tips from a cx expert to help you empower your team and lead virtual workshops

Tips From a CX Expert to Help You Empower Your Team and Lead Virtual Workshops

Feeling drained from trying to get your team to be more present and engaged in online workshops? 

Adjusting to WFH life has been an ongoing effort for teams trying to find the best ways to collaborate online. Without being physically present with our colleagues, many of us struggle to gauge team dynamics and adjust our delivery approach accordingly. 

If it’s out of your comfort zone, running workshops virtually can be challenging and inefficient, particularly if you do not know – or haven’t even considered – the preferences or accessibility needs of your team.

We recently had the opportunity to interview one of our favourite CX partners, Phil Cross from Leaders for Good. Phil gave us the inside scoop and heaps of tips to help you keep your team engaged and get the most out of online workshops. 

Here’s what we learned about running a successful customer journey mapping workshop:

Understand your team’s preferences and accessibility needs. Invisible disabilities are very common According to The Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, one in five Australian’s are living with a disability. Of this, almost one-quarter of all people with a disability reported a mental or behavioural disorder as their main condition. 

There are a number of things that may not impact people when they’re face-to-face with their colleagues and clients, but that can present very real challenges when working remotely. It’s important to understand and address the needs of your team, should they wish to share challenges with you. 

Check out these tips, curated by the University of Melbourne to make online meetings more accessible.

To run a successful virtual workshop, follow the below steps and tips: 

  • Ask: Ask participants ahead of time what they need to actively participate in workshops. Do they have a preferred platform? 
  • Tell: If you have a preference as a participant (or facilitator with any special needs), be sure to outline your requirements to the organiser prior to the workshop. 
  • Consider distributing materials ahead of time: Having an agenda allows participants to come into the workshop knowing the agenda and expectations. Likewise if there are any ideas, notes or worksheets they can do in advance, it can help them get into the task a bit more, know what to expect and keep the workshop on track. 
  • Mics off, cameras on: Ask users to mute their microphones if they are not speaking, as background noise can be very distracting. However, everyone needs to keep those cameras on! People should be present and engaged, cameras off usually indicates that someone’s attention has gone elsewhere. 
  • Use non-verbal feedback: Chat is preferred for smaller groups, however it is difficult to manage with a larger number of participants. At the beginning of a workshop or webinar, highlight the reaction features including ‘clap’, ‘thumbs up’ and ‘like’, and encourage the audience to use them throughout the session. 
  • Describe what you are seeing: Make sure your team is on the same page by letting them know what you’re looking at. This could be a specific slide in a deck or part of a virtual whiteboard, such as those on Miro and Mural.
  • Take breaks: People have short attention spans. Remember to take plenty of breaks (ideally every 45-60 min) and let your team know when they are coming by running through an agenda at the start of each meeting. According to studies, attention starts off high and is at its peak at the beginning stage of a workshop or seminar, but quickly starts to lag. However, it picks back up again when participants know they are approaching the end or a break. Encourage physical activity on breaks to maximise engagement.
  • Summarise meeting outcomes: After the workshop, email your team to acknowledge their efforts and participation. Summarise the key outcomes of the workshop and set or recap action items. 


woman enjoying a virtual workshop

What else can you do to deliver top notch virtual journey mapping workshops? 

Ask better questions! 

Get more out of your workshop by challenging your participants to take a deep dive into who your customers really are and how they interact with your products and services.

Below are some examples that address different types of problems the customer may face. While they may not initially seem directly related to your business, discussing these things may bring some revelations to light, improving your messaging and positioning.

  • External Problems: What are the physical problems, financial problems and/or relational problems your audience commonly face? What is the external problem you solve?
  • Internal Problems: What doubts, fears and insecurities does that external problem manifest in your audience? What is the internal problem you solve (as a result of solving the external problem)?
  • Philosophical Problems (optional): We live in a world of “shoulds” and “ought tos” – What is the philosophical problem you solve?

Prep, prep, prep! 

We’ve all heard the infamous quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Prepare for your virtual workshop by using an interactive, collaborative platform such as Mural or Miro. 

