Teaching is an art form. It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching online or in person. Great teachers hold our attention, make us laugh, help us understand the subject matter and, most of all, inspire us.

Achieving engagement from your students, especially online, takes practice and experience. Even if you’re new to teaching—or just new to teaching in a virtual format—you can make your online workshops interesting and memorable with a few fresh ideas. Take a look at these nine fun online workshop ideas:

Online workshop idea #1. Make it relevant

First and foremost, to earn people’s attention, you need to make sure the content you’re delivering is useful to them. How do you learn exactly what they want out of your webinar or online workshop? Ask them.

Read more: The Power of Personas: Promote your event to the right audience

A few weeks before your event, conduct some initial research with your target attendees to shape your content, and send a pre-event survey so they can pinpoint problems or topics they’d like to hear about.

On the day of your online event, kick-off by giving a brief overview of what attendees are going to learn and how those skills will help them achieve their goals. If you’re using an interactive tool like Zoom, you can even ask them to raise their hand (virtually) or type in what they’re most excited about learning. Then, you can tailor your content to reward those who speak up.

Online workshop idea #2. Ditch the traditional presentation

People learn in different ways. Some of us are visual learners who prefer pictures, videos and diagrams, while others respond to spoken and written word, music, logic, or even physical activities.

To create an inclusive online learning environment, try to combine traditional oral teaching methods with audio and visual presentations, PDFs, interactive tasks, and group breakout sessions. Throw in a few choice gifs to get a good laugh from your audience and hold their attention.

Start off your workshop with a quick PowerPoint, then move into a clip from a relevant podcast. Later, you could have attendees draw short comics based on what they learned and ask a few to present their comics to the rest of the group.

Online workshop idea #3. Change your backdrop

Most online trainings are held in professional-looking spaces or office areas, with white walls and maybe one piece of art, if you’re lucky. Challenge the convention and surprise your attendees by showing up on-screen in front of a colourfully painted wall, outside in a gardened area, or in a space that’s more dynamic and inspiring than a bland, windowless meeting room. As long as your audio won’t be compromised, don’t be afraid to get creative with your location.

Online workshop idea #4. Use props

Props can make your teaching even more engaging. These could be practical objects that literally represent your subject matter (think scales, an abacus, or a mannequin) or they could be ridiculous (try a rubber chicken or magic wand). Props liven up your session and will help people remember what they learned.

Your training or workshop might be serious, but people learn best when they are having fun. Make your class aware that you’re going to place a few easter eggs throughout the presentation to keep them engaged and then award the attendee who found the most.

Online workshop idea #5. Play games

Need to keep your attendees focused? Tap into their competitive sides. Puzzles or riddles, crosswords, memory games, ordering tasks — all are great ways to keep your attendees engaged and on-task. For added drama, impose a time limit.

Try introducing a quick quiz at the end of each content section, helping recap on what’s been learned, and offer a small prize for the winner.

Online workshop idea #6. Tell a story

Whatever you’re teaching, try to make it relatable to everyday life by using real examples, case studies, and creative metaphors. People will sit still for hours watching a movie — why not steal some cinematic tricks?

Stories are central to the way memory works. Even if we don’t realise it, we’re always searching for the narrative. If you can find a way to weave your information into an overarching story, attendees will be more engaged and more likely to remember your content well after the class has been dismissed. 

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For inspiration, check out Speechless, an improv comedy show where people give PowerPoint presentations — on slides they have never seen before. Watching people create a narrative from even the most ridiculous content will show you how easy it is to do the same with your real (and actually related) content.

Online workshop idea #7. Play some tunes

Music can set the mood and get attendees energised before your session and during breaks. Play something upbeat to pump them up and then lower it back down to let them know it’s time to start.

You can also use music during the session — soothing classical pieces have been shown to help people concentrate while completing tasks.

Online workshop idea #8. Keep it short

One of the best ways to keep your audience engaged is to avoid overloading them with information. Give them too much and their brains will shut off.

Either make your online session a maximum of two hours or, if it’s taking place over the course of a day, allow short breaks. Give attendees a chance to get up, walk around, and grab a cup of coffee.

Online workshop idea #9. Provide recognition and reward

Attendees will be more motivated to successfully complete your workshop if their efforts are recognised and if they have something to show for it at the end.

Let attendees know they will receive personalised certificates to mark their participation. You should also consider extra incentives such as a competition or small prizes for the best students. Again: tap into the innate need to compete.

Get ready to lead a workshop your attendees won’t soon forget

Teaching is as much about entertaining your audience as informing them. Make your training or workshops lively, varied, fun, and unexpected. Your participants will learn more and be more likely to come back for more. Ready to create your event? Check out our Online Events resource hub and get started on Eventbrite today.