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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?

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Can an A-ha moment encourage member blogging?

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

No I’m not talking about the 80’s Norwegian band.  But the moment when members of a community start to believe that you do not need to be an expert to write a blog.

A ha moment

A number of facilitators of communities that I have spoken to would love to have more member’s blogging about the subject area.  But when they speak to them, they are a little shy and do not believe they are expert enough to write a blog.

So this is a little idea that you could try out with them to show how easy it is.

There are a number of blogging styles that you will see when you start to read.

Event blogging is one of the easiest and if very common place.  You even start to see some people rushing trying to be the first to post a blog after the event. (Maybe that’s just some of the events that I go to)

Event blogging is– sharing impressions, opinions and insights from and event of seminar with others who may or may not be able to attend

So what’s the simple way to do this?  Well next time you are at an event with a number of your members of your community ask a few of them if they would like to fill in the A-ha moment.  I came across this idea at one of the Henley KM Forum but never thought to use it in this way. 

When you approach your member say that as a key member of the community we would love to capture your insights from the event so we can share with the wider community.

At the end of the event quickly take a photo of what they have written down.  And now you have a range of insights that can be shared with your members of the community.

Hopefully, a simple example like this will show your members how easy it is.  And maybe for the next event, you may even have some volunteers.

How I used a Knowledge Marketplace and Ideas factory to generate community activities.

May 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Idea FactoryI’ve used a Knowledge Management technique called a Marketplace to help at the start of building communities in the past.

Using two simple questions.

  • What they want from the community
  • What can they offer the community

This normally helps identify the topics of interest to the group and what they already know.  Allowing you to create some quick wins and match people and the knowledge up and share this to the wider community.  Giving the group a great kick-start.

So taking this idea to a more established community I combined the marketplace exercise with an Ideas factory tool.  (A tool that allows members to vote and comment on the idea)

At the end of 2013 I sat down and asked the members of the community what they would like to do for the next 12 months.  Using the Knowledge Marketplace technique originally in a forum I asked members what they could offer and what they wanted from the community.

This resulted in a considerable number of want and offers which we then took into a wiki and started to theme them.  This gave us 9 activities to work towards from the year.  And importantly members who would like to help out.

These 9 activities where added to the Ideas factory and members were asked to vote on the priority of these activities.

We have only completed 3 activities out of the 9 so far.  But each one of these has been led by members of the community.

Two webinars sharing their experience on a particular topic and the other the creation of an editable flyer that everyone can use.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the other 6 activities come together.

Creating a playbook for Community Managers

February 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Madden '96There are some great community playbooks out there that take you through the establishing and launching of your community with a few tips on how to keep it going.

Such as Cisco’s Community Playbook, Salesforce’s Community Playbook and DNN’s Community Playbook

One of the things that there are an abundance of material on is the creating of an online community or community of practice.  But there’s not so much on how to really facilitate the activity in the community and help it thrive.

What techniques, what tactics can use you to help move your community forward?

For me the word Playbook goes back to the days of playing John Madden on my Sega Mega Drive.

And the three key elements

  • Offense
  • Defence
  • Special Teams

Can you take those elements in to Community Management and create techniques to help your community?

If you did, what techniques or tactics would you use for the below?

Offensive plays would be all about breaking down the boundaries of the community and moving it forward. You will be looking to increase the number of discussions and participating members.

Improve the quality of the conversations and content, and encourage better relationships between the members.

Defensive plays – Most online communities are happy as they are.  Help them hold onto that position of contentment, but they will still need a consistent flow of activities to keep them happy.

Special Teams – would be activities that have the ability to cause momentum shifts, increasing participation as well as building a stronger sense of community.

Can passion and commitment compete with restructure?

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I had a meeting last week, well more of a get together of community facilitators fromCommitment across my organisation.  We had lots to talk about mainly around the migration of communities for the CoP platform to the up coming Knowledge Hub.

And all of this happening at the same time the public sector is going through huge restructures and potentially 500,00 job losses.

Everyone realised that many of the key communities, not just the ones led by us but many led by Local Authorities where at risk due to many reasons, such as programmes being cut, loss of key facilitators to the organisation or the core active members may no longer have jobs in the area work.

But even with all the upheaval, you can really see the passion of the facilitators.

And even if things change they still want to be part of the community and where possible pass the baton onto someone else.

For those communities that maybe nearing the end of it’s lifecycle we suggested four ideas of what could happen to them

  • Close the community
  • Close the community and leave a legacy
  • Merge with another community
  • Transfer the ownership of the community

For the ones that will be staying I hope they continue to be successful.

Talking of success.  We have just started our second CoP of the Year award which went down really well last year.

Where we celebrate success in 3 categories

  • Innovation and creativity – Demonstrating an innovative and creative use for a CoP or innovation and creativity within a CoP
  • Efficiency through collaboration – A CoP that has led to specific time and cost savings for its members and their organisations (can include the host/facilitator’s organisation)
  • Effective facilitation team – Demonstrates effective and successful management of a community of practice by a team of facilitators

Last year we even had an article written about it by Headstar

And just as a reminder to me about how important it has been to celebrate success and to see the passion that the facilitators have.  I noticed this on the wall behind one of my colleagues. 

From Communities and Knowledge

Before we started CoP of the Year we had an internal monthly ToP of the CoP award scheme where a small trophy would be passed around the organisation.  We used to get phones call before the end of the month from facilitators wanting to know if they had won. And this led onto the CoP of the Year award.

But I do remember someone saying that Communities of Practice have a habit of surviving organisational restructures.

And on a last note talking about passion my colleague Charlotte is upping sticks and moving down under and after 3 or 4 attempts of interviewing her about being a Community Facilitator and failing due to all the arm waving

Charlotte summed it up by saying

As a facilitator of CoPs I’ve seen the power of nurturing a network. I’ve seen that it’s not about pumping out comms, but taking a step back. Helping the community connect with members and knowledge that they didn’t know were there.

I have learnt a lot. I write more; I’ve started blogging; I use twitter.@charliegirlhay I have built up skills that I can now (hopefully) apply in any future role.

As a member, the CoPs have enabled me to connect with a wider network of people online. Offline, being a member of the CoP has been a great way to break the ice particularly at events.

What else? I have learnt so much about the complex world of local government through the eyes, ears and discussions of other members. I have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. I have learnt that successes can be big or small.

So if you’re in need of a great Community Facilitator there’s one going spare in a few weeks time in Australia

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