9 tips for interactive live online large group moderation and a practical example

While we’ve already often presented tips & methods for virtual moderation (e.g. in this blog article) in the past, today we’d like to deal specifically with moderating online workshops with large groups (which, by the way, means more than 16 participants.)

Because: there are a number of special points you should be aware of.

Whether big or small, everything is allowed

First of all, here are some important, general points that also apply to small groups:

  1. Clarify the goals and non-goals of the online workshop. This is usually the most challenging part. Because if you don’t have any clear answers to this, it’s almost impossible to design a meaningful process. Ask your client(s) the following questions:
    1. What should be different after the online workshop?
    2. What was made possible after the online workshop?
    3. What was the benefit?
    4. And what should NOT be achieved / enabled? (Non-goals help you to define your goals more clearly.)
  1. The methods are based on the goals and not the other way around (we can’t emphasize this enough). Means: don’t do an Online World Café just because you think it’s such a great method; do it because it’s the best method to achieve your goals.
  2. Create a super detailed and meticulously thought-out schedule that also includes the tasks of the person responsible for the tools (s. 4). And in case you’re thinking: “No, I won’t do that, that only binds me to a rigid structure!” – quite the contrary is true! If you know exactly how long something will take, it gives you the freedom to spontaneously and flexibly change your plans and to act accordingly. (And this almost always happens.)

Same same but different

And now we continue with the points that require slight adaptations when you’re dealing with large groups.

  1. It’s PARAMOUNT to work with a 2nd person who has a lot of experience with handling video tools, and ideally interactive collaboration tools, too. This person enables you to keep your mind free for moderating/process steering. Although small groups can be managed on your own at a pinch (but we don’t recommend this, either) it’s hardly possible in the case of large groups, not to mention extremely stressful for you.
  2. Clarify with which video and interactive online collaboration tools you can/may work with. We prefer Zoom and miro– for less complex tasks, also padlet. If you wish to work with miro, we recommend that you first send a short explanatory video by email, detailing the most important functions and, 30 minutes before the official start, provide an opportunity to ask questions and get acquainted with it.

Here, too, beginner problems are easier to solve in small group formats (but they still cost time!). In large groups, it is advisable to decouple this process from the workshop.

Also, don’t skimp when designing visually attractive boards, so there’s a nice atmosphere online, too.

Here an example of our last miro board – it’s difficult to decipher, true, but it goes to show what dimensions such a large group workshop can assume.

Ein umfangreiches miro Board, kaum lesbar, mit vielen Sticky notes
  1. Dare! A lot more is possible also virtually with large groups than you might think. For example, we’ve already done online creative service design thinking processes (creating personas, customer journeys, etc.), online World Cafés, and more recently, “Slim Brainwalking” (that is, the first phase of Brainwalking, in which own thoughts on various topics are visualized on virtual boards, allowing your participants to collect an unbelievable lot of input in a very short time.) Obviously, this is more demanding with a large group, but if you’re well backed by your technical support and your various tools, you can do it!
  1. Conduct a general rehearsal the day before, with a “spur group” and/or your preparation team. Guide your spur group through the prepared boards so that they have a general overview and if necessary, finetune the questions for the work groups again. Get feedback. Then re-adjust your programme.
  2. Have a fallback plan up your sleeve in case the tech doesn’t work, such as an account with a 2nd video tool provider; the possibility to set up a hotspot (with another provider) via your mobile phone, or look for a spontaneous alternative (e.g. with the neighbours). It’s all happened before. And ensure that an email can be sent to all participants immediately telling them where they can alternatively meet online in the worst case.
  3. Your mindset (= bearing, inner attitude): as in elite sport, let a film play in your mind showing the best possible scenario, and programme your mindset to success and enjoyment! By doing so you will lay an important cornerstone for a great online event.
Verschiedene Logos und der Titel der im Blog beschriebenen Großgruppen Veranstaltung

Our practical example for you

We recently held such a large group online workshop with approximately 60 participants. The workshop was organised by bmk and FFG, and lasted more than 6 hours. So this needed a lot of interactivity, some longer and many micro breaks in between … VERY important!

We started with …

  • A virtual warmup with sticky notes (how this works was explained in the last blog article),
  • Tech and fallback explanation
  • A few opening words
  • Densely clocked pitches of future FTI topics and FTI focal points
  • Individual comments on this on prepared miro boards (“Slim Brainwalking” – per topic 1 board for comments)
  • 2 rounds in small work groups in break out rooms on well-planned questions, visualized on prepared boards (per work group 1 board)
  • Input in the form of an informative and humorous interview (instead of a Powerpoint presentation)
  • 3-word feedback on the day on sticky notes (1 board for all)
  • Gracious closing words

It was a really successful, very intensive day with unbelievably valuable results.

You’ll find further general tips for online moderation in the numerous blog articles and 7 tips for hybrid events specifically here. And if you still need good practices for online moderation of international workshops, then simply have a look here.

Feel free to post a comment with your own experiences, we’re looking forward to hearing from you! And good luck for moderating virtual workshops with large groups! !

Best wishes, your BusinessMind Team

Eine augestreckte Hand auf der ein Kreis an MEnschen Piktogrammen zu sehen ist