Presenting an Online Workshop – Tips for Engaging your Audience: Part 2 – Ice Breakers

Presenting an Online Workshop – Tips for Engaging your Audience: Part 2 – Ice Breakers

Presenting a workshop to an online audience is not without its challenges. Primary among these is the inability of the presenter to gauge the audience’s reaction or to use any of the non-verbal (read: eyerolls, nods, smiles, confused looks, etc.) or verbal cues (laughter at your jokes 😉 ) that are typically available when presenting in-person. This five-part series describes tips and tricks for engaging an online audience and making the workshop experience an interactive one, including: Visual Considerations; Ice Breakers; Chats & Open Discussions; Polls, Surveys & Quizzes; and Breakout Rooms.

The simple fact is that it is difficult for anyone to pay attention to a presentation for any real length of time but when the presentation is online, and the presenter is not in the same space as the participant, this becomes even more difficult. The demands of life and the reality of attending a workshop online from one’s home or office presents multiple additional distractions than are likely when the workshop presentation is in person.

To reduce ‘zoom fatigue’ and to encourage active participation on the part of your online audience, several different techniques can be used. We started with Visual Considerations, and now we move to Ice Breakers.

Part 2: Engaging an Online Audience – Ice Breakers

At the start of your workshop, one of the first things you might consider is the use of an ice breaker to warm up your audience and get them used to interacting with you and with others in the workshop. This is a nice way to develop a sense of community within the group of workshop participants and to get to know those to whom you are presenting. Icebreakers are an easy way to get participants comfortable with each other, and with you, and can add a bit of levity and fun into the workshop.

Polls, surveys, or the chatbox can be used to pose icebreakers at the start of a session. Or, you might simply pose a question, or a short series of questions, that you’d like each participant to answer and then allow each participant to share their responses.

Icebreakers can focus on a range of topics, such as professional demographics, what brings the participants to that specific workshop, or they can be more casual, such as asking participants to share something about themselves.
Example: A poll can be used to ask participants what learning targets or goals they have for the workshop with a request they select from a few pre-selected choices. Or this same question can simply be asked of every participant with an opportunity for each (or a selection of participants if there is large attendance).

Asking about goals or learning objectives might also help you tailor the content to the interests and needs of your audience.
Example: Ask participants to share the geographic region from which they’re logging in to attend, or to share something they hope to learn in the workshop or the first place they intend to travel to once travel restrictions have been lifted!

Practical Tips

It will be important for you to call on participants by name or by some other identifier (i.e., username or however they’ve identified themselves to zoom) as it will be unclear to participants who should be the next to speak as they do not have the benefit of being able to determine who, specifically, you might be looking at or of ‘reading the room’.

Need more examples or ideas for ice breaker questions? Here are 100 icebreaker ideas.

Next Up: Chats & Open Discussions