Creating engaging events
Richard Scenna, from YourLink, writes his best tips for planning and creating engaging events for your community.
By: Richard Scenna, Co-Founder & Director, YourLink
With so much more being done online, digital skills are essential for participating in the modern world. Our belief is that everyone has a role to play in supporting those around us to gain these skills and the national Be Connected program provides a great opportunity to achieve this.
The YourLink team has now educated over 1,000 people through our ‘Tea and Technology’ style events and we’re really proud to bring this approach to the Be Connected program as a Capacity Builder.
A ‘Tea and Be Connected’ event is a relaxed 3 hour morning where attendees gain hands-on experience with their own devices in a shared learning setting. And of course, everyone gets to enjoy morning tea.
Our experience has shown that learning digital skills in a safe, comfortable environment with peers is a great way to build confidence. We would like to share our experience with marketing and running events, plus our tips to make them engaging.
Successful marketing of the event
We aim to attract up to 60 people to attend our ‘Tea and Be Connected’ events, so marketing is very important to us. At the ‘Tea and Be Connected’ event at Orange City Bowling Club in September 2018, we had nearly 70 people attend. Here are our steps to successfully marketing your upcoming event:
- Timing. We recommend starting your event communications at least 6 weeks out. Some people may not register for an event that far in advance, but, others like to be very organised. Plus, by starting your communications early, it provides enough time for people to hear about your event through word of mouth.
- Traditional marketing works. As we are aiming to reach digitally excluded groups, using traditional marketing channels such as printed event flyers, print advertising and word of mouth is vital. If the budget allows, we also suggest placing a print ad in a suitable local paper 2-3 weeks out.
- Spread your distribution. Drive or walk around within a 10 km vicinity of the event venue to distribute the event flyers, including pinning them on notice boards. Drop them off at Retirement Villages, libraries and council premises, senior citizen centres, bowling, golf and sporting clubs, technology retailers and shops. Anywhere your audience may be.
- Complement with social media. Facebook posts and boosted posts are a good way of spreading the word in a targeted way. Plus, family members or friends may see the event and share it with the person who needs help with their digital skills.
Ensuring your event is successful
You are creating an experience from the moment the marketing starts, through to the registration process and the actual event day.
- Make it easy to register. Most of the registrations for our events still come in via phone calls, so ensure you have a phone option for registrations. Also, be sure to acknowledge any messages left promptly (within 24 hours). Recording phone numbers from registered attendees will allow you to give them a reminder phone call prior to the event.
- Set the intention. From the introduction, we set the intention and expectation for the morning. A key part of what makes our events successful is our ability to create a relaxed and safe learning space. When we start the session by asking who is lacking confidence using technology, most of the room will raise their hands, even the shy people. This quickly highlights the commonalities in the room and helps to create that safe space.
- Consider room logistics. This is a basic but essential event planning step. Make sure you have a microphone, stable internet connection and a screen visible to everyone in the room. We have a couple of secure data hotspots we use for our events to ensure we always have a stable internet connection and don’t have to rely on the venue’s wifi.
- Capture feedback immediately. Through feedback forms at the event, you are able to capture the sentiment and use this to inform how you’ll plan further events. Plus, the feedback provides great examples of success.
Bring the content to life
With such a large group, it can be challenging to find something suitable for everyone. Creating engaging content is essential to make 3 hours spent together worthwhile.
- Make it interesting. We’ve created a ‘buffet-style’ approach to cover a range of topics so there’s something relevant for each attendee. Topics include language, online safety, understanding data, apps, video calling and getting comfortable with a camera.
- Integrate the Be Connected content. The Be Connected content is designed for people new to digital or wanting to learn more. For example, most people struggle to understand data in the beginning, so we created this diagram to help illustrate it using the Be Connected content.
- Use relevant examples. Avoid being too rigid and allow the flexibility for attendees to ask questions. We find this creates a stimulating environment where participants can feel like their questions are answered and they are listened to. This also breaks up the presenter’s voices and creates empathy.
- Capture feedback immediately. To make the content relevant, we emphasise using examples that make sense to someone’s daily life. An example is that we created a diagram comparing vehicles and smart devices to explain the different terms. This has been very well received, so please feel free to use it if it helps you.
Finally, we believe an important part of our role as a Capacity Builders is to inspire individuals to engage with technology as well as encourage families, friends and the community to be champions for positive change during this journey.
About Richard Scenna, Co-Founder & Director, YourLink
Richard’s enthusiasm and drive comes from his personal desire to create a more inclusive digital and social community for all, particularly seniors. YourLink is an award-winning organisation focussed on the digital inclusion of seniors whether living in an aged care residence, retirement village or the family home. YourLink is Be Connected Capacity Builder.