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Our First Facilitator Welcome Call

March 8, 2018 Leave a comment

New to running an online community or been doing it for a while?  Then the Facilitator Welcome Call could be for you.

This is the first time we have done something like this and I found it very useful.

A big thank you to Mike, Fiona, Ailie, Kyriacos and Dimple.  Apologies if I have missed anything obvious.

How did it go?

Using a phone conference call and asking people who are joining the call to provide the questions before hand was useful. This let us set an outline agenda that we could easily add to.

We had three topics for discussion this time.  I wonder what they will be the next time we run this?

  1. How to make your group welcoming
  2. How to get started with your community
  3. How to make webinars interactive

I’m not going to remember everything from the conversation but hopefully I, can highlight some of the items we discussed for each one.

 How to make your group welcoming

  • Start simple by getting people to introduce themselves to each other and find out bit about everyone. This could be done face to face, via telephone conference, forum etc.  Pick what works for you and your members.
  • Help people get over their fears for participating. Some members may need more encouragement and it’s not only technical fears that you may have to help with.
  • Find ways to keep the momentum going, anything from regular discussions and quick polls, to regular calls and content being shared.
  • If you’re running events for the group, a text reminder can be really helpful before events.

How to get started with your community

  • Make sure that you have a clear purpose for your group and that there is a real need for it.
  • Identify your audience and look to gather a core group of people first who will participate.  Don’t always go for the big hitters as they tend to not have as much time to participate.
  • Gather a list of wants and offers from your core members to find out what people are working on and where they could support others. This can also help you to create new content such as topics for discussions, templates, lists of resources etc.
  • Build a plan of engagement to add new content and activity that will keep members coming back on a regular basis.

How to make webinars interactive

  • Simplify your slides and reduce your text and bullet points.  Look at examples from across the web on good practice.
  • If the technology you are using has polls, chats or surveys, think about how they could be used to help make the webinar more interesting.
  • Start early and get the participants to engage in icebreaker style questions.
  • Look at alternatives such as Google Hangouts and Skype Chat, and try blending face to face events with webinars for people who cannot attend or for presenters who cannot make the face to face event.

Our next Facilitator Welcome Call takes place on the 4th of April – “What do you want to know more about online community facilitation?”

 

 

 

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How do you maintain momentum after a face-to-face event?

February 28, 2018 Leave a comment

We know that face to face events are a great way of bringing people together. Lots of knowledge and experience will get shared at these events. But for many people that attend a face to face event, it stops there. And this was our topic in our latest online chat in the Online Facilitators Community on the Knowledge Hub where we discussed How do you maintain momentum after a face-to-face event?

My quick summary

Watching the discussion and reading a bit between the lines, most face to face events are not built to continue the discussion.  They are stand-alone, which for me is a big opportunity to waste.

If you want to create further engagement, build in elements where people can have conversations and work out what activities will continue the discussion online.   But the planning of the event is only half of the key to success.  A big part that is often overlooked is the facilitation of the event.  Are you just going to be the host who keeps it all on time or can you do more?  My answer is yes.  But you don’t need to do it alone.  Get involved, listen to what people are saying, capture those discussions, highlight what others are saying.  This can provide ideas and content for months for your community.  An opportunity not to be wasted.

The questions we discussed.

A big thank you to Joscelyn, Andy, Dimple, Glyn, Ed, Rhondda, Fiona, Mike and Nigel who shared some amazing insights and thoughts on the topic and I have summarised the responses for each question below.

Q1. Quiet, often the expectation of the people delivering the event and those attending the event are slightly different. If you were looking to design and build an event that was all about continuing the conversation after, how would you go about it?

