IEA Affiliate Week: Pivoting and Adapting during COVID by Jennifer Bellville

Jennifer Bellville
Jennifer Bellville

Hi! I’m Jennifer Bellville, a Consultant at Diehl Consulting Group and President of the Indiana Evaluation Association (IEA), a local affiliate of AEA. I am excited to start off IEA’s posts about pivoting and adapting during COVID.

Like many of you, my projects, interactions, and work environment are different during this season – and so are things for our evaluation organization. As a board, we started the year with a strategic plan that included organizing regional in-person networking events and gradually testing virtual technology.

Then came COVID. Of course, in-person gatherings were paused, and our plan for slowly testing technology became a rapid change to offer entirely virtual professional development within a month. We are so thankful that our April presenter, John Gargani, who presented on Scaling Impact, and our July presenter, William Cox, who presented on Breaking the Bias Habit, were extremely flexible and more than willing to join us in the virtual space. We also had an incredible group of board members and volunteers who came together to help us transition and facilitate breakout rooms during our virtual trainings.

Lessons Learned: Transitioning to Virtual Trainings

  • Practice. Practice. Practice – Set up at least one practice run-through and join your meeting early day-of to test technology one more time. (There’s always something that comes up!)
  • Build in Interaction – When possible, create space for attendees to interact and connect with each other through ice breakers, polls, the chatbox, breakout rooms, and more.
  • Breakout Room Facilitators – Recruit facilitators for breakout rooms (in Zoom). It is incredibly helpful to have someone in each room who has the discussion questions handy and is ready to prompt conversation. (Hot Tip: Discussion questions from the presenter’s slides do not appear in the breakout rooms.)
  • Video & Microphone –Encourage breakout room attendees to have their video on and mic unmuted, so the conversation can be more spontaneous. Then once you move back to the main session, automatically mute all microphones so attendees can hear the presenter without distractions.
  • Bathroom Breaks – We all need to use the restroom, stretch our legs, or just look away from the screen. Remember to build time for this into the presentation.
  • Extra Time for Discussion – It takes time to transition attendees from the main session into breakout rooms. And attendees have not had the chance to chat with others at their virtual ‘table’ before the meeting starts as they normally would in person. Try to build in extra time for introductions and transitions.

While virtual cannot replace in-person, offering virtual training has allowed us to work toward our mission of enhancing evaluator knowledge and skills in new ways. Virtually, we can reach more evaluators within our state. Our virtual trainings are also shared with our fellow AEA affiliates across the US, allowing us to contribute to the evaluation field more broadly.

Rad Resource: Local Affiliates

  • Join a Local AEA Affiliate– Affiliates are a great way to get connected with evaluators in your area. Once COVID has subsided, you can even meet-up in-person 🙂

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Indiana Evaluation Association (IEA) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from IEA members. 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.

1 thought on “IEA Affiliate Week: Pivoting and Adapting during COVID by Jennifer Bellville”

  1. Great info you shared. Despite all I’ve seen on virtual meetings, you included a couple I hadn’t seen that are very helpful, especially as I am planning for a meeting that will include breakout rooms in a couple weeks. Thanks!

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