Virtual Programming

Halton Heritage Services

Cycle #1

Meredith Leonard and Claire Bennett

1. What did you want to find out at the start of your project?

The intention was to find out whether or not their client base would even take up virtual programming, because so many people had said no one would be interested (as they have a lot of seniors in their community). We also wanted to find out how could we best set ourselves up for success and investigate best practices to help their group for future events.

2. What did you actually do?

We first had to acquire the proper software, as we did not already have that in house. We contacted everyone over email, but found it hard to get the word out beyond our direct contact list. They did a short event using a digital film to show among the group and talk through afterward and share stories from the viewers. We have done this several more times to different groups. We used what we learned from this short event to run a virtual conference over several days later in 2021.

3. What was the most difficult thing you found?

A lot of users had never used a virtual platform, they liked being an in-person group for meetings and conversations, so getting people comfortable with participating and sharing through a virtual format was a challenge. We really had to change how we communicate and how we facilitate conversations. Getting the word out to a wider audience was a challenge as we did not have access to digital advertising.

4. What surprised you?

The different ways you can encourage people to engage – it doesn’t just have to be instant participation during the event, you can have people respond to questions afterward, or give people other options than to talk during the Zoom, which can be off-putting for some. We found we needed lots of different entry points for participation and this took a lot of planning; we couldn’t really wing it on the day.

5. What is next for you and/or your org?

We are planning to continue to do virtual programming in the future. Ultimately, we would like to do presentations and workshops using this online format, with facilitated discussion, as part of a hybrid approach. We found we were able to access more speakers and share to more people using digital and we’d like to continue doing that.

6. What 3 quick takeaways would you give to help future participants/your current fellow participants?

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment and push the boundaries
  • Overplan for everything – plan more than you need to or think you need to
  • Think small – or at least start small, find the easiest win and tailor to your reliable community so you can test in a safer environment before testing on a larger scale