Daily Buzz: Creating Better Breakout Sessions

The simple way to make sure your virtual breakout sessions deliver. Also: Supporting racial equity through community management.

Meeting conference attendees’ expectations isn’t easy—and it’s impossible if you don’t know what those expectations are. That’s the premise of Adrian Segar’s latest post at Conferences That Work: By taking time to ask attendees—virtual or otherwise—what one thing they want out of a session, you’ll be better able to deliver.

“You can create great online breakout sessions in about five minutes,” Segar says. “Taking the time to discover what participants want and need and creating a session that meets the group’s desires as closely as possible will pay rich dividends.”

Segar suggests beginning virtual sessions by asking participants to post in the group chat one thing they want. Facilitators can then skim expectations and shape the session according to attendees’ needs. For example, if two thirds of the participants were hoping for an overview of a topic and one third were hoping for specialized instruction, a facilitator might spend two thirds lecturing and then switch to screen-sharing a demonstration of a particular skill.

This transparency lets everyone see what the group’s expectations are, which can help participants see what they have in common with one another, boosting enjoyment of the session. And participants who have a unique request nobody else raises can see that they’re not being ignored; they just want something different than the majority.

“[I]t’s impossible to create a session that’s perfect for everyone,” Segar says. “Suppose, for example, that you have a specific need that might take up most of the session to be fulfilled … and you’re the only person who asks for this. OK, so you’re not going to get your needs met, but at least you understand why.”

Community Managers Foster Inclusivity

Community managers are skilled in generating discussion. When that discussion centers around one of the nation’s most pressing challenges—racial injustice—they need to be anchored in a sense of inclusivity and support.

“What’s the culture that you create within your community?” asks Marjorie Anderson, founder of Community by Association, on the latest episode of the Community Signal podcast. “What’s the tone that you set the minute that people sign up to come into your community and participate? What does that look and feel like? And if it’s not one where it feels like people can speak up and have their voices be heard, then it’s really hard for six months, a year down the line to try to course-correct—20 years down the line to try to course-correct—and then start to cultivate that feeling of belonging.”

Along with two other guests and the podcast’s host, Anderson covers topics like cultivating platforms that nurture racial equity, supporting difficult conversations, diverse hiring, and flagging abuse.

Other Links of Note

Associations have been focused on the “virtual” part of “virtual events” lately. Event Farm asks us to reconsider what exactly we mean by “event” in today’s landscape.

Make sure your organization isn’t accidentally sharing “fake news” by reviewing this social media fact-checking 101 at Social Media Today.

Cooperative marketing can drive devotion, says Kayla Carmicheal at HubSpot.

(pixelfit/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

By Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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