is one of the main benefits. Another thing that I found, which has been quite surprising, is that I've been able to really mix up the kinds of things that we do.

[00:08:12.470] – Julie Hall

So because online you've got video, we've got Google Docs, which I use a lot, Google Docs, Google slides a lot. during my virtual trainings. We've got the breakout rooms, we've got the whiteboards. We've got so many different ways that people can engage and interact with each other and with you as the facilitator that actually it's and it's fun. I mean, I actually really enjoy it. So so I think that for me has been, again, another real positive.

[00:08:45.260] – Julie Hall

There are some types of exercises that I think don't work so well or don't translate so well to the virtual environment. And I find this particularly with coaches. If they want to create a space, quite often they might use the physical space to create a dynamic in the room. And obviously that's a lot more challenging in a virtual environment. But there but I would suggest there are still ways of creating that stress.

[00:09:14.600] – Julie Hall

If you want to stress that people are going to respond to or an interaction or a what's the word, you know, when people are trying to learn to do like a role play, you can still do all that kind of stuff perfectly fine in a virtual  space.


I think the other thing that I've really noticed is that the trainer needs to kind of get out of the way a little bit more virtually. So when you're when you're in a live face to face, you might go up and sort of observe a group. But what I found online and maybe you might give them a bit of feedback, whatever, when you're online, you have a tendency to disrupt the discussion more because they will naturally, everyone will naturally focus on you as the facilitator rather than each other or potentially the discussion if you intervene too much.

[00:10:16.550] – Sarah Arrow

That's an interesting thing. I don't think any of us consider that when we're doing our workshops.

[00:10:23.630] – Julie Hall

I just I'm just going to share a little story. When I saw before I ran my first four-day workshop and I was lucky to come. That I was working with, we did a test run, a full day test run with a whole bunch of their staff to give them a chance to give everybody a chance to just see what the experience was like and how it would work, and did it work and what was the problem? And one of the guys I actually this wasn't with me.


I sat in on somebody else's session and one of the guys dropped into a breakout room. This is a total like it's so easy for a facilitator to do this. Dropped into a breakout room and we had a discussion point that we needed to do for about ten minutes. And twenty five minutes later, he was still haven't called us back because he had got caught up in the interesting discussion that was happening in the breakout room, which I'm sure was absolutely fascinating for everybody that was in the breakout room.


But for the rest of us, we'd finished our conversation a long time ago. And so this is this is why I generally don't recommend that the facilitator goes into the breakout rooms unless it's just to check in and make sure everybody is on course with whatever the activity is, because otherwise you can completely throw all your all your timings out and potentially irritate other delegates that are not part of that, whatever that discussion might be.

[00:11:54.130] – Sarah Arrow

And that's a really. .. Sort of on the…  I'm lost for words, because I just can't believe somebody would do that!

[00:12:04.420] – Julie Hall

It's so easily done is the thing right, because you're excited you're going in and good discussions happening.

[00:12:12.170] – Julie Hall

And I think this is it's kind of a rookie mistake rather than an experienced facilitator. But because that you're not seeing what's going on in the rest of the room, like in terms of people wanting to come back or whatever, then you don't you can't observe people's facial expressions to see what's going on. In fact, actually, to your question. So what's one of the biggest differences is that I think that's it is I really very strongly feel a need to have everyone's faces in front of me so I can observe what's going on for them as I'm going through the training, which does require some juggling when you're actually doing that, facilitation when you're running the session, because you've got the screen of people on top of your own slides.

[00:13:02.110] – Julie Hall

So you need to basically set it up so that you're not it doesn't matter if your screen is blocked, if that makes sense.

[00:13:11.470] – Sarah Arrow

That's brilliant. Thank you. So my next question for you, Julie, is. When you're setting up your virtual training room compared to setting up your location like it's usually a hotel room or a specialized training room, obviously, you know your handouts are now virtual handouts. You mentioned to use Google Docs. What other things are different aside from not being able to look at their faces and observe their body language as fully as you would like, and obviously there's the physical thing, but in terms of getting people to answer and interact, are there any differences between the two?


I think it requires a little bit more facilitation. But, you know, most workshops will have one or two people that will tend to be quite participative, potentially to the extremes where they are taking away from other people. You do need to manage that. And so I'm running a workshop on running virtual workshops, a session on Thursday, which I think you've got the link in the somewhere. And one of the things I talk about is tough delegates, because I've actually had that in  my last session but it  doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while it does happen where you have a delegate that is particularly challenging.


