Part 1 of this post lists our first eight learnings from the online Polish Wikimedia conference. Here you can find more of them. Including the last and the most important of all!
9. From the attendees’ perspective, remote participation is less of a logistical effort. This extends to the period way before the event. In our case, participants (speakers, too) were often way less strict in honoring their commitments than they are at live events. They kept us waiting longer for their decisions about participating. They submitted the details of their talks later than they usually do.
10. Plan a lot and prepare your speakers. If you are having a scenario for a live session panel, discuss “theme entries” (and the amount of them) with your guests earlier. It keeps you within the schedule, and makes everything less stressful!
11. People need to move. And to take breaks. Sitting in front of the computer is much more tiring than being in a conference room. Which means: less session time, more breaks. We went for a 1-hour session/30-minute break schedule with one long (2 hours) lunch break and it was a perfect amount of time to keep everyone focused and well.
12. Diversify your program. Don’t make it a series of webinars. Shift between discussions and lectures, workshops and panel discussions. Changing format will help your attendees keep their focus. We made a mistake of scheduling social activities in the late afternoon when people were tired. In retrospect it would be better to plan them during the day.
13. Be flexible. Not all our ideas went as planned. And it was OK. Rather than pushing them we followed our participants’ needs. We wanted to provide a place for conversations so we opened a participants Telegram group (a solution which worked perfectly during our live events) but people preferred to use the Zoom chat and Telegram became more of a place for announcements. We planned a Wikipedia scavenger hunt for the evening but people preferred to socialize by chatting. If your goals are met in a different way than the one you have planned, who cares! As long as they are met, right?
14. Embrace the fact that things will go wrong. Because some will. The internet can go down, cats may jump on keyboards, the mics and the cameras may not cooperate, the speaker’s neighbours can decide to drill in their walls. There is a lot that can go wrong and not a lot of things you can control. Accept that the event doesn’t need to be perfect to be awesome. It’s not about perfection, it’s about connecting with each other. If obstacles come up, communicate it clearly to your participants and stay kind to yourself even if things go wrong. As long as you have that last one going – everything will be fine. Because kindness is the most important force in the Wikiverse!
And because of that I would like to thank my teammates Wojciech, Klara and Szymon with helping me with their insight in bringing all those learnings together!