Include placeholders that set out the logical flow of the workshop and journey. If you’re in a rush or not super comfortable with these platforms, there are useful pre-built templates you can base your journey map on. 

It is important to give your participants context and questions prior to the workshop. Doing this enables them to come into the workshop with a clearer understanding of the expectations required, which allows for better participation and engagement. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide from Atlassian on how to bring a customer journey to life. It breaks down the journey into stages with time limits and prompts. 

Not running a customer journey mapping session, but need some help bringing virtual meetings to life? Check out our five favourite tools.

Want to read the whole conversation with CX expert, Phil Cross?

Check it out below. 

What is a customer journey map?

Phil: At a simple level, a customer journey map is an artefact. It is something that is co-created and represents the different stages and touchpoints that a customer would interact with when they’re engaging with products, services, organisations and marketing strategies. It can be used widely – for employee experiences, internal and external customers, suppliers, partners and more. Whoever your customer is, you can use it as a way of creating easily understandable, adjustable visual representations of how they experience and interact with your organisation. 

What are the key benefits of customer journey maps for teams?

We often work in silos – someone is taking care of marketing, some else is looking after sales, and another in product design. In day-to-day life, we often only see the thin slice of the whole picture that we are exposed to.

When teams come together to create one of these customer journey maps, one of the key benefits I see is this enhanced awareness of what the whole journey looks like. That’s where there are moments of delight and customers really love that.

Everyone can bring a diverse perspective. They provide their view and it makes a complete picture, which you can begin to problem solve around. Often, customer journeys are created as a ‘nice to have’, but really, what you want to be able to do is take action items away from the session. For example, after a customer journey mapping session, the team may have identified initiatives and high level value adds they can deliver. They can take those insights and turn them into actions. 

With the increase of virtual collaboration, what is your top tip to help teams be more present and collaborative online? 

We’re lucky to be in the pandemic where we have decent video, different conferencing technology. Mural and Miro are fantastic, having virtual whiteboards is really good. 

I’d like to focus more on the human side – you asked out how teams can be more present with the work they’re doing: Just some awareness on human psychology and human physiology can go a long way. 

We’ve all read the studies that paying attention to 15 people in a grid on a screen in front of you is very taxing because we’re scanning those faces all the time for signs of approval, signs of disapproval, signs of agreement, signs of disagreement. That can be quite a high cognitive load on people.

 A few things I suggest:

  • Check in on people: Check in before the workshop happens and during it as well, depending on how much trust and psychological safety you have with your team. Check in to see how people are doing, enquire about their learning styles, and ask about any potential difficulties with certain tools. 

There is a shockingly high percentage of people who have impairments and disabilities that are completely invisible to us. We wouldn’t know about these unless our colleagues share them with us. There is a range of neurodiversity there, so people can experience real struggles with digesting and interacting with either audio and/or visual communication. We often take it for granted if we don’t have those issues. 

So you need to consider:

  • What are the accessibility needs of your team? 
  • What are the preferences of your team? 
  • How do people like to interact and engage with each other?

Chunking it up helps as well. Break up the workshop into digestible chunks. 45 minutes is about as good as you’ll get with the average attention span. We need breaks and we need to step away to maintain our focus and rhythm. 

Also on that is the realisation you can only do so much. There is a limitation with the virtual medium: The energy is not quite the same. The collaboration is not quite the same. There is always a delay between talking. If we were all in the same room with each other now, Allie [Persuaders’ Marketing Director] might jump in because she sees the pause in conversation, she sees the shift in the body language. I see her body language leaning forward to say something, so I pause. That doesn’t exist on Zoom, so a little more courtesy with each other is often needed to give people the space to participate. 

person draws on a tablet in a virtual workshop

What are your top three tips to prepare for a customer journey mapping workshop?

Top tips for me are providing questions and reflections to participants ahead of time, so they come in knowing what to expect. They come in already having thought about what they’re doing and about the customer journey. Priming them ahead of time is really really helpful because you can waste a lot of time in the workshop when people are unprepared.

They waste a lot of energy if you’re cognitively having to do that work in the room, as opposed to having it done before. You can play back those elements and use your mental horsepower to engage with some of the bigger questions and think more deeply about the topics, and that can be gold. 