  • Build in opportunities to network and exchange contact details for all attendees and presenters.
  • End an event on a topic which needs more discussion, if people have more to contribute and feel strongly about a subject they are likely to comment further in an online forum.
  • Share content from the event immediately after or as the event is happening to facilitate further conversation.  This could include presentations, discussion notes, key questions asked, interviews etc.
  • Build in elements of the event for those that cannot attend face to face can participate in.  such as changing a presentation to a webinar to allow those face to face and online to join and participate.  Also means that you can have remote presenters.
  • Encourage members of the community to post questions in advance, asking members to share their thoughts before and after the event, using the community to follow up on ideas, connections and what they want to happen next.
  • Include some questions on the feedback form for the event that includes wants/expectations of the attendees. Utilising these opportunities to see what your audience wants.
  • Post-event focus on the delegates’ ‘take-aways’.  Ask the question “What one (or more) things did they take away from their day which has changed their practice, their thinking or their strategic planning”.
  • Be upfront in the planning stage that not everything can be done or continued to be done face to face due to the resources required for this.  And advise how other collaboration tools will be used to encourage discussions.
  • Decide on what type of communication will work best. Ensuring that people are listened to, ideas are shared, and feeding back on these also helps groups to remain engaged.  This can lead to greater visibility before and following an event.
  • Build sessions into the event that are built to continue the conversation.  Such as Wants and Offers, Anecdote Circles, Barcamps etc
  • Let your community self-organise a session where attendees can ‘book’ a time slot in a conversation group at the face-to-face in advance

Q2. What are the typical things that everyone wants to do at a face to face event but you run out of time and how can you use these to continue the conversation?

  • When you have an excellent presenter. You have 100’s of questions that you would like to ask. But there’s no time. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get them back in some way to answer questions from all of the community? And if you have recorded the session you could maybe run a hotseat at a later date. When you members can watch the presentation then have the ability to ask questions via a forum for your guest to answer. Then everyone gets to see the answers rather than the one to one conversation via email.
  • Alternative it could fall to the event organiser to collate any leftover questions and share the responses from the presenter on a forum to facilitate discussion. This would mean that the presenter only has to answer the email of the organiser who can then share the answers with the entire audience and hopefully kick off a discussion
  • Usually sessions that involve feedback for improvements or when someone has got lots of good questions there’s the parking lot flip chart approach – when there is not enough time for and the host writes them down and adds them to the parking lot for future discussions.
  • We have used ‘hot seats’ in the past, which have been very popular and generated discussion and increased engagement. We invite an expert (or even a non-expert e.g. someone on our programme discussing the challenges they’ve faced and how they overcame them) to answer questions over a week on a particular topic / theme.

Q3. What activities can the community support you in creating and rolling out the event?

  • The community can be used to help create a buzz around the event for activities such as building the agenda, identifying relevant event themes for sessions and guest speakers/presenters, promoting the event and who is attending, and calling out for those who may be able to help be involved in planning it.
  • There is value in holding polls, asking what topics to cover in an event. This could be used to plan a face to face event too. Equally, when an event is advertised on the Events tab then member feedback can be really useful, even just a question asking if a certain topic will be covered.
  • The planning, marketing etc of the event for me is the main part but there is one bit that gets overlooked and that is the facilitation of the event. I have a feeling that they will make the biggest impact on the event as they will be listening to conversations, asking questions and can capture and share some of the key thoughts that happen through the event. Most of the time there is a host that just does the timekeeping for the event and introduces these sessions. Having people fully involved will make a huge difference.
  • Introduce ideas for the event such as the “Social Reporter” a role in community groups where an individual serve to attend face-to-face events and report back to the online community

Q4. With face to face events. There are always those that can attend and those that cannot. This could be down to cost, seniority, location and multiple other factors. What issues could you foresee if your community always has the split of the same attendees and those that could not make it?

  • I think if people are repeatedly unable to attend then I would imagine their activity will drop significantly. Unless they are happy with only online contribution and accepting of the distanced participation then this may lead to them becoming unmotivated.
  • If the same people keep attending then the risk is the events will focus solely on these people’s wants/needs and risk excluding everyone else further. In this case there should a large focus on online contribution following events where all materials are shared so no one can miss out by not attending.
  • Risks are that people may go off and do their own things, especially those that do not attend the f2f events, your message become diluted, no results for the amount of investment / no benefits realised, time / cost / quality is compromised.
  • A big concern would be around decision making. For some people, decisions get made face to face and this could lead to decisions being made without the full community behind it.

