Creating an Engaging Online Workshop
Designing and Delivering “To meet or not to meet… the case for and against in-person events” for ESAE
Creating a workshop to stimulate debate on future association event strategies was a component of our strategic partnership with ESAE – The European Society of Association Executives. Originally planned as an in-person event in May 2020, the COVID crisis meant the gathering had to be postponed and eventually re-modelled for an online format.
Regardless of the platform, we were committed to keeping a high degree of interactivity and developing a theme which would engage both Association staff leaders and experienced Events professionals.
To be as relevant as possible for the target audience in the current context, that meant choosing a strategic level topic which had clear impacts within a 6-12 month outlook.
The theme chosen was “To meet or not to meet… the cases for and against in-person events”, to be explored within a 90-minute time slot.
Having aligned with ESAE on the focus areas, format, and learning objectives, the Exempla team got to work on building out the workshop.
With our prior experience in workshop and interactive session design, we knew not to underestimate the work involved. Clarity on timings and transitions is especially important. Rehearsals to troubleshoot and clear briefing documents are essential.
Key elements of this session design included:
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- A short introductory presentation (6 minutes) which set the scene and framed strategic questions on the future of events both online and in-person (the presentation was a snapshot of this insights article)
- Live polling which was used immediately after the introduction so that the audience were involved as active participants early on
- Two presenters from the Exempla team, to keep up the momentum and the presenter focus (it helps to overcome the feeling of talking to oneself for too long!)
- Twin presenters also provided a built-in backup in case of connection issues
- To set-up breakout room discussions, a fictitious association and two scenarios around Board decisions for and against in-person meetings were created
- The cases were designed to frame but not restrict discussion, the objective was to generate an exchange of ideas, not to build consensus on the “right” answer
- Moderators were recruited from the ESAE network in addition to the Exempla team so a total of 9 breakout groups were formed to keep the groups small and maximise interaction
- Approximately 2×20 minutes were dedicated for the breakout discussions
- A minute-by-minute session plan was drafted so that timing could be precisely monitored, and presentations and polls were rehearsed to ensure their time allocations were correct
- The Zoom webinar platform was used, all polls were created in advance, presentations were broadcast live
- Several days prior to the workshop, a briefing document was circulated to the moderators and a briefing call organised to explain the overall flow, the moderators’ role and answer any questions
- A workshop description was written and shared well in advance so participants understood the format prior to joining
This format was designed for Zoom online, however, aside from a few differences such as the polling platform and obviously, the venue, the main components would be largely identical for an in-person workshop.
Over 40 participants joined the live workshop and collaborated in the 9 breakout groups. Dozens of takeaways generated from the discussion and moderators had no shortage of tips to share in the wrap up remarks.
Topics covered financial and reputational risk, how to stimulate networking, new ways to connect around content and how to adapt staff skills. ESAE members have access to a summary report which captures the main outputs.
The live polling also allowed us to take the pulse of the audience, for example, we learned that the audience was convinced that participants should pay for the value that they get from online events – more than 60% of the participants would charge at least 50% of the onsite event fee.
We were also happy to see from the final poll that the 96% percent felt confident that in 2022 their association would have successfully navigated the current disruption – either focusing on digital services or using a combination of digital services and in-person meetings.
The combination of polls and moderated discussion provide not just a valuable, interactive experience for participants, they also give the association member generated opinions to share, a tangible benefit to show potential members what is on offer, and great ideas for future exploration and debate.
Would you like help designing your next interactive workshop? This session format works both online and in person and can be adapted for sessions from 45min to half-day. Contact us to find out how we can generate a memorable experience for your participants.
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