EVALpalooza by Matt Feldmann and Asma Ali

Hello, we’re Matt Feldmann, president of Evaluation Association of St. Louis (EASL), and Asma Ali, president of Chicagoland Evaluation Association (CEA). With in-person conferences out of the question, we got together in Spring 2020 to dream up a different way to engage evaluators. We joined evaluators Kylie Hutchinson and Sheila B. Robinson and…VOILA!… started EVALpalooza. 

EVALpalooza is a series of new and engaging virtual evaluation learning and networking experiences. Each EVALpalooza event is a four-hour session – small, focused, highly interactive, and facilitated by a different evaluation thought leader around a key topic.  

Hot Tip: Beat Zoom Fatigue through Good Online Meeting Practices

We intentionally designed EVALpalooza sessions informed by good virtual meeting practices to beat the Zoom fatigue that we all know so well. 

  • We’ve limited the number of participants to 100 only, including presenters. 
  • Hosts will be online 20 minutes early to encourage informal networking as people join.
  • An engaging panel of six evaluators will each share their own brief story.
  • We’ve created frequent opportunities for interaction (and no, that doesn’t mean just a poll), including large and small group debriefs and activities where participants can share individual insights and reflections.
  • We’ve scheduled lots of time (40-45 minutes) for each breakout room activity. 
  • We’ve built in a short break each hour to provide relief from staring at a two – dimensional screen. 
  • We’ve created intentional networking time with an optional “Virtual Happy Hour” following the event.

Check out this Harvard Business Review article and one from the HR Trend Institute for other ideas on how to make  your online more engaging.

Lesson Learned:

It’s easy to sit back and just listen during online events, but the more everyone participates, the more engaging it is for everyone. In 2015, the AEA Systems Evaluation TIG held their first ever virtual “unconference.” As someone heavily involved in the coordination of the event, Kylie Hutchinson notes, “The discussions in the breakout rooms were fabulous, but it was obvious there were certain people who were there only to listen and lurk, not join the conversation.” For the second unconference in 2016, organizers purposely placed moderators in each breakout room to stimulate voluntary participation and discussion from everyone. Participation doesn’t always mean sharing, sometimes it can be as simple as asking a question to make the session more engaging for all.

EVALpalooza logo

Rad Resource:

  • EVALpalooza I – September 24, 2020: To see what this looks like in action, please join us for our first event featuring Kylie Hutchinson, Libby Smith, Lisa Aponte-Soto, Jeri Levesque, Leah Q. Peoples, and Sheila Rodriguez. The theme is evaluation failures and practical techniques for reflection. We all experience some form of failure in our careers as evaluators, and indeed failure is perhaps the best teacher of all. Join us as we share, reflect, and learn together as colleagues. 
  • EVALpalooza II: TBA. Stay tuned as plans are in the works for our second event in November featuring Sheila B. Robinson and a great group of additional presenters on another hot evaluation topic. 

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

7 thoughts on “EVALpalooza by Matt Feldmann and Asma Ali”

  1. Hi! How do we sign up for EVALpalooza? For the record, I attended the first Lollapalooza tour approximately one million years ago. Lovely memories! Also, thanks for the HBR article. It had some great tips.

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