I recently had the opportunity to participate in the January 2022 Association Insights In Old Town (ASAE login required) virtual educational session, Better Engage Your Members and Attendees to Solve Association Problems, led by Better Meetings‘s Lee Gimpel.
It was one of the best educational sessions I’ve attended in some time.
Lee crafted an effective and highly interactive session that showed rather than told us how to craft a session that would actually get people working with each other in a fun but not intimidating way.
We’ve all been to virtual events that promise to be highly engaging and then do it by putting people into small (sometimes too small) group breakout rooms for exercises that some of the participants may not find to be particularly useful/applicable, or that are too heavy a lift. We try to create something so that people don’t just sit there passively and listen (half-listen while “multi-tasking,” aka “the session is running in the background but I’m not paying attention – I’m answering email”), but we overshoot and ask too much of people.
Lee’s session was structured to illustrate the principles of:
- Conveying to participants that we value their input
- Saving ourselves from assuming we have the right answer
- Getting participants to interact
- Teaching people a technique to use in their organizations
- Meeting people
Without much preamble, he put us into breakout rooms to do introductions with an easy-lift icebreaker. Then he brought us back together and posed a question for a “chat waterfall.” Then he explained what we were going to work on together: Brainstorming ideas for non-dues revenue on a Google sheet. It was set up so we were working in parallel breakout rooms. The focus wasn’t on conversation, although we were in small enough groups that we could discuss if we wanted to, which kept the shared workspace from becoming unmanageable. He then brought us back together for a final pass on the sum total work we’d created together and a little theory about how he constructed the session.
I asked him about his thinking in putting the session together and he pointed me to an article he wrote for Forbes (that you should really check out, as it might disabuse you of the notion that what you’ve been promoting as “highly interactive” sessions is really delivering on that) and also shared this insight:
We can actually do a lot in an hour, but teaching people what we’re doing cuts the actual working time by about half. With more time, we’d really want to complete the loop: generate a bunch of ideas –> refine them down to our favorites (the star voting, etc.) –> discuss those in depth, add action steps, etc.
The hour flew by, we were all actually interacting and contributing, we learned by doing, and I met some new people and learned just a little bit about them. Mission accomplished!
Oh, and did I mention? We generated a terrific list of ideas for non-dues revenue that’s just sitting there for anyone who might want to use it. So you should definitely check that out, too.