How to Inspire Conversation in Virtual Workshops

It’s time for us to talk about the elephant in the room: 
Virtual workshops don’t have the same je ne sais quoi as pre-pandemic, in-person ones. 

However, that’s not for lack of trying! It’s difficult to drum up the same excitement around a workshop and its outcomes when it ends with waving goodbye to your web camera instead of, “Let’s continue this conversation over a celebratory lunch!”

Since going remote, we have changed our approach to client workshops to inspire conversation beyond the confines of workshops themselves. This includes breaking up workshops into multiple parts and, most importantly, turning to new workshop templates that are exciting and produce takeaways that live far beyond the confines of Zoom.

Enter: Scenario Planning

The Harvard Division of Continuing Education’s “The Consultant’s Toolkit” program provided tremendous tools for engaging clients. Specifically, workshops that focus on activities that spur conversation, help participants reach a consensus, ensure everyone walks away with a clearer vision of the future—and most importantly, spark conversation beyond the workshop itself.

Here are some key takeaways about your new favorite workshop: Scenario Planning.

Developed by Shell in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Scenario Planning accepts uncertainty, tries to understand it, and makes it a part of planning. You can read more about Scenario Planning in this Harvard Business Review article.

Scenario Planning is a workshop that can be done internally or with clients, and asks the question: “What if?” As a group, you generate a list of possible scenarios—ranging from realistic to out-of-the-box —then think through responses to each one. In doing so, you open the aperture for what’s possible, and by exploring unrealistic scenarios, open the door to solutions that don’t need to wait for the unexpected.

When thinking through scenarios, the sky’s the limit (within reason). Here are some scenarios to get you started:

  • A global pandemic (too soon?).
  • A sudden influx of users that’s double/triple/quadruple the current volume.
  • An infusion of resources.


Shell provides more examples of scenarios in this article.

Scenarios can be positive or negative, and a healthy balance keeps things productive during the workshop.

Scenario Planning is not only a thought-provoking workshop—in person and virtually—but it’s also beneficial in the long-run. On their website, Shell shares that this activity has helped them navigate events like the 1970s oil crisis and the 2008 financial crash. How? Because they thought through possible outcomes during Scenario Planning sessions in years past, and then continued those conversations beyond the workshop itself because participants were invested and excited to keep the ideas flowing.

With an open mind, and a participant-sourced list of scenarios, a Scenario Planning workshop could be just what you need to come up with your next great idea or prepare for an uncertain future.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Scenario Planning can help you spark conversation with your clients, let’s talk

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