Peer-to-peer events, organized by user groups and communities of practice, are powerful. They create a neutral space where practitioners can geek out and learn from each other.
Regularly scheduled meetings can build a cadence of learning & connection.
Quarterly is a good cadence for in-person events with busy professionals
If you and your group is particularly active and motivated, monthly meetings are great
Informal chats and check-ins for leaders and core members weekly is nice
Having a consistent venue can build regularity, and start to feel like "home" for the group.
Or, to spread leadership and the burden of hosting, rotate between several offices.
Having a consistent time can enable folks to plan for it and build it into their regular schedule
Lunchtime or breakfast?
After work / before dinner on a weekday?
Create a consistent communications schedule for event and agenda
Have agenda that covers skill levels for everyone (experts, newbies, else)
Create a schedule of upcoming topics, presenters, and dates
Create space at the end of each meeting to tell people about the next meeting(s)
Ask people at the end of the meeting if: 1) anyone would like to present at a future meeting; 2) there are any topics of interest for upcoming meetings.
Try to keep a healthy list of upcoming meetings (e.g. two events into the future)
Create time to meet new people & do introductions in every meeting
Try to keep presentations to ~ 15 – 20 minutes, to keep attention and focus
Food & drinks
Not always pizza
Set up food in a way to encourage flow/ congregation / conversation
The relationships that are formed before, during, and after the panel can be as important/valuable as the event itself. How can you meaningfully connect panelists as you're preparing for the event?
Have a call or two beforehand, get to know each other, talk through potential questions, enable panelists to talk through what's on their mind and what they want to discuss or ask.
This type of interaction before the event can make for more lively and deep conversations at the event, and an improved rapport between panelists.
As a moderator/ host, can you create enough structure for the panelists - but keep it loose enough to enable the panelists and the audience to take the conversation in new and productive directions?
Beforehand: Provide a simple list of questions and topics to panelists.
At the event: Start with audience questions before you get into prepared questions.
Encourage panelists to ask questions of each other.
What kind of a meeting is it? How interactive is it?
A webinar preferences presentations and content (one to many), with some Q&A in the background. Webinars are easier to facilitate and well supported with technology.
A virtual meeting preferences peer-to-peer conversation (many to many). These are trickier to host, and are best for people who already know each other or when there's a strong host or process. (See virtual unconference template below)
Test the audio, visuals, and presenter logistics before the event - including recording.
Make sure you're recording the right inputs (speaker's audio, visuals)
Consider breakout rooms for more interactive events and smaller-group conversation.
Use digital tools to drive audience engagement and perhaps collect data
An event host/ moderator is an important role that...
Answers questions during presentation
Timekeeper to keep the meeting on track
Interact with speakers and presenters - ask questions, react and interact, represent voice of the audience
Tools & tips for online meetings...
An Unconference is a meeting in which the agenda is set by participants, in real-time. This is a format that enables attendees to talk about and work on what they want to, based on their goals and questions.
It is a fluid format, enables connection & emergence.
Ten Simple Rules for Organizing an Unconference (Paper, Research Gate)
OpenSpaceWorld.org - Collection of resources, and annual conferece, about open space and unconferences.
(BOOKLET) Open Space Technology - A User's Guide Harrison Owen, 1993 - A hands-on, detailed description of facilitating Open Space Technology (OST), written by the originator of the method.
This Google Slides template was used to host an Autodesk Group Network meet-up at Autodesk University Virtual 2020. Please feel free to copy and re-use it!
This template/ format will not work for more than 40-50 participants
Requires breakout rooms (Zoom)
If there's something you want to make sure everyone sees/ hears/ does - present that before the break-outs start. People will likely use the "law of 2 feet" before you get to the last slide of the share-outs :)