Refrains I find myself repeating.
Your virtual convening must have purpose
Since barriers to joining a virtual event are lower, you have a greater chance of gathering a diverse group of participants. People don’t need to travel, get on aeroplanes, deal with visa issues, etc. However, because the barrier is lower to convene, the competition for people’s time is fierce. Not to mention that as people are working from home, they also have personal demands and also work priorities that wouldn’t be present if they were physically present. What this means is we have to articulate a real value for attending our virtual convenings, and them, we have to deliver that value.
A benefit I’m hoping people who attend The Virtual Session and Event Design Labs, is the ability to articulate the value of their convening for participants. The way you make sure you are providing value is to make it productive, get your participants doing and creating outputs, particularly things they will find useful in the future.
Preparation is everything
I’m also finding that as someone who is called on to play several different roles in virtual convenings, my barrier to be physically present to play that role is gone. So in four days this week, I had a role in eight, three-hour-long sessions. Yes, I was exhausted, but also exhilarated in being able to participate with a range of teams convening around regional and global issues.
The key to pulling this off was working with very competent and skilled teams. We had formulated detailed production schedules, so always knowing what happens when. Testing and preparation are also critical. Pre-flighting potential problems can go a long way.
Appreciate your colleagues, often
Speaking of competent and skilled colleagues, if you’re looking for someone to coordinate and manage interpreters using Zoom, Laurent Fernandez is your human. We worked on a critical and sensitive meeting with interpretation in five languages, which meant ensuring that ten interpreters were comfortable with a wide range of variables. I am always impressed with Laurent’s patience and foresight and this week I was more than appreciative.
I also really appreciated working with Carilee Osbourne and Pamela Choga this week. They’d both participated in the Virtual Event Design Lab I ran for the Institute for Economic Justice in July, and this meant that co-designing and co-hosting two sessions on integrating economic policy and human rights was much more efficient and we could finish each other’s sentences.
Don’t use too many tools
Another constant refrain, keep your meeting as simple as you possibly can. Focus on your outputs, not tools. I find I can do a lot with just a video conferencing space like Zoom and a collaborative text editor, like google docs. Make sure people know how to use the tools before you start. That said, I was surprised by how easy it was to get people to use Google Jamboard. Another very appreciated colleague, Mor Rubinstein suggested we use it for an exercise where we had 32 individuals from grantmaking institutions identify who plays what role in their data workflow, and it worked pretty flawlessly. So suggested it to the Institute for Economic Justice, and we used it to get small groups to generate and share ideas on how to integrate economic policy and human rights.
The easier uptake of Google Jamboard with these particular participants might also be a side effect of the digital transformation that we all seem to be going through. That said, I’d only unleash an additional tool on a group of participants that I knew were comfortable with online tools.
Abolish Time Zones
Okay, so I did have a cock-up on time zones this week that made my life a lot harder. Twice a year, when Europe changes their clocks, and then North America does it a week later, I become unglued. Working with a virtual event in South Africa where they don’t change their clocks, really did my head in. Can we please stop the barbaric practice of changing clocks, at least? Thank you.