A workshop brings together a small or large group of people for exchange, learning and planning of joint activities.

Area of application

A workshop is an event in which a group of people work intensively on a specific topic. The aim is to jointly develop concrete solutions and results for a given problem. In contrast to training, workshops go beyond transfer of knowledge and create something new or give the participants direction for further development.

Each workshop has a topic and objectives. It follows a structured facilitation plan which typically includes introduction, discussion and solution search, planning and conclusion.


A workshop is characterized by close and intensive interaction among the participants. Therefore, the participants should be limited in number and diverse as a group. A workshop can take place over one or a few days. During the workshop, the participants exchange, generate and process knowledge for joint action.

A moderator coordinates the interaction between workshop participants. He or she does not have to be a technical expert and is responsible for steering the process and for achieving the workshop objectives within the workshop timeframe.

Virtual mode

Offline and online workshops follow the same principles. An online workshop lacks physical presence which puts additional demands on the moderator. Online workshops require more attention and should, therefore, be shorter in time. Since it is more time-consuming for participants to attend an in-person workshop, the online format allows more frequent, shorter sessions to be arranged.


The focus of a workshop is on exchange and co-creation. Various workshop formats like Open Space, World Café or Card Brainstorming are available online.
For more extensive workshops, breakout sessions offer the possibility of closer cooperation in small groups, in which quieter participants also have a chance to speak.

Various moderation tools should be combined in such a way that the interaction remains lively.

Standard moderation rules ("everyone should have the opportunity to speak", "everything said in this circle stays in this circle", etc.) can be supplemented in the online workshop by additional arrangements ("turn off the microphone when you're not speaking"; "turn on the camera so we can see each other"; "use the chat function for comments", etc.).


The agenda should foresee enough time for getting to know each other and for networking.

All-day workshops are usually not productive or efficient, as many participants are reluctant to plan a whole day for an online event and cannot concentrate for that long. A workshop should rarely last longer than four hours and, in case of doubt, be spread over several days. As in an offline event, breaks should be planned.

In an online workshop, fewer results can be achieved than in an offline workshop. Therefore, the moderator should concentrate on central issues. Additional content can be shifted to preparation and follow-up, e.g. via links to materials or email exchange.

Leave nothing to chance. If you are using a tool for the first time, make sure you test it before you use it. Also, check the interaction of the technical components for the live event. Even if the tools work individually, they can still cause problems when used simultaneously.

Make sure that participants are familiar with the tools. It has proven helpful to offer a technical introduction in advance, to allow participants to try the tools out in a safe environment and in their own time. This makes it easier for participants to concentrate on the content and participate more actively.

Be prepared that a change of platforms, e.g., from a videoconferencing platform to a virtual whiteboard, or a transition between rooms, e.g., breakout rooms, can cause some unforeseen difficulties, especially in the beginning of the workshop. That can easily cost you ten minutes that you might need elsewhere. Plan some time buffers in the schedule.

The moderator cannot do everything alone. Form a team before the event and divide up tasks. Some participants might like to become involved, i.e. in moderating small groups or presenting workgroup results.

Workshops, online seminars and web-based trainings, have a lot in common when it comes to moderation or technology, so consult these formats for additional useful tips.




Sufficient time in the preparation phase should be allocated to identifying the right participants, e.g., by defining clear criteria, e.g., experts, seniority level, etc., or by snowball recommendations of peers.

To efficiently use the limited time during a workshop, the objective, scope, exciting case studies, etc., should be identified in advance. Those who can contribute by sharing their experience could be asked beforehand to prepare a presentation. PowerPoint presentations or other relevant documents should be gathered and uploaded before the workshop.



Expenses for facilitation, external speakers and interpretation need to be budgeted.



Participants need access to fast and stable internet and the tools used.
Videoconferencing tools for workshops should be easily accessible for all participants. Tools with additional features for small groups, such as Tixeo, are more suitable.

The participants' cameras should be switched on, and the microphones should be muted. In parallel to the speaking room, participants should be encouraged to use the chat function.




The following roles are involved in organising and conducting a workshop:

designs the event in line with the objectives and results that need to be achieved from the workshop. Selects and invites appropriate participants.



Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke
Suzana Lange
Alexis Valqui

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