Building a Virtual Tour of Online Communities

This is the second post about touring existing online communities as a learning journey for those building or sustaining their own communities. (Part 1 is here.) This one is about the nuts and bolts of doing a live tour of online communities. The first post laid out purpose, identification of potential communities to tour, and criteria for review and evaluation. So now lets talk about HOW to run the tour. This is nuts and bolts time!


  1. Pick your web touring technology. For this sort of event, I like to have a tool with fairly easy screen sharing and a shared chat room for note taking. I use a white board or slides to share the initial overview and questions.
  2. Set the date. Let your “tourists” know date, time and any technical requirement. This may mean needing to be online, have a headset/mic or an appropriate telephone dial in option.Confirm your communities. Get permissions as appropriate if you plan to use your personal log in to tour any private communities!
  3. Set up a URL list that can work both within your web technology and on a separate web page as back up. Plan a SHORT intro narrative to each community. Decide what pages you will visit and why. See the first post!  I like to throw the URLs and short descriptions on to a Google doc and share it with the tourists in advance.
  4. Test your URLs within the web meeting tool. Should they be links? Preloaded? Do you need username/password to log on to any private sites?
  5. As backup, grab a basic set of screen shots of each community in case your web touring technology fails. Yes, it happens! Always have a plan B.
  6. If you have a co-facilitator, define each of your roles.
    • It is often useful to have one person help folks if they have any technical needs, while the other runs the tour.
  7. Consider how you want to capture questions as you go — sometimes you will need to research and come back later with answers.  Encourage the tourists to take notes if that fits your culture!
  8. Send an email with the login information and any preparation you would like the tourists to do. I often send a short piece on community PURPOSE and some of the questions I mentioned in the  first post.

Running the event

  1. Log in early and make sure everything is working. Have an email prepped to resend in case anyone contacts you saying “I lost the url/login/etc.
  2. If you decided to preload URLs on separate whiteboards, etc, get that all set up. Set up any polls or questions on other white board pages or have them handy to cut/paste in.
  3. If you are recording the tour, don’t forget to hit the old “record” button once you start.
  4. When you start with your participants, give an overview of the tour process. It might go something like this:
    • We are going to look at X different communities today. I’m going to use the screen sharing tool (or whatever you plan) so I’ll be “driving” the tour, but please, if you see something you’d like me to click on, let me know. There is a slight lag with the screen sharing so speak up as soon as you can!
    • I want to review a couple of questions we should keep in mind as we tour (then I review the questions.)
    • Encourage shared note taking (I often use the chat room in the webinar tool).
    • Do you have any questions? (Answer them..)
    • Start…
    • Pause often for questions, observations.
  5. Between communities, do a quick recap asking for observations and answers to questions. Sometimes it is worth going deeper and seeing fewer communities…
  6. Leave at least 25% of the time at the end for reflection and next steps.

Follow Up

  1. If you are recording the event, capture the recording and share the URL.
  2. Clean up and share any collective notes taken during the event.

Do you have any other suggestions or ideas? Resource pointers? Please, chime in!

2 thoughts on “Building a Virtual Tour of Online Communities”

    1. Hi George — I have a half of an answer for you because I need to update myself on new platforms. (Thus the blog post here on updating my own knowledge on webinar platforms –> ) But let me ask a clarifying question. Are you just looking for a way to show others websites for the touring? If so, any decent screen sharing feature would work. If you want them to click around themselves, you simply need to set a list of starting URLs for your tour, then use audio to keep people together.

      What kinds of tasks do you use whiteboarding for? That would influence recommendations there!

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