How do you maintain momentum after a face-to-face event for your online communities and how have engaged your community to help design and roll out events?

Think about your online community as a business

January 4, 2018 Leave a comment

Building an online community is easy, right?  You just press a few buttons on some great new bit of technology and everything happens for you.

Everyone is doing it.  Hundreds of thousands of online communities are springing up everywhere due to the enhancement of technology and our use of social media.

But there is a wasteland of inactive online communities out there, that had so much promise.

They thought they would get members, engage them and make it self-sustaining and just like the underpants gnomes from Southpark whose business plan was

  • Phase 1: Collect underpants
  • Phase 2: ?
  • Phase 3: Profit

 

They failed.  But why did they fail?

At least the underpants gnomes had some sort of plan.  Most online communities start with none and try and make it up as they go along.

If you were to start a business that would be crazy.  Yes, you would be learning as you go along.  But if you did not have the basics in place it would be a waste of time and effort. Don’t let this happen to you.

Let’s start to think about building your online community in the same way you would start a business.

Could you answer these questions before you start?

 

1: Am I ready to start a business?

Are you ready for the time commitments and attention that you need to make it a success? Will you have too many distractions that will take you away from working on it, then perhaps it’s not the right time

 

2: What value am I providing?

You need to provide value otherwise no one will want to take part. You provide value by solving a problem or filling a need.

 

3: Who else is doing what I’m doing?

Your competitors are the second most important factor. While you have obviously started with an idea, you don’t want to do it exactly the same as someone else. Figure out how you can do it better and/or different than your competitors.  This will help you stand out from the crowd.

 

4: What contacts do I have in my industry?

Building a strong network is extremely important when starting. You can’t do this on your own. Build relationships with your industry and work out the ones that will participate and the ones that need to know.

 

5: What is my growth plan?

There is no shame in starting small and growing organically. In most cases, it will limit the amount of time you need to get started. It also gives you a chance to work out any kinks in your planning before you start scaling up.

Regardless of whether you are starting big or starting small, you need to set out a growth plan to ensure you hit milestones to indicate success. Start by identifying what you ultimately want to achieve and then work your way backwards to the beginning to figure out how you will get there.   And be realistic about your goals. It’s highly unlikely you’ll take over the world within the first 6 months.

 

6: How do I resource my growth?

Once you figure out what your launch looks like and when and how you will grow, figure out your resourcing needs. Only indicate what you need, regarding time, people, content and resources. This may change throughout your growth, so look at options for each milestone.

 

7: What are my hard stops?

One of the most important things is to know when to call it quits. It doesn’t mean you can’t move on to a new idea, but sometimes, what you are working on just isn’t working. Be realistic about your limits right from the start:

  • How many hours are you willing to put in each week before things get going?
  • How much resource do you need to help you make this work?
  • How long can you go without any engagement?
  • What is the minimum number of members you need to sustain activity?

The list could go on. Determine what is important to you and what you are willing to give up.

 

8: Is a plan really that important?

Yes. You’re not getting finance from a bank or other investors.  But a plan will help lay out your strategy all in one place. It will act as a roadmap for you to achieve success. And if you feel things aren’t working, then you can go back to your plan to figure out alternative strategies.

 

9: Do I believe in my idea?

This is possibly the most important question you could ask yourself. Believing in your idea doesn’t just mean “it will work.” You need to have a bit of passion for what you do because you will be spending a lot of time with that idea, shaping it and growing it.

Starting a business is never an easy thing to do, even if you feel like you “just fell into it.” It takes hard work and passion to get the idea off the ground, but it also takes sound strategy.

That’s nine tips on how to start a business.  How many have you thought about when starting your online community?

7 THINGS A COMMUNITY FACILITATOR CAN DO TO PREPARE FOR NEXT YEAR

December 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Make blogging an essential tool in facilitating your group

December 15, 2017 Leave a comment

It was part of discussion that came up in our Newbie Tuesday discussion in the Online Facilitators community on the Knowledge Hub.  A lot of facilitators liked the idea of blogging.  But didn’t know where to start and the best ways they could use it.

