Bangkok, December 7 2015. 08:30 AM.
I look at an empty room.
The video projector is humming softly, the WiFi is tested, and the coffee is ready. Within half an hour, this room will be filled with 21 people. All are social media trainees for the “High Level Policy Dialogue on Investment in Agricultural Research for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific Region” (HLPD).
I stand still for a moment, and think how much I love these moments filled with potential: As a facilitator, you get 21 strangers into a room and you have eight hours to make them work together as a team. Not only to train them, but to have them bond, focus and ready for two days of live reporting. Or even more: to give them a life experience, add a specific value to their professional skill set, which -potentially- they can use for years to come.
I love it.
As the strangers fill the room…
We only announced this social media workshop one month ago. The available slots filled up in a record time.
We now have 21 trainees: seven original meeting participants, five sponsored youth (YPARD members and nine trainees from other interested organisations.
They make an excellent mixture of professional communicators, scientists, practitioners and academici. The participants mixed “young” and “experienced” with ages ranging from 23 to 72. We have both social media novices and advanced users.
On the first day of the training, we have a full agenda: We’re doing a fly-over of all social media tools, as used in a professional environment, and cover two key tools more in-depth: Twitter and blogging.
Only minutes into the training and the first live tweets start flying out:
I see the group bonding as the first training day progresses. We end the session by 7 PM. It is late, everyone is worn out, but I think they’re all ready for the real work.
Social reporting from the HLPD meeting
In the following two days, the social media trainees will transform into “social reporters”: reporting live from the HLPD meeting, as the practical part of the social media training. “Practice makes Perfect!”.
For new social media trainees, hardly any task is as challenging, as to report live from a meeting. Not every trainee is a “content expert”. They have to grasp the core parts of each presentation and condense them into a 140 character tweet or a short blog post. Not all of them are born writers, or master English as their mother tongue.
But as soon as the meeting kicks off, I know the team is up to its task. Some live tweets:
There is so much live tweeting going on during the day, I think: “And when will they do their live blogging?”. During the training session, I stressed them to use their time at the meeting to get blogpost content: “Either try to summarize the session”, I said, “or give your opinion on the presentation’s content, or interview one of the panelists”.
Comes 8 PM on day 1 of the HLPD meeting, and I have only received one blog post… I told the trainees I needed all blogs to be in before midnight (Bangkok time), so I could do a first review and send them to Tanya and Charles, our editing and publishing team on stand-by in Rome.
Midnight: Luckily, there is Twitter, and I see a live tweet coming in from the team, still hard at work in our social media room:
The Wifi does not work well in my room. By 2 AM, I give up trying to connect and move downstairs, to our social media room. Throughout the night, twelve draft blogposts trickle in. By 6 AM, I have processed them all. Two hours later, they are all online.
Social reporting, by numbers
By the time the second day at the HLPD meeting ends – well, very very very late that night – we have 22 blogposts online. Within a week, they are read 2,500 times by 900 people.
In the 7 days around the meeting, 1,085 tweets were sent out with the #GCARD3 tag, by 99 different contributors. The tweets were delivered to 426,000 different twitter accounts. Check out all #GCARD3 tweets..
The team also did an extra effort to collect all the presentations given at the conference, and upload them in real time, as the sessions were happening. Within a week those presentations were viewed 4,100 times.
Social media, not a goal but a means
Now, all those facts and figures are nice. Add to it that many participants felt this training gave a real boost in either their social media skills, or their insights in how to use social media for their professional purposes.
All nice, and as a facilitator, something to look back to, with satisfaction. But what really thrills me, is the longer term benefits… Have I, as a facilitator, enthused people well enough, so that they take these skills and do something else, something more, something better?
It seems we have plenty of enthusiasm: Three participants now want to give this social media training to agricultural students at a university in the Philippines. A trainee from a Papua New Guinea wants to do the same at his university.
One participating organisation from Vietnam is interested to further develop their social media strategy, using the skills they picked up at the training. One UN organisation “saw the light” at our meeting, and wants to use young YPARD members to social report from one of their upcoming meetings in Rwanda. Yet another participating organisation wants to hold a social media introduction course for all their key staff. And IAAS Indonesia will have a social media training as part of its upcoming National Congress.
Now, that’s what I like as a facilitator: When participants at a training become so “be-geister-d”, that they want to continue on the path they initiated at the training.
Which reminds me of a song by KC and the Sunshine Band, back in 1975: “That’s the way (aha aha) I like it! (aha aha)”
Aha, aha, aha…
Blogpost and lead picture by Peter Casier, GFAR Social Media Coordinator.