And as a trainer, you really need to manage your own energy in that, because even though it's virtual, people can still see the dynamic. They can see what's going on. They can see how you're reacting. They can see how the other delegates are reacting and are assessing you in terms of how you handle and deal with that. And it was a really interesting experience because it's the first time it's happened to this extreme for me in a virtual environment.


And interestingly, I realized at the end that the reason we were having so much challenge, I was having so much challenge from him was because he was somebody that required that he needed to know the process from beginning to end for the whole four days. So wherever we were in that process, he needed to know where it fit. You know, why? Why are we doing this? How does this fit with the other things that I'm doing? What difference is this going to make?

[00:15:52.180] – Julie Hall

So that's been a really great learning for me as a trainer. And goodness knows, I don't have the answers to everything. But what it's meant is that now I'm literally today going back, creating a road map where I can pinpoint for people. Exactly. So it's all on one slide exactly where we are so they can see the whole journey. We're going to go on over that period. And I think if we had been in a live environment, so we would have had the whole book, we would have had, you know, it's like a tome plus slides.

[00:16:24.610] – Julie Hall

You would have been able to see all the slides. You can see that journey and needing to create a visual reference for the delegate. And it was one out of probably a 90 or so people that have been through the course in the last few months. But, you know, it's important to do that. And I think so. I think you need to understand when somebody is being challenging why that is, and then and then figure out ways that you can get around that, so it doesn't happen again.

[0016:57.300] – Julie Hall

And that is going to be a really beneficial thing for your audience to have.

[00:17:05.280] – Julie Hall

Yeah. I thought it was enough to kind of say, you know, this is the agenda for the four days, but, you know, different people interpret things in different ways. And even when you explain something a million times, people don't sometimes for just for one or two people, it doesn't register, it doesn't resonate. It doesn't stick them. So just having a variety of ways that that information can be transmitted really does make a difference.

[00:17:35.150] – Sarah Arrow

So my next question for you, Julie, is you mentioned 90 people over several virtual events….

[00:17:46.020] – Julie Hall

And so I've done we do now we've got about 15 people going through. So, yeah, it's about 90 people that's been through that been through the night that marketing, my 4-day marketing workshop.

[00:17:59.570] – Sarah Arrow

So my question is, what's the optimum number of people to have on the Zoom for training and delivering a virtual workshop? Obviously we've got to balance between making enough money to justify our time, but also we can't have hundreds of people or can we? Can we have hundreds of people on a Zoom?

[00:18:26.720] – Julie Hall

So it's a really good question, so there are two kinds of zoom you can get. One is webinars and one is the zoom meetings I use to meetings for the workshops and zoom webinars for what I'm going to use for the training that I'm doing on Thursday.

[00:18:41.210] – Julie Hall

And they do operate differently. So Zoom webinars. You can have hundreds of people and you don't see people's faces. You have a chat box and a Q&A box that people can chat in and then ask questions in.

[00:18:54.710] – Julie Hall

And so it's a much more of a webinar-style with the Zoom workshops. You see people's faces on the screen. Now, I've been on a session which had… It had over Fifteen hundred people on it, like a lot. Right. And what they did not know and what they did was they split it up into 10 rooms. So I was in a room of I'm going to say there was 10, 20 people, I think, on-screen and there were 10 screens, so each room had 200 people.

[00:19:36.530] – Julie Hall

And that for me that didn't work because they didn't they just didn't use the breakout element enough. It was just an overwhelming amount of people. It was really difficult to create any connection. When the speaker was speaking, he would go on, blather on for like forty-five, sixty minutes. And you know, you're like that's when you start switching off and you're on your checking your emails, doing your work, listening in the background, not really paying attention.

[00:20:10.340] – Julie Hall

And the trick?  I don't think you can do workshops for large groups of people. The most I've done is thirty-five and I didn't like it because it was again it was really difficult to manage a large number of people. My optimum is 12 to 16, so it's enough that you can get to know the individuals. People are participating, you're asking questions. You can facilitate a discussion in the main room really well. But once you start to get more than that when people are interrupting.

