Small workshops can be valuable spaces for discussion, knowledge sharing and problem solving, but often pass by unnoticed by the wider community. Can event amplification help?
We have been considering how to combine online social tools and channels to get maximum benefit for the lowest cost when amplifying a small workshop. In this post, we discuss the options available and how they can help to increase the impact of small workshops.
Why Amplify a Small Workshop?
Small workshops for 20-40 people are often really valuable spaces where frank discussions and practical problem solving can take place, along with opportunities to share innovative work in a particular niche.
However, these events can go unnoticed compared to larger scale conferences. This means that the benefits of any investment in the workshop can be limited to those few in attendance, rather than the niche community as a whole.
Amplifying a small workshop can be a cost effective way to increase the impact of the event by creating an important record of the proceedings. However, some techniques used to amplify larger conferences – such as live video streaming – may seem overkill for a smaller gathering. The costs of delivering these professionally may also be considered prohibitive if you don’t have people on the event team who can amplify the event.
We have devised a package that includes some core amplification strategies specifically for small workshops, and some alternatives to suit different audiences/event aims.
Amplifying a Small Workshop
Our package of cost effective techniques to amplify a small workshop includes:
A live audio stream from key sessions
Live audio streaming is a very cheap alternative to live video streaming that could benefit many small events where video streaming is simply not an option.
Our favourite tool is Mixlr, which allows you to embed an audio player directly onto the event webpage. This player can be used to broadcast live audio directly from your event, or to broadcast pre-recorded content via a SoundCloud playlist. This means you could programme a day of live radio-style content to your remote audience, with live content from the parts of your workshop programme that lend themselves to live streaming.
Upload of presentation slides to SlideShare
SLideShare is often the platform that offers the best return in terms of viewer numbers for an amplified event. Collecting and uploading speakers’ slides is an extra administrative task that usually falls to the event organiser.
If an event amplifier is on hand to carry out tasks like this, then the slides could go up during the event and be publicised via Twitter so that both the remote and local audience can benefit from them immediately.
Blog post summarising the key outcomes of the workshop
A blog post (or series of short blog posts) that record the main points discussed during the workshop can be a useful way to disseminate the results of your event quickly in a format that can be easily accessed by a remote audience. For some examples, see our blog of the sessions at UXBristol 2014.
Upload of audio recordings to appropriate online sharing platforms
Audio recordings can be reused in a number of ways, including via podcasts and online sharing platforms like SoundCloud. Because audio is much easier to edit compared to video, it can be uploaded quickly after an event, making it available to share almost straight away so your event is amplified through time.
Every event and audience is different, so the most appropriate amplification channels will vary. Variations could include…
Webinars from key sessions
Audio- and slide-only webinars using platforms like AnyMeeting or GoToWebinar, or even Google Hangouts, may be more appropriate than a live audio stream if you have a defined online audience, or if you want to share selected sessions with other events happening on the same day in different places. Again, a webinar can be easier to set up and host than a live video stream, and can be run from a venue with a slower internet connection speed.
Coordination of audience-authored blog posts
If you have enthusiastic bloggers in your workshop audience, an event amplifier could act as your blog editor for the day to ensure their content is published quickly and efficiently. The event amplifier could also take notes and feedback from audience members and create blog posts based directly on their comments to create more collaborative content about the workshop.
Facilitating a Twitter chat
If time allows, an event amplifier could facilitate a Twitter chat as part of your workshop programme. This provides a focussed time when both the local audience and a remote audience can come together to discuss an issue or ask questions in the form of a structured Twitter chat.
Twitter activity at a small workshop can sometimes be sporadic and may not result in many of your key messages reaching a much wider audience. Advertising a dedicated Twitter chat around one of your workshop topics can create an online mini-event associated with your workshop that, if well timed, will result in more meaningful engagement with a remote audience via Twitter.
Storify summary of the workshop
If your audience is known to be particularly active on Twitter or Instagram, then a multimedia summary using a tool like Storify can be a useful way to summarise and circulate the outcomes of your event. It is particularly good for summarising a Twitter chat.
Coordination of a workshop etherpad or wiki
If your workshop features group exercises or collaborative work to solve a problem, then a workshop etherpad or wiki may be a useful output. Your event amplifier will be able to set this up, edit and structure it to make it a more readable resource for reference after the event.
The above package of activities (or a carefully selected combination of the variations) can be carried out by one multi-tasking event amplifier during the course of the event, resulting in little or no added post production time. This means that you could be looking at an event amplification package costing as little as a few hundred pounds.
Small workshops usually have much tighter budgets than large events, but often feature really valuable conversations that are harder to capture and make available to the wider community. For any small workshop organiser thinking about amplifying their event, it will be important to consider the added benefits that amplification can help their event deliver to the community – particularly in terms of measurable impact that can be reported back to funders via viewer metrics.
As with all amplified events, it is best to start by listing what you want to achieve from your event, then discuss how to create a package of event amplification activities that will best deliver those aims.
There are some event amplification ‘staples’ that are conspicuous by their absence in the list of options above. Here’s why…
Live Twitter Commentary
A live Twitter commentary is sometimes useful at a small workshop, particularly when there is a wider audience interested in the workshop themes. If you have restricted places on the workshop and have a long waiting list, a live commentary can be a useful addition to your amplification plan. It is worth telling everyone on the waiting list that there will be a commentary on the event hashtag so they can actively follow along.
However, a live Twitter commentary is a resource-intensive thing to offer. The person tweeting has to concentrate fully on the task, and cannot multi-task effectively as with some of the other activities listed above. Where finances are tight, it may be worth considering how to get your event amplifier to do as many different activities as possible to extend the reach of your event, rather than placing all of your eggs in the Twitter basket.
An alternative approach is to task several members of your workshop audience with the job of tweeting specific sessions. A short burst of live tweeting by each person can spread the load and ensure that each individual can still take an active part in the workshop. It can also promote more natural Twitter activity from your audience.
Video production can be an expensive undertaking for a smaller event. Workshop venues are normally smaller and less inspiring backdrops for videos, and lighting is harder to control, often resulting in dimly-lit footage.
We love producing video, and often it is the best way to share the outcomes of an event. However, whilst some workshops do benefit from video, we have found that many could achieve the same result by focusing their resources on the production of high quality audio recordings and live audio streams, which can be less intrusive at a small event. If you collect copies of all of the speakers’ slide decks, videos can be created at a later point using the slides as visuals, should you decide to that tapping into YouTube’s viewer base would be beneficial.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of ways to amplify a small workshop. However, hopefully this shows the range and options and demonstrates that, with creativity and a bit of multi-tasking, it is possible to amplify a small workshop to a wider live audience and create useful materials that will increase the impact of the event over time, without spending a fortune.
If you would like help amplifying your small workshop to a wider audience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs and get a quote.