During this month’s Member Call, we focused on what the key elements and best practices are for taking your convening to the next level. Ten Conveners.org members came together from 7 different organizations to share what they have learned from designing and managing their own events as well as their favorite aspects of other convenings they have attended.
What makes a stellar convening? What’s one thing you remember from a convening that made an impression on you?
- Adding in a personal touch and incorporating rituals into the event
- Making sure there is are high-caliber participants at your event and creating time and space for them to interact and connect
- Having a safe space for people to really be vulnerable and share things that are real to create deeper connections
- Recognizing the power of taking power away from your attendees through an immersive experience (like at Hive) where titles aren’t mentioned
4 High-Level Aspects of Creating Your Event
1. Creating effective communication strategies for your convening
The usually suggested cycle is broken down into three stages:
STAGE ONE: Pre-event: this can take place 12 months up until one day before but the general consensus is that it’s always better to have multiple reminders before the day of your event so that the excitement and anticipation build as the date of the event approaches. One way that Opportunity Collaboration does this is by featuring their delegates on their social media to showcase the caliber of participants that will be attending and creating a FOMO type of feel for those who have yet to sign up. Skoll World Forum does an excellent job in their pre-event communications by making sure that featured speakers and events are announced in an ever-increasing fashion up until the day of the event and well into the days of the conference.
STAGE TWO: Day of event: One of the main takeaways from communication during the day of and days of the convening was the importance of utilizing your social media platforms – not only for the convening itself but of any speakers that might be presenting or facilitating sessions during the event. If you as the convener fail to ensure that your attendees don’t have access to specific social media handles and hashtags, you aren’t 100% capitalizing on the coverage and marketing you can get from the participants themselves.
STAGE THREE: Post-event: What about Feedback forms – What are their limitations, power, dynamics, how have they been useful?
- Short session feedback form – sometimes it works so well and other times it works horribly especially when the facilitator of the workshop needs to remind people at the end of the session, and making sure that you take the time to connect with people after getting some feedback and remind others that humans are behind these convenings as well.
- Using a standard virtual survey, but having it be very short and very conscientious around the productivity of the event in terms of individual participant efforts, but there is also the power of inviting everyone who receives the survey to also have a one on one phone call with someone on the team. That invitation to have the human-to-human dialogue is really powerful and invites people to be co-contributors of the convening in the future.
- Live group feedback at the end of the last day. Also emailing directly everyone who was a presenter or partner and asked them to respond to them via email or set up a call.
- Sometimes people use prizes and other incentives like that to get people to fill out their feedback forms.
2. Logistics: What Happens Now?
- Comfort: Always make sure that you test the temperature and chairs before any event and ensure that there are options with people with different abilities who might attend your convening
- Venue: Making sure space is adequate and conveys the theme and purpose for your event; for example, if you want people to connect and collaborate, have space where there is room to move around and have smaller group breakout sessions and conversations.
- Food: Healthy food and a variety of options for people with different allergies is always a good idea. Using food to also gather and convene people in interesting ways, like making a meal together as they do at the Greener Mind Summit, can be a creative way to break the ice and bring people closer together. Remember: sugary foods in the afternoon is a sure way to kill the energy and participation of your group.
- Beverages: Always have non-alcoholic choices for happy hour events and lots of caffeine to keep people active and awake during sessions
- A/V: Make sure you have your own dongles and microphones available for the audience
- Acoustics: Test the acoustics beforehand especially if you are going to be having musical talent performing
- Navigation: Make sure you do a walkthrough of the space before and have enough navigation signs to direct people to bathrooms, exits, and the different rooms where you have sessions
- Registration: One resource for printing nametags the day of the event can help you avoid wasting resources and it creates a more personalized interaction with the registration staff and the attendees.
3. Content that inspires and sparks new conversations
How to curate the “right” content for your convening
In terms of identifying what content would be best to design and curate for your event, one of the main resources we identified during the call was the book The Art & Science of Effective Convening which details all the considerations one should take into account when starting to develop the content and layout for the sessions of a convening.
Ensuring everyone is included in the design of your event
We also discussed a resource that helps to ensure that your gathering is accessible to all of your attendees by the Disability Rights Fund and originally written by Kerry Thompson.
Facilitators and Moderators can make or break a session
We shared one resource, the Moderator Training Handout that we have developed to help guide your facilitators and key up all of your sessions for success.
4. Participants: Bringing everyone to the table
Any event is defined by the people who decide to make the investment of both time and resources to show up and participate. Making sure that you can attract the people that best fit your vision and ultimate goal for your event is one of the most important aspects of creating a stellar convening. Some of the common themes we discussed were: bringing a diverse group of people to both speaker/moderator/facilitator positions (no more pale male panels please) as well as the pool of participants that attend; creating a balance between inviting newcomers and bringing back old faces and the pros and cons of finding that right balance; and the importance of creating space for voices from all different sectors, organization levels, and geographies.
We hope to see you at the next Member Call: Tackling Virtual Convenings which is scheduled for June 20th at 2:00 pm Pacific Time!