I’m no expert in blogging.  But I do like to write my thoughts down.  So here are my thoughts on how to make blogging an essential tool in facilitating your online group.

Why should you do it?

Growing your group, refreshing your member and keeping everyone in the loop as to what is going on is essential to continued activity and engagement in your online community.

Blogging can be a great tool to help you do this. But how do you get started?  How do you plan and review blogs and what different styles can you use?

Let’s start with the basics

As you always have to quote Wikipedia in a blog (unwritten rule) here we go.

blog (a truncation of the expression weblog)  is a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Webconsisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries (“posts”). Posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post appears first, at the top of the web page. (Wikipedia)

 

For me over the last few years, Blogging has started to become an essential tool in a group facilitators armoury.   Not only can it be used to promote the group and the activities, it can lead to recruitment and recognition of what the community is doing,

It can become the place that holds the knowledge and history of the community due to it chronological order allowing new members to see what has been happening and allowing you to remind the members of what you have been able to accomplish.

What are the fundamentals of blogging?

 I would say there are 4 things to think about when writing and developing your blog posts.  The First 2 are around writing the blog.  The second two are the forgotten ones.  What’s the point of writing a blog post if no one has a chance to read it and if they do, what made them read it?

 1. Pick a topic and a title

  • Pick one topic to focus on per post
  • Make the value of the post clear
  • Make sure the title describes the post
  • Keep the title between 50-60 characters (shows the best on search engines)

2. Format and optimise the post

  • Whitespace is a good thing
  • Use section headers to highlight points
  • Use bullets and numbering
  • Bold important statements

3. Promote your blogs

  • Share on social media
  • Share via internal newsletters etc
  • Link from previous post
  • Add links to relevant previous blog posts

4. Analyse the performance

  • Number of views
  • Number of comments
  • Number of likes
  • Shares, likes etc on social Media

 

So, what are the different styles of blogging and when can you use them?

There are a number of different styles of blogging that you can use to support your community.

I have broken them down into 3 different themes to help you pick the style that you want to use depending on the situation.

Looking to promote your group

 

  Description Buzz Difficulty
Reporting back from events

 

Instead of just letting your team or close colleagues know, you can now tell a wide range of people who were unable to attend and look for further discussion from people who did. 1 out of 5 Easy
List blogging

 

This is the highly popular of the top ten list (or any other number) list about something.  Blog posts in this type of format are frequently bookmarked or shared

 

5 out of 5 Medium
Interview blogging

 

Conducting an interview and publishing either audio, video or transcript of the interview into a blog post.

 

4 out of 5 Medium

 

Looking to grow your group

  Description Buzz Difficulty
Recruitment

 

Writing blogs pointing out the work of your group or interesting things that are relevant to your group are great ways to recruit new members as you can also add a link to your group. 4 out of 5 Medium
Re-post

 

Taking a post or article from another location and reposting a significant part of it as a blog post with limited original commentary 1 out of 5 Easy
Topical

 

Concentrate on a particular specialised topic. Using links to news or articles and personal opinions. 3 out of 5 Easy

 

Keeping members in the loop

  Description Buzz Difficulty
Live blogging Blogging at a face pace about something in real time as it happens. With constant updates to a blog or a stream of blog posts. 4 out of 5 Hard
Announcement blogging Break news about an announcement or news that was not previously available elsewhere. For maximum effect, being the first to break the news matters most. 5 out of 5 Hard
Link blogging Collecting a series of links to websites, blogs or other online content to create a list of resources with links in a single blog post.

 

4 out of 5 Medium

 

Remember.  You don’t have to create all the content yourself. 

Just look around and you will find lots of content and ideas that you can cherry pick for your group.

How do I start?

  • Follow relevant Twitter #tags.
  • Join other online communities.
  • Sign up to organisational newsletters.
  • Identify and follow influential bloggers.
  • Sign up to newsfeeds on relevant websites.

