Collect and Synthesize Ideas from Your Community in Real-Time through this Virtual Event Plan

How To
December 31, 2022
Lookin down on a table with computers that people are working on

There is a very specific event format that we use to get ideas from our community, observe those ideas, collect insights from them in real time, synthesize those ideas together, and then present them back to the community so that they feel heard and listened to.

The first step is to have the attendees join a sort of round table. This can be done either on site somewhere in a physical location, fully online, or hybrid. It doesn't matter, as long as you can get people into round tables of some sort, it will work. From there, you are going to either have individual people contribute their own ideas, or have a scribe listen to and write down the ideas. Optionally, you could have some control room people who are hearing the ideas that are coming in and being written down by the scribe or being generated by the users in real time. The control people will look at those ideas and flag and tag them as the best ideas or with any themes or trends that they're noticing. Again, that's an optional step. Whether or not you have a control room, you will want synthesizers to review the ideas and prepare some kind of synthesis from what they're hearing the community say in real time. After the round table segment is over, you will want to have a Keynote or presentation of some kind where the synthesis is presented back to the attendees. 

To give an example, you can have something at the beginning to prompt attendees during the round tables. In an all-hands meeting you could tell employees you want to solve a sustainability issue at your company, and so we're going to need people in round tables and discuss what it could look like to be more sustainable. One of the ideas that comes out of the round table is going paperless. A lot of people say that, so the control room flags that there's a theme of a paperless office. Then the synthesizers are seeing that and asking what would it mean to go into a paperless office? They will then present that back to the attendees along with some possible ideas and solutions. You may want another round of round tables after deciding you want to be a paperless office to discuss what that could look like more in depth and bounce around the ideas. You can repeat the process as many times as you'd like and through it, you'll be able to generate more ideas and also hone in on actionable solutions. At the end, you could publish a report with all of your findings. This can be super, super powerful, especially if you have some sort of community that would be interesting to other people. 

Let's say you have a bunch of sales or marketing professionals and you're generating ideas on trends for the next year. You might want to use the data from the publisher report and share it with your network or share it with your own sales and marketing reps to be able to use in customer conversations. 

So these insights that you've collected from the round tables, they've been synthesized in real time and presented back to the community. You can optionally publish a report. All of this is going to make your users feel so listened to and heard. This is also going to be used for product feedback in product-led companies who are trying to build new features, or see where people are getting the most value. Use cases for this are endless. We've even used this process to help solve giant institutional challenges for international organizations. It's a really powerful thing. 

Now let's jump into how to actually facilitate this. The great news about this process is it can be facilitated in a lot of ways. There's no one right way of doing this, but there is some data and structure hierarchy here that makes it work. You can use Zoom, or more engaging platforms like Hopin, Session, or Livestorm. No matter how you do it, even on site, the key component you're going to need is some sort of database to facilitate. 

The database we personally use to facilitate this event type is Airtable. In Airtable, we have some session info. In this case, we've planned to do four rounds of these breakout round tables. We also have a “people” tab where we have all the different scribes and volunteers. In this case, we have 30 different round tables, and I just have some sample information in here, and I've tracked all of their login information. We do create Airtable accounts for each person using our own company email address and then give them out to each person, their username and passwords, so we can control that, but if they have their own account, we can use that too. Note for Airtable, if you do invite all of these people, you'll get some Airtable credits the first time and then you can just cancel after a month's subscription. The core functionality of this all comes down to those ideas. I've pre-created 3,000 simple records that are all identical other than they have different tables. Through linked relationships, it pulls in information on who the scribe and the control room person is. 

Scribes have their own interface. It’s very simple and they can just enter in ideas as line items. As they type in new ideas and click save on that idea, the database is built in a way where we're going to see that idea show in real time. There is also a control room interface. The control room people are also going to be seeing those ideas come in real time. Remember earlier, I said control room people can categorize or mark or flag things. There are columns in their interface to mark ideas for impact, how actionable they are, or having multi-select for themes. One column, if marked, will send the ideas to the synthesizer interface. The synthesizers are going to see that idea come into their view in real time and they can then decide if they would like to make that idea something that they want to include in their presentation at the end. You can also control what each interface sees. You could hide first round ideas from the synthesizers and only have them see the second round ideas so they can no longer edit any round one ideas. That's how you really guide your scribes, facilitators, and synthesizers to make sure they know what they're doing and stay on track. What's really powerful is at the end of all of this, we can see the information for every single record of all ideas, and we can do some really significant data analysis with filters, groups, sorting, and color coding all this to pull a great report or repurpose the information for future use.

This process can be really powerful to get employee insights especially if you're doing an all-hands meeting and want to solve a big idea or a big problem together. 

In part three, we're going to build on what we learned in part one of making our communities more human and making them more relational, build on what we learned in part two about getting really great insights and feedback from our community, and how all of that in part three will actually give us a higher ROI, reduce churn, increase product adoption, and actually tangibly yield more engaged community members and how we can measure that and some things we can look for.

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