Isn’t it amazing how the course of a couple of weeks (mid-March 2020 in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic as we write this) can force you to re-examine everything you thought you knew about your work? Moving into this brave new world, all conveners will need to work creatively in both in-person and virtual spaces, without compromising on the quality and energy that 100% in-person convenings created for our attendees. There are many ways in which a blended model, incorporating aspects of both in-person and virtual convening, can truly be the best of both worlds. Here are some of our top tips:
Blend based on POPULATION
- One key consideration for looking at in-person vs. virtual convenings is who is coming together. Perhaps you could provide a virtual option for people who are higher-risk (older, immune-compromised, traveling from highly-affected areas) and others can attend in-person.
- Another major consideration is how many people normally convene at your event. Are you a smaller event with a few sessions per day, or a larger gathering with simultaneous sessions? This will affect the tools and resources needed to meet the needs of your community virtually.
- Your audience’s age will also determine the types of tools you use for virtual convening. If you have an older population, using a 3D chat room might end up causing more confusion and frustration than networking and connections, for example
Blend based on CONTENT
- Push interaction in your virtual content wherever you can. Use features in your platforms like chat, “hand raising,” and polling to get quick and easy audience participation, reserve time for question and answer and make full use of breakout rooms (let your participants talk to each other!)
- Prep content that is streamed. When things are streamed live, there isn’t much room for error or technical glitches so be sure to test everything out (and prep speakers) beforehand.
- Prioritize in-person time for networking and collaboration. Make the most of minimized exposure time by coming together for smaller, local gatherings, hosted by community champions, during your original convening dates (encourage sharing on social media) so people can still get an in-person experience even if the rest of your convening has to be virtual.
- Note: Keep in mind that time together virtually can seem a LOT longer than time together in person, so be sure to have shorter sessions and more breaks built into your agenda!
Blend based on LOCATION
- You might consider breaking your global event into more local, regional gatherings, perhaps led by local consultants. Whole-group content can be streamed, and, in-person interaction may still be possible in less-affected areas.
- People coming from affected areas, who shouldn’t attend but still want to participate may be enabled to engage virtually, while the rest of your convening proceeds in-person.
- One upside to convening virtually instead of in-person is that it might open up your convening to attendees who weren’t able to afford it before (particularly greater participation from the Global South). This could lead to even more new ideas and collaborations!