[00:20:47.660] – Julie Hall

There's I mean, then there are different techniques I use to manage that so that the conversation is flowing and everybody's getting a chance to speak. But also, I'm also pulling in people from that haven't necessarily volunteered their opinion so that we're getting full engagement from everybody. And so, yeah, so I tend to like much prefer a smaller group than a larger group.


When it's the larger group, you need to be sending them out into the breakout rooms to have those discussions rather than having them all in the main room. So I guess that leads us nicely into your workshop class on Thursday, and you've done a special deal for people in the community, which I'm really grateful for. So tell us a bit more about the content that you're going to be training them in on Thursday.

[00:21:39.850] – Julie Hall

Yeah, so it's a 90-minute masterclass.

[00:21:42.430] – Julie Hall

And basically, I'm going to take you through that journey of planning a virtual workshop, what kinds of slides you want to be having to make sure. How do you manage and facilitate people within that, within that, within your workshop structuring it. So you're you know, you're not spending too long on things. How long should you think about showing you some really? Like, I like to think quite creative ways that people can work virtually using Google slides, particularly because it's a cloud-based tool.


There are different tools just in case anybody wonders or has the question. There are tools like Miro and Mural. I don't go into that at all. So I just like to keep things really simple. Talk about what slides you want to have in your deck just to make sure that your delegates are really clear to a session on how to deal with difficult delegates and how you want to manage that. And then also the kind of pre-session pre-workshop communication and post-workshop communication.


And the last thing very important for trainers is how to make sure you get your feedback form filled out by the delegates when you're running a virtual workshop and it works so well that if you're interested in this, do go and look at the page.

[00:23:05.830] – Sarah Arrow

The link is at the bottom of this video and in the description, and I've known Julie for over ten years and I know she's a brilliant trainer.

[00:23:28.330] – Sarah Arrow

We're talking about second waves and additional lockdown's etc remote workshops, remote masterclasses and remote training. They're part of the new normal.

[00:23:40.210] – Sarah Arrow

Now, it isn't going to return any time soon to where you can have a room full of people. So if you're looking to I'm going to say the dreaded pivot word. If you're looking to make that pivot and shift what you're doing face to face to do or delivery remotely, then Julie's the person to help you.

[00:24:05.050] – Julie Hall

And I would also say I think even when we do go back to face to face, I think I mean, like genuinely the delegates that I've had come through the session, the majority prefer virtual, which I think means that we're never going to go back to what it was like before.

[00:24:27.160] – Julie Hall

Right. You know, that's not to say that we're never going to have live face to face workshops. We definitely will. But I think it will be split. And if you've got the skill of being able to run highly engaging virtual workshops, then you are guaranteeing your income for the next few years. If you don't have that skill, if you limit yourself to just doing my face to face, then I think you're kind of cutting off your nose to spite your face, because actually it's I mean, it's so good.

[00:24:55.810] – Julie Hall

You know, I can't I just can't stress that enough because it's this they love it when you get it right. They really love it.

[00:25:06.550] – Sarah Arrow

And if you're new to virtual workshops, I would say if you delivered a workshop face to face, you have enough experience to come and do this with Julie. If you've never delivered any kind of workshop ever ping Julie a message, leave your comment here and she'll have a chat with you and see if this is a fit.

[00:25:29.500] – Sarah Arrow

If this was me and I was in a position where I knew remote virtual workshops for the future, I would be banking this training as an I would be going along taking lots and lots of notes and perhaps having a ring binder filled with notes so that I'm ready to embrace it when I've got the required skills. So if you're sitting there thinking ” shall I? shall I?” leave a comment? Let us know. Julie will be around to answer the comments. And of course, I will answer if I know.

[00:26:05.710] – Sarah Arrow

But I think the main thing is that you have the skills that will take you forward, that will enable you and your business to grow because we're going to be in this cycle of lockdown/release/lockdown and release until they've mastered the pandemic, the coronavirus it can take, I believe the last time it was two years, we've got different technology, different communication systems now. So it may take us two years to manage the coronavirus, but that doesn't put our lives on hold.

[00:26:42.380] – Sarah Arrow

We can grow our businesses. We can grow ourselves personally during this time of flux.

[00:26:50.910] – Julie Hall


[00:26:52.830] – Sarah Arrow

And do check out and have a look and see if the remote training is for you

Sarah Arrow

About the author

Sarah Arrow created the popular 30-day blogging challenge back in 2007. Since then 750,000+ business owners have learned to blog and grow their business through her content, her challenge and her blogging books.

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