Archive for the 'harvesting' Category

Nov 17 2014

Beyond the Webinar

The earthLet me confess right up front: I really don’t like webinars. Too often they feel “done unto me.” I am powerless, at the mercy of the organizers. I may have access to a chat room (Thank Goodness!) But more often than not, these are content delivery mechanisms with token participant interaction in the form of crowded Q&A segments or polls with varying degrees of relevance. What is worse is that I have been a perpetrator of these practices so I continue to try and change my evil ways.

Changing ingrained habits requires some reflection – of self and of the state of the practice of these so-called “webinars.”  Recently I had the chance to offer feedback on a webinar I experienced as a recording.  I’ve edited/generalized my thoughts to share. In a follow up post I’ll reflect on my own practice — this is where I need to cut to the bone!
1. Us/Them: It is logical for an organizer or organizing agency to want to  appear well prepared for sharing their work. We all like folks to know we “did our homework.” We get our slides spiffed up and appropriately formatted for the webinar tool we are given. We time our remarks. We practice speaking clearly and at an appropriate pace.

The challenge this presents is that the end product puts the speaker and/or the organization at the center. We create an us/them dynamic before the event even starts. Think about set ups where the only ones who can use the voice tool to communicate are the organizers. Those who bear the presentation file are in control of the message. The tool administrator(s) control the process (i.e determining that they speak for 60 minutes, then there is Q&A.)

The use of a one way style of presentation reinforces the power dynamics of the speaker/expert/organization as central, and everyone else as “audience.” All too often, the audience is never heard. Is that a good use of precious synchronous time? Why not send out a video or narrated PowerPoint? An online gathering is time better spent as a multi-directional mode of “being together” — even online. This does NOT diminish the importance and value of content we “deliver” to others. Here are some options to consider.


  • Move away from meetings that are primarily broadcast which holds control with the presenter. Sharing information is essential, but synchronous time should always have significant multi directional interaction. For my colleagues in international development, I think everyone has values of inclusiveness and shared participation. We have to “walk this talk” in webinars as well.
  • Small things can create or break down us/them.  For example don’t just show where you are on a map at the start of a webinar, add dots for all the participants and their locations. Better yet, use a tool that allows them to add their own dots. Help the group see not only you,  but “we” – all the people working together about something we all care deeply about.
  • Because we lack body  language online, it is useful to really scrutinize our language.From the wording in the slides and by the speaker, consider changes in language so that it is more inclusive of the participants.


2. Strive for  good practices for learning/engaging online. Webinars in general run the risk of being even less engaging than a dark room face to face with a long PowerPoint. There is a saying in the online facilitation world “A bad meeting F2F is a terrible meeting online.” So we need to be even more attentive to how we structure online engagements to reflect a) how adults learn b) the high risk of losing attention (especially due to multi tasking) and c) the cultural and power diversity inherent in your group. Quality content is important, but it alone is not a reason to use an interactive platform — you can deliver content in many ways. Choosing a synchronous mode, to me,  implies interaction.


