Planning and Conducting Virtual Workshops Part I: Make sure attendees can get to your event by Jan Noga

Hi! My name is Jan Noga and I am the owner of Pathfinder Evaluation and Consulting, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Like many of you, I’ve been grounded by the pandemic and needed to look to the world of virtual meetings and events in order to keep up with my professional life. During 2019, I was transitioning from conducting evaluation to teaching professional development. The pandemic forced has me rethinking how to present my highly interactive and very hands-on workshop in a virtual format. I decided to spend some time as a participant myself so that I could sample the varied ways of providing virtual PD. I learned a lot from the perspective of participant that will help me in my own instructional design. In this post, I’ll touch on key tips related to planning and preparation.

Lesson Learned: We’re all guilty of agreeing to “appear” for a meeting or other event and then getting distracted with email, texts, or work and forgetting to put that event on our calendars. I had two knee surgeries this past summer and my fuzzy post-anesthesia brain really did a number in this regard. I’ve always sent detailed confirmations when I do meetings and found myself relying on the same for workshops I was enrolled in. I’ve learned that the more critical details provided, the better. I’ve also learned that one communication is never enough (kind of like cookies)!

Lesson Learned: All workshops require registration and most require payment of some sort. Whatever platform you are using to generate registration confirmation and payment receipts, don’t rely on the default one. Those tend to be very information light. At a minimum, confirmations and receipts should include the following: title of event, date(s) and time(s) (you’d be surprised how many don’t include this), and when people should expect the link for participating.

Hot Tip: Don’t assume everyone is coming from your time zone, country, or hemisphere (daylight and standard times are opposite and the transition occurs across multiple weeks). A time zone reference isn’t enough. Provide a city reference that could be used in World Clock as well. For example, I’m in Cincinnati, Ohio in the US, but I would provide the following for an event running from noon to 2 pm: 12:00 – 2:00 pm, Eastern US (New York).

Hot Tip: Just like people need an address to attend a live event, they need an “address” to attend a virtual one. In addition, provide a link to an information page of some sort be that an actual website, Eventbrite, Facebook, LinkedIn, or some other virtual platform. Just be sure that, whatever you use, it is easy for people to reference.

In my next post, I’ll address points related to facilitating an online workshop or other event.

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