A few of us had a really nice, lengthy theoretical conversation during our annual retreat. We wanted to continue that conversation afterwards. We also wanted to invite others in the community to join us.
Another professional community I am involved with is thrashing with the issue of how to involve the greater community if they can’t be at the event itself. I think we might have hit on something – so I wanted to share how we involved the members of the community who weren’t in the conversation.
We set up a Google Hangouts event and invited the members of the community through email and through our Slack channel.
Thankfully, during the conversation – one of the people had the foresight to take pictures of the drawing that developed and create a quick video explaining that drawing. We used that as preliminary material.
I served as moderator / facilitator. My role was to do the setup, send out the invite, field questions, and make sure everyone had a voice and keep the conversation moving.
During the session…..
The original lead and one of the other folks who was in the original conversation provided a quick overview at the beginning.
A few of the users could not speak – mostly because of location (eg. they were in cubicles at work). As a result, I tried to make it a point to keep an eye on the chat log and incorporate those comments as best as possible.
Someone else took over the note taking – which should have been assigned ahead of time since the chat moderator can’t do the note taking (oops). Thankfully, people stepped up (thanks Marty and Adam).
We did notes through Google Drawing. It is OK – but not the greatest tool for collaborative drawing and note taking (since much of the topic was very graphical). If we do this again, we’ll investigate other collaborative drawing tools.
At times, the meeting management was a bit chaotic – trying to involve the chat only and the quieter members. I’ll admit that I saw some areas I wanted to improve there.
Going in with no set objective was a bit disconcerting for those of us who lean towards the practical.
There was also another side that was a bit bothered that many of us were being SO practical and looking to USE what we were talking about. The topic was very theoretical and philosophical.
I was impressed by the number of people who came who were part of the community and who didn’t make the event this year. The feedback I’ve received so far from those community members who participated has been positive.
The second conversation
The group decided that we wanted to continue the conversation – so we scheduled a second session 2 weeks out.
As expected, the participation wasn’t nearly as high on that one.
A few reasons why that might have been (though I invite the members of the community to chime in):
Time. By that point it had been a month since the event. One month where we all have been working in our own little field of weeds. And if we have to prioritize our time – our immediate field of weeds tend to get priority.
The nature of the topic / lack of “objective”. By itself, I don’t see it as a bad thing – but this particular community tends to lean towards the pragmatic. Other communities may get longer traction with philosophical discussions.
The moderator / organizer being focused on other things in the interim between the sessions (ie – I was focused on getting my PMP). I didn’t do the reminders the way I normally would for an event like this. My bad.
The second conversation did result in some potentially actionable items (which the practical among us are pretty excited about). The follow up for both of these sessions will be sent to the greater community for comments and recommendations. Different format (likely Google Docs to start) – but another way for the community to engage with each other.
Overall – I think we’re on to something.
And as these types of professional communities grow – community engagement outside of the event becomes a very interesting design issue. How do you stay inclusive if not everyone can attend (either by choice or by design due to constraints)?
Next time, we will work to design something WITHIN the event to allow for greater community engagement at least after the event – if not during. Will keep you posted as to what we try next.