“Online Harvesting Practice” was the title of the first conversation I hosted at the Art of Hosting Learning Village in Statenberg Manor (Slovenia) a few weeks ago. I wanted to explore how we can use online tools to involve those in an event that couldn’t take part in person, and how we can collectively create the story of an event as it unfolds.
Just as your event needs a physical space to come to life, your online equivalent needs a home, too. You could use the existing spaces of your community for this, the Facebook group, for example, or the official mailing list, but it might overwhelm those that are not involved in the event at hand – or might exclude newcomers from participating.
In most cases, it’s good to think about two kinds of spaces:
- an ‘official’ webpage for the event that you use to collect all harvests and point to links elsewhere on the web. Example: iucnworldconservationcongress.org
- a hashtag that allows participants to notify you (and others) that the content they have posted is related to the event. Example: #IUCN2012
Speaking an invitation
Once you have defined a room for online engagement around your event, don’t forget to invite people in. This could take the form of a dedicated email or news story, circulated to the relevant communities. Most importantly: encourage your participants to spread the word for you.
Hosting meaningful conversations
Be clear about the kind of engagement you would like to see. Is there a dedicated group of people maintaining the space? Are you just reporting, or are you interested in questions, comments and thoughts? How will you bring conversations happening online back into the live event?
At the Learning Village, we focused on gathering participant’s personal perspectives and pictures in a group blog. We used Posterous as it allows easy posting by email. To date, eleven participants have contributed 25 posts.
During the bi-annual AKtiVCongreZ, we use a public Etherpad to collaboratively write the minutes (and discuss them with non-participants) as the event unfolds.
Harvesting the harvest
Some events generate a storm of activity, with photos, Twitter updates, blog posts and random comments. To be of service for the community, put together a summary document or report (e.g. using Storify, a Google Doc or a simple blog post) including the most relevant results and their sources. This way, it’ll be easy for you (and others) to answer the question: What actually happened at this event?
This post is the result of a conversation at this month’s Online Communications Question Time. The next edition of this free conference call with ON:SUBJECT will take place on Wednesday, 10 October at 17:00 CET (what’s that in my timezone?).