If you have already started to do some of the above, you have already started on the content curation journey.  Now it’s about flagging up interesting items that you have been writing in your blogs and sharing with your member.  You can do this via ‘Announcements’ and ‘Group messages’ leading to greater engagement within your group.

London Knowledge Hub Online Facilitators Meet Up

February 20, 2015 Leave a comment

You always know that a get-together has gone well when you get kicked out of the room and everyone is still in in-depth conversation as they are walking out of the room and still chatting in the corridor and lift.

Tuesday 17th Feb was our first face to face get together of Online Facilitators across the Knowledge Hub and a couple of guests.

This will hopefully be the first of many, as there are plans for other meet ups in Scotland, the South West and the Eastern Regions.  Look out for more details for future meet ups.

Maybe if there is interest we can run a regular one in the London area every quarter.

Back to what happened during the meet up…  The discussion was based around the biggest challenges that you face for your group / community / network.  (You can choose which one is appropriate to you)

The topics included:

  • Increasing contributions
  • Turning ‘lurkers’ into participants
  • Knowing what technology to use and when
  • Packaging useful resources
  • Keeping the momentum going between face to face meetings
  • Moving past just facilitators posting.

So what did we talk about?

  • Welcoming members and helping them take their first step into participating.
  • Asking good questions that will get members involved, rather than just providing information.
  • Creating regular activity and planning content and activities.
  • Using the wiki to repackage key resources. E.g. New members or those who just want the answer.
  • Creating a network of key relationships in the group to move past just facilitators posting.
  • Adding fun/social elements to your group’s activity plan, eg. competitions, recognition rewards, photos, and questions of the month.
  • The culture and expectations of members and testing out different approaches to get a feel for what works well.The all-important purpose statement for a group to help plan content and activities.

Plus a lot more which I’ve probably forgotten.  You had to be there!

There were also a couple of great ideas that I feel we can look at in more detail.

  • How do you encourage more people to dip their toe in the water?  (Getting first time contributors sharing their initial issue or challenge with a question for the group.)
  • Learning from teams that use a number of groups to manage their programme of work and the different stages involved.

Lastly a big thank you to Melissa Whittle from Geoplace for hosting our first meet up, and for all the people that came along and contributed. You made the get together worthwhile.

Is there a mystery behind engaging new members in your group?

December 24, 2014 Leave a comment

From research conducted Nonnecke, B., Andrews, D., Preece, J 2006 suggested that only 13.2 % of those questioned had no intention to post from the outset.

Historically participation levels have followed a pattern.

On Wikipedia it is suggested that participation levels will follow the 1-9-90 rule. This is based on the idea of creator, contributor and lurker.

Socious suggest its 10-20-70 whereas Community Roundtable (with full time facilitation) says it can get towards 15-30-55.

So what happens to all the rest in the middle?  What can we do as facilitators to increase participation and member engagement?

That’s what our latest online chat focused on.  How do we engage members especially the new ones?

We asked four questions to help guide the discussion.  Below is a summary of the discussion.

1.What are your key elements of your acceptance/welcome messages that help engage new members?

  • Introduction to the group
  • Introduction to the facilitators
  • Reminder to set up notification
  • Direction to key content
  • Direction to key discussions
  • Links to welcome pack
  • Link to walkthrough video

It was also noted that a large percentage of groups with low activity and low participation rates, did none of the above.

2. When and how do you follow up with new members?

  • Follow up after a certain period of time to ask if they need help (time dependant).
  • Follow up after first participation.
  • Encourage a second participation as quick as possible after the first one.

3. How do you help new members participate without feeling overwhelmed?

  • Tip from an external community was to provide a hotline number for members to contact the facilitators.
  • Include your email address in your group description.
  • Simple message reminders asking for help or input to discussions to all members.
  • Encourage people to people interaction.  Don’t hide behind FAQs.

4. How can other community members help engage new members?

  • Encourage a buddy system between members from the same or close by organisations.
  • Build a core group of members (Champions to assist new members).
  • Member referral.  And the person who referred the new member will be the buddy and introduce them to the group.

A big thank you to Ken, Melissa, Yvette and Dimple for taking part in the discussion who provided some great insights.

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