These days many of us were participants and trainers online. It is as effective as a live event but it is different and we all miss some different aspects of the live events. One of the things I find challenging to achieve online is networking.
Based on feedback from participants of various training and personal opinion, these are the challenges:
· It is difficult to realize who are the other participants.
· It is difficult to start spontaneous chatting and make contact.
· It is difficult to express yourself.
· It requires conscious effort.
Luckily as event organisers we may help our participants. Here are some ideas:
Give participants the opportunity to present themselves.
Depending on the event size, we have different ways of introducing participants: from nametags on big conferences to the introduction activities in small training sessions. When we create an online event we need to be creative to figure out how to reflect those. For example, if we have big-scale events online we may ask participants to write their full name and organization when they log in. Another option is to ask people to present their short bio using Padlet, forum, or simply via shared text document. When we have smaller events it is useful to call people to present themselves briefly in the chat area or using a microphone/video. As in other events people have a tendency to speak a lot or to nothing, so try to moderate it by thinking of short, precise questions, for example: Tell us your name and organizations you are coming from; Tell us your position in the organization; Name one thing you love the most about this subject; Tell us who is your most challenging client/ task/topic; What is the topic in event agenda you like the most...
Give them space and topics to help them make contact.
During live events, we have coffee breaks where we can meet and start chatting- it is space for contact. During online events, we are making coffee in our home and it is uncomfortable to just start chatting with some random person online. One option is to create small chat areas that have simple, pastime topics: Tell us about the last movie you have watched; Send us a picture of your coffee; Send us a link of your favorite coffee break song. If there is an opportunity to engage a few people from the organisation to spark the conversation, go ahead- make them leaders of the coffee break sessions.
Another option is to have space that will gather participants before, during, and after the event. One of the simple ways for this is using the EPALE option of the communities of practice and collaborative spaces.
Encourage participants to be proactive.
Having established space for contact is not enough, participants must be willing to use it. And we are all different when it comes to making contact- we love it or hate it, we are better at chatting or it is not our strength. It is fine to choose how much we would like to be involved and where is networking at our priority list. But, we need to remind ourselves and others that is ok to show our professional results, tell our opinion, give positive feedback to colleagues and be curious about others.
I hope this was useful and inspirational, share in comments your idea and opinion about this subject.