  • Consider keeping online meetings to 60 minutes. If not, do a stretch break every at 30 and 60 minutes. Say “let’s take a 60 second break.” Stand up, stretch, look away from the screen and give your body a moment of respite. We’ll call you back in 60 (90-120) seconds (sometimes a bio break is useful!)
  • A useful rule of thumb is to break up information presentation with some means of audience engagement/participation every 7-15 minutes. Use polls, chat, “red/green/yellow” feedback mechanisms, hand raising, checking for understanding, etc. This may mean you have someone facilitating these other channels if it is too distracting for the host and speakers. (Over time it does get easier, but practice is critical!)
  • Take questions approximately every 15 minutes vs holding at end. People stop listening carefully and are thus less prepared to ask questions after longer periods of time. (They are also more prone to multitasking, etc.)
  • Don’t just deliver information – use narrative. Stories hold our attention better than a series of bullet points. In fact, ditch those boring slides unless you are using the printed information to make it easier for people coming from a different first language.
  • Deliver the useful content in a different manner and use the webmeeting entirely for questions and interactions. Send a recording introducing the team. Send a narrated PowerPoint about the topic. Keep these content packages smaller. For example, if you were trying to give an overview of a portfolio of projects, you could break it up into some sub packages. 1) about the team 2) strategy, 3) project descriptions, 4) monitoring and evaluation strategy, etc.
  • Secondary tip: Do not think of these information products as polished products — don’t waste energy overproducing. That sucks the human element out of it. Imperfection is a door to engagement… seriously. Moments of uncertainty, tough questions — these engage the participants.
  • Stay relaxed as a narrator and speak at useful pace for understanding, particularly for those who have English as a second (or third, fourth) language. Keep that human touch. Add little bits of personal information and affect. Be human.
  • Let participants ask question verbally, not just in chat if possible. While there are many technical complications and sometimes the burden of accents on unclear audio channels, voice brings again brings in that human element. (Video does too, but there are bandwidth considerations. When you can, consider using it.)
  • Encourage collective note taking in the chat room or with complementary tool. When people share this task, they listen more carefully and the begin to learn about each others strengths and insights as people add additional information or annotations.
  • When someone asks a question, note who asked the question. This helps everyone see that people are heard, even if the audio option is not practical (for various reasons, no mic, etc. )  At the end of the call, specifically thank by name those who asked questions to encourage the behavior for future interactions.
  • In Q&A sections, consider a visual to help people pay attention. Use the whiteboard for noting the questions, answers, links that refer to what has been spoken about, etc.

There are a few ideas. What are yours?

Also, here are some previous posts about similar issues:

No responses yet

Feb 19 2014

My Harvest from a Half Day at Seattle #Kaizencamp

Thanks to a serendipitous conversation with friends im Benson (@ourfounder), Tonianne DeMaria Barry (@sprezzatura), I was able to pop in for 1/4 of the Seattle #KaizenCamp. If I were pitching a Hollywood script, I’d say “Open Space” meets “Lean Coffee” meets “Liberating Structures.” A group of smart, engaged people conversing about ways of working in a lovely place (The Foundry) with good food and coffee.

I sat at two rounds of “lean coffee,” one about Storytelling and the Arts, and one about Knowledge Sharing. I made a couple of sketch notes and captured some of the resources and I wanted to get them up and out, tagged and tweeted, before I rushed on to the next thing. (Rushing— sucks!) So here we go…

Storytelling and the Arts



URLs/Resources Shared:


Knowledge Sharing





3 responses so far

Feb 14 2014

From Faster than 20: Civic Engagement Funders Aligning for Impact

I’m running like a maniac today, but this post from Eugene Eric Kim is to spot on to pass by. My highlights are the attention to online meeting design, shared visuals and slowing down to really notice what is going on. I hope that makes you want to click in and read. Image from the blog post by Amy Wu. Click to see the whole thing!

Civic Engagement Funders Aligning for Impact

Civic Engagement Funders Aligning for Impact.

8 responses so far

May 01 2013

Ideas for Bringing Online Participation into Offline Events

DSC02372Earlier this week my friend Doris Reeves-Lipscomb invited me into a conversation with Suzanne Daigle to explore options for including online/distributed participation in the upcoming Open Space on Open Space (OSONOS) in St. Petersburg Florida May 16-19. Having been to an OSONOS, I’d love to go, but the arrival of granddaughter #2 sometime soon says “STAY HOME!” (And if you don’t know about Open Space, check here –> it is wonderful!)

Doris took terrific notes during the call and I’ve augmented them with many links and some examples. I thought it might be nice to share them because we often have questions about the online/offline interconnections for face to face events and graciously, Doris and Suzanne agreed.  I should spend more time editing and amplifying, but if I waited to “find time” for that, I’d never get it up ! I’ve also blogged about this a lot here on the blog, and on my wiki, so a little searching may yield value! But if I don’t post this now… That also means, there are tons of gaps and opportunities for you to add your knowledge in the comments! PLEASE!

