Interactive workshop activities for virtual collaboration

You know that engagement is the secret sauce for any virtual meeting or workshop. But, it’s tough to get people to stay focused—let alone actively participate. A recent survey found that more than half of workers admit they do other things (like check email or peruse social media) during online meetings. This is where workshop activities come in handy.

These interactive exercises command attention, encourage contributions from everybody, foster team bonding, and help you run a collaborative session that’s free of groans and eye rolls.

Curious about which workshop exercises are worth trying out with your own team? We’re here to provide some inspiration with these 10 different activities for workshops.

Why should you add exercises and activities to your workshop?

You’ve likely heard the objections about putting yet another meeting on the calendar. It’s true—many of us have developed a passionate disdain for meetings.

But here’s the thing: Meetings aren’t inherently bad. When they’re structured and managed well, they can be a great thing for your team’s culture and productivity. Interactive workshop activities can help with that by offering the following benefits:

  • Maintain focus: Workshop activities require all of your participants’ attention because they can’t sit back and watch—they need to chime in. But, beyond keeping everybody involved, these exercises also keep your meeting on track. When your activity relates to the purpose of your meeting, it’s easier to stay zoned in on your meeting’s objective rather than getting sidetracked by tangents. When 71% of senior managers say meetings are unproductive and inefficient, that focus level is important.
  • Encourage participation: Do you hear from the same people in every single meeting? Some team members are comfortable jumping in, while others tend to sit back and observe. Hearing from everyone can be a struggle. Fortunately, a shared activity pulls contributions out of everybody—and not just your most extroverted team members.
  • Build psychological safety: Your workshop activities don’t need to be all work and no play. Even the seemingly silly icebreakers serve a purpose. When that same survey found that 62% of managers say meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together, these lighthearted exercises encourage bonding and foster more psychological safety on your team. That means your team will be more comfortable sharing their ideas, even if they’re a little out-of-the-box.

Don’t treat meeting exercises as a brief reprieve or total departure from your agenda items. Instead, integrate them into your workshop or conversation to encourage engagement and push things forward.

Types of activities and exercises

Whether you want to spark some friendly competition or lead creative brainstorming, there are sure to be some workshop activity ideas that suit your needs. Before we get into the exercises themselves, let’s cover some of the different categories these activities fall into:

  • Icebreakers: There’s always a little bit of awkwardness when you bring a group together (especially virtually). These lighthearted workshop warm-up activities foster a sense of togetherness before you get into the meat and potatoes of your meeting.
  • Energizers: Particularly if you’re hosting a longer meeting, a lot of sitting and listening can cause your participants’ eyes to glaze over. These energizer activities for workshops get everybody re-engaged in the conversation.
  • Brainstorming: Several brains are better than one, but sometimes you need some structure to get the creative ideas flowing. These innovation workshop activities help to pull the biggest and best suggestions out of your team.

10 workshop activities to engage your virtual team

Now that you know the different buckets that workshop activities can fall into, let’s get into the good stuff: the exercises and templates. Here are 10 different workshop activity ideas.

Icebreaker workshop activities

1. Share something

This simple icebreaker asks team members to share two things: a picture of something on their desk as well as something they’ve learned recently. It’s straightforward to run but helps your team members get to know each other a little better.

2. When was the last time you …

Your team has probably experienced some disruptions to their normal routines while working remotely. This easy icebreaker pokes fun at that by asking your team to share the last time they did a certain action—like taking a shower or wearing “real” pants.

3. The ‘big picture’ puzzle

This icebreaker will involve a little more preparation from the facilitator but it is a great way to get your team working together. You’ll create a puzzle from an image, upload the pieces to the template, and then mix them up. Your team then has to work together to put the puzzle together in the allotted time.

Energizer workshop activities

4. The challenge bowl

The template has a bowl with different numbered sticky notes. Participants choose a number, and the facilitator reveals a challenge—which can be a thoughtful question, silly question, or mystery activity. The team needs to address the challenge on that sticky note, which is sure to lead to some laughs that reinvigorate your meeting.

5. 5 senses

Energizers don’t need to be loud and chaotic—mindfulness is a great way to refocus on the present and ensure a productive meeting. This activity asks people to focus on five objects, four textures, three sounds, two smells, and one taste. It’s a simple workshop exercise that clears out the mental clutter.

6. Spy hunt game

This fun game gets your team thinking and amps up their communication skills. Everybody on the team gets assigned a secret role, and then they need to work together to identify who the spy is while the spy (who is a fellow team member!) tries to remain undetected.

Brainstorming workshop activities

7. Brainwriting

If your goal is to solicit contributions from everybody, brainwriting is a quiet exercise that can increase people’s comfort level with sharing their big ideas. Your team gets to improve upon everybody’s suggestions in a collaborative yet low-pressure environment.

8. Random words

Sometimes the best ideas are hiding in the corners of your team’s brain. This random words exercise helps them identify associations that they might not find otherwise. It’s a great way to think outside the box and uncover nuggets of wisdom in a fun way.

9. Starbursting

When you and your team need to solve a problem, starbursting can help you consider all of the different aspects of your idea or problem. Using the template, you’ll have to come up with questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how?

10. Team mind mapping

A mind map is an effective way to expand on ideas, and it’s even more fun when you do it as a team. This template allows your team to build a mind map together and then identify the best ideas to pursue.

Make the most of your virtual workshop

Like anything else, online meetings have their advantages—but they also have their challenges. Keeping your participants focused and engaged is one of the biggest hurdles you need to make it over to run a successful meeting.

The good news is that workshop activities will command attention, foster collaboration, and make your meeting a little more fun.

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