Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve run over one hundred virtual sessions, and dozens of virtual events, interacting with thousands of participants. Here are six things I’ve learned along the way.
Three things I’ve learned about tech:
- Keep the tech simple. Only use the tools you need. For example, a meeting platform like Zoom, Google Meet, or Jitsi, and a collaborative text editor, like an etherpad or a google doc, to help your participants stay on track and contribute. The more complicated you make a session, the more likely you and your participants will encounter barriers and have problems.
- Test the tech, prep as much as you can. Test anything that you aren’t sure about ahead of time. Don’t assume online tools will work the way you expect them to. Prep by running through everything, do dress rehearsals with everyone helping to run the session and make sure they know what will happen and what to do.
- Something will go wrong with the tech, so be ready when it does. There are many different factors that you can’t control, from people’s internet connections, power supplies and their own devices. Stay calm when disaster strikes, have a plan b for what you can control, and a plan z (z for zen) for what you can’t.
Three things I’ve learned about session design:
- Design to empower your participants from the start. Provide clear guidance and instruction. Let them know what will happen and when. Give them guidelines for participation, how to make contributions.
- Design to build community and solidarity. The most significant benefit you can provide to your participants is making connections to others from wherever they may be. Whether they are in an office or at home, connecting with new friends and old ones is the most significant value we can provide. Provide them opportunities to listen to each other and develop relationships. Small-group breakouts (no bigger than four people) are a gift.
- Design for productivity. Anything you can get your participants to contribute to will make them feel time well spent. Think about getting your participants to create best practices or lessons learned list they will find helpful in the future. The ADIDS format, for ensuring learning and knowledge sharing, works well in a virtual session.
Want more help?
Come to the next Virtual Session Design Lab or if you have a team, the Virtual Event Design Lab. Also:
- Tips for designing an effective workshop session – a deeper dive on Adult Learning Theory and ADIDS that applies to virtual as well as in-person.
- What we’ve learned at the Solferino Academy about running virtual meetings
- Aspiration’s Power Dynamics and Inclusion in Virtual Meetings