Worry about making it pretty later. Especially for a perfectionist like me, I like my customer journey maps and the rest of it to be all colour coordinated and look nice. I like Miro as a piece of software – I use that quite a lot and it’s easy to do there. But also, the realities of customer journey mapping creation on miro is that people will use post-it notes, they’ll scribble on it, make a mess. So clean it up later!

Ask better questions! The quality of your output for this journey map will depend on how deep you can get the participants in your room to go, the different angles you can give them to think about the customers unique situation, and how they’re coming to grips with the products and services. 

It’s incumbent on you as the facilitator to facilitate those conversations and ask the different types of questions that will lead people down the garden path of insights for themselves, and also let them look at the customer in a way they may not have previously. We get hung up on the steps of creating a journey map. There is some logic and skill to all of that, but really it’s the quality of the questions that determine the output you get from the map.  

Phil’s favourite quote: “The map is not the territory” 

Be aware that what you’re creating is a useful resource. It’s like Google Maps. You look at Google Maps on your phone. It doesn’t have cracks on the pavement or doesn’t have the finer details in buildings, it has just enough to get you to Point A to Point B. A journey map on the wall is exactly the same thing. It is a useful tool to point you in some useful directions, but it doesn’t have to include everything. It doesn’t have to be a perfect picture of the customer. That’s impossible. Everyone coming to that awareness is really good.

What are the key challenges you face when running an online workshop?

The key challenges are definitely feedback, even moreso with bigger groups. We ran a webinar on Zoom with 100 people. In that size, a lot of people don’t have their cameras on. You just see the blank tile in Zoom. The tiles that are there – it is difficult to get that moment-to-moment sense of the room and sense of the audience. In a room full of people, knowing when to change cadence a little bit or ask a different question or give people a break. It might be more obvious when you’ve been facilitating for a while, but always a bit harder doing it online. I’d say for me, that’s the biggest thing. Other than that, if you follow some of the pre-emptive rules of make it short and vary the delivery methods, you’ll be okay. 

Phil’s Quick Tips to use in your next workshop. 

  1. Provide a roadmap and agenda This is best practice for any type of meeting. Letting people know what to expect and when the breaks are coming. People can manage their energy around that. People tend to push through in terms of engaging and whatnot if they know in five minutes they’re going to have a coffee and a bathroom break. 

It’s like when you’re getting to an end of a race, if you’re running a 10km race, no matter how knackered you are, you can also sprint the last couple hundred metres for whatever reason. Let people know what’s coming – I’d say a break every 45 minutes, or at least every hour – and give them 5-10 minutes to step away from their screen. 

  1. Encourage them to do something with their break: This can be fun if you’re running a workshop because you can get them to do a scavenger hunt and get a few things from around the house. Something to get them moving helps, because often people will default and be like “Right! I got 5 minutes to check my emails”. They’re not giving themselves the break to be with the workshop. They’re task switching which isn’t particularly helpful. If you can encourage them to do something physical, that’s wonderful. 
  2. Cameras on:This is always a good one. Where you can make it interactive, do. The best feedback we get is the quality of the discussion when we run workshops.
  3. Letting participants participate: Seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve attended plenty of webinars and workshops that are more like lectures. They’re not a workshop. Maximise participation and active learning where you can. Humans do best by doing, engaging with and discussing the topic. And again, we’re talking in terms of customer journey maps here and that’s a highly active, highly participative activity. Everyone should have the opportunity to chip in where they can.

Is there any formula to breakout rooms? Do you jump around, as the facilitator to those rooms?

It really depends on the question, what they’re doing and how many there are. If there’s confusion in the discussion, then you should’ve asked a better question. However, on topics that are harder to wrestle with and are better with a few prompts, I will jump around the breakout rooms. Quite often, it’s nice for participants to get a break from the facilitator and have that time to chat on their own. It depends on the situation.

Ready to level up your customer journey mapping skills? 

Persuaders have got your back! We run half-day workshops to help you understand your audience from inside-out and how they interact with your organisation. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

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