The first step in ensuring that you have successful online sessions is to make sure people are prepared for what’s to come.
Deciding the high level goals and outcomes is a great way to start your planning.
- What is the main goal for this online session?
- What would be the best outcome?
- What technology is best suited to achieve my goal?
- Do you have strategies to include people without Internet or technical tools?
- Do you have the technical know-how and are you prepared to learn how to do this so that you will be confident?
- How many people will participate? Larger group sizes can dictate different approaches. Smaller groups and shorter times tend to be free, while bigger groups and longer times can incur additional costs.
- Who should be invited? (The subject of the next lesson!)
Now that you know the answer to those questions, brainstorm about what you’ll accomplish below.
Also, it helps for people to understand what is expected of them. Typically, I like to send out a notice a few days before reminding people of the online session and encouraging them to come. I don’t usually send a detailed agenda but rather a high level idea of what we will cover. This gives some additional flexibility and saves me from the rare person who will try to hold me to the exact timings. Any facilitator will let you know that exact timings are very difficult.
When you are getting ready for the session, I often will send our a prep email before that outlines a few things for your participants to have ready. This way, they have the things they need to participate fully.
- Try to connect 10 minutes early to ensure there are no technical issues
- Make sure they are instructed to download the latest version of the software that you are using.
- For an inexperienced group, hold early tech sessions where people can try out their tech.
- Ask them to have their webcam as well as their mic turned on because being able to see people builds community.
- Ask them to bring any supplies, such as drawing materials or notepaper.
- Remind them to bring things that can keep them comfortable, such as blankets or water bottles.
I also like to ask them 2-3 things that they are interested in learning from the workshop or meeting. What are they expecting? To collect this, I set up a Google form, although you can just ask them to email you back.
What I do with this is create a Wordcloud with their words. This is a great way to have your participants feel like they are part of something.
For example, here is one where I collected thoughts early from people about their feelings about technology:
This way, when I show the participants the Wordcloud, they feel they have already contributed. It gives everyone a feeling that they are in the same room and have some investment in something they’ve already done together.
In the next lesson, let’s look at Who should be invited?