Recommendations from Skype Call—Nancy White, Suzanne Daigle, Doris Reeves-Lipscomb – April 30, 2013

Before Conference


  • Consider WHY you want to connect online and offline.
    • To harvest and share out what is going on (social reporting and more on social reporting. Don’t miss David Wilcox’s blog as well.)?
    • To facilitate virtual participation in parts or all of the OSNOS? To bring in a particular voice/voices into a particular OS session or plenary?
    • To tap outwards to the network when questions arise at the F2F? Or something else? Having a sense of purpose helps inform process and technology stewardship. just weave the network a bit? Help others see and discover it?
  • Start where there is energy: Create opportunities for remote/ virtual engagement with the handful of OS practitioners who are ready for it. Identify both people who will be at the event and those online who would like to connect from afar during the event.
  • Understand there may be resistance. Face to face gatherings are precious and some find the effort to include those “not in the room” detracts from their experience — or they have that perception or past experience. Go gently.


  • Verify availability and process for online access/bandwidth. (Yeah, this never goes as planned or promised! Having people with mobile web access is a great fallback!)
  • Create a hashtag for WOS and share widely. Create posters for it and place around event (and especially near any instructions on how to log on to the wifi)
  • Use Open Space email list to find out who already uses the online and build on the technologies they already use. Affirm preferred communication tools for use at WOS
    • What would they like to do?  What might they commit to doing?
    • Then get out of their way. Don’t put yourself too much in a hub role or you won’t have time or attention for anything else. Use the network!
  • Technology Stewardship: Identify, practice with and debug virtual tools that you have relied on before—Crowdvine, WordPress, etc. — or plan to add to your technology configuration.
  • Explore examples of good online events. What relates to good offline events? There IS a lot in common!
  •  For social reporting, consider a small team comprised of millenials/digitally competent OS practitioners and prepare a social reporting plan. (My social reporting bookmarks. A few social reports.)
  • For virtual real time interaction, identify time zone issues (I like to make a little map with people online in their time zone. It is easy to forget otherwise.)

During Conference

  • Be clear: Announce at beginning how people can opt-in/opt-out of the use/uploading online of their  pictures/words via Twitter, Facebook, Crowdvine, etc. and showing opt-out preference with dot on badge; review any other decisions made to work virtually—who, when, how, where
  • Affirm hashtag for all outgoing tweets, communications, blog posts, etc. (post those posters!)
  • Social Reporting Stuff:
    • Tweet/FB images and short narratives of what is going on.
    • Connect particular practitioners who have an interest in each others’ practice
    • Do 1-2 minute interviews and post online, then tweet url (examples from 2 conference where I was social reporting : and, both of whom are OS community members!)
    • Point to blog posts or wiki pages where session reports are posted
    • Towards the end, gather super short reflections (sometimes it is fun to have people write their key insight, etc on a sheet of paper in broad marker, hold it up and then you film them saying out loud. Then you edit together. Here are some unedited examples: and
  • For virtual participation, identify one or more OS sessions and offer them at the market place with the explicit offer to include virtual participants. (Be prepared for no one or too many to show up!). Consider debriefing these experiences to build knowledge and process for future events. (Here is a story of one I did at a conference – not Open Space tho!)
    • Open an OS session using  Google Hangouts or Skype with WOSonOS circle or Skype contact list, etc.  if you wish to use these tools or encourage others to use them.
    • Link reports and other harvests out via social networks, ie. use sociable plugin on WordPress for simultaneous messaging out to Twitter, Facebook, etc.
    •  (If you have decided to do this) use the OS format/Marketplace first round for setting up virtual participation leaders/practice
    • Bring others in by exporting key bits of conference to them through one minute mobile interviews or other kinds of social reporting; have interactive discussion online forum ready for conversations to happen
    • Use Storify to curate WOSonOS tweets
  •  Consider asking for and harvesting post event reflections. (Example here of one of my reflections. And another.)


  • Appreciate that both Millennial and new-bees can be fresh eyes in capturing important elements at the conference with onsite/offsite participants. They don’t have to be Open Space experts!Think of the relationship to Open Space bumblebee and butterfly kinds of functions.
  • Don’t assume non-Millenials aren’t’ comfortable with and don’t use social media tools. Some of us boomers are quite adept.
  • Reflect/debrief (but don’t over do it) and share what you learn back out to the wider community.
  • Go with the flow. Plan and be prepared to abandon the plan. Stay present and enjoy!

8 responses so far

Jan 07 2013

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 responses so far

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.
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