Return of Experience : Organising a “no travel” seminar

Siggen Seminar 2020 – Key learnings from our adaptation strategy to the travel ban?

Our exposition to the COVID-19 travel ban was very high as we were expecting 25 people to travel from all over Europe to meet in Northern Germany. The rate in which the conditions changed was rather fast. We had to adapt within a fortnight. Instead of cancelling the seminar altogether, we decided to test our resilience and challenge our adaptation capacity. We were confident that we could still meet our objectives at least partially. 

Learning

It was rather easy to adapt the learning aspects and information sharing by leveraging the webinar and video conferencing technologies. 

We decided to go for a format of 3 90-minutes morning sessions with a 5-minute stretching break at halftime. The sessions were structured around key presentations, which did not exceed 20 minutes and were followed by discussions.

According to the feedback we received, this format was appreciated, not too long nor too tiring.

Participants insisted on the usefulness of case studies and concrete examples and best practices. It looks like it is the best way to help them. They also suggested to share the presentation material before the presentation to be able to browse it locally. The screen share is not always practical.

On the content side, the need for more examples of adaptation measures or data driven models and less “guidelines” was also expressed. Stakeholder involvement incl. policymakers  is another topic in high demand.

Read the program highlights here

Meet and exchange

The meet and exchange objective was much harder to reach. It is difficult to replicate digitally the informal discussions and personal encounters of a face to face meeting.

We do not think participants managed to create strong personal bonds. We had created an online who’s who. This was felt by the participants.

It is certainly possible to go further in organising sub-group discussions. It requires clear directions from the organizers. Informal chatting still feels awkward but might work in smaller groups. To be tested

Contribute

Enabling people to contribute was important to us. Here our experience was actually pretty rich. We leveraged cloud technologies, such as online documents to produce notes collaboratively and forms to collect  and share inputs.

Concretely, we integrated a number of simple homeworks in our program that participants could do on their own or with colleagues after the session. The results were accessible online to all participants.  It worked very well to collect and centralise inputs. 

Read the results here

Conclusions

In conclusion, this experience shows that for selected objectives, we can efficiently increase our reach and exchange  by leveraging digital cloud technologies. With adequate preparation, we are confident that this experience can be replicated and enhanced. Besides, some tools could beneficially be integrated in face-to-face meetings.