The heart of NetHui is the discussion sessions, where diverse groups of people come together to share their experiences and knowledge. It’s an excellent opportunity to meet new people and learn something, and discussions ensure that NetHui is lively year after year, even if you’re an old-timer. I’ve previously shared some of my favourite session topics, and today I offer a few tips for making the most of your NetHui experience as a facilitator or a participant.
- Ask questions - NetHui is about conversations and discussions, not presentations. The best sessions begin with the right question: how can we make something better, how do we balance two competing tensions, what’s the root cause of a problem?
- Everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach. The beauty of NetHui is that it brings people from all walks of life, experience, and knowledge into the same room. By tackling complex questions, we create an environment where lived experience is just as important as academic or technical expertise.
- Listen more than you speak - this is good advice for everyone, but especially facilitators. If you have a lot of feelings about a topic, you’re better off attending rather than facilitating that topic. In a well-run session, the facilitator will spend more time connecting thoughts and moving the discussion along than expressing their views.
- Always use the mic - no one cares how loud you think you are! The mic is essential for ensuring you’re captured on the livestream and in the captioning and is the only way that people watching online will get to hear from you. Plus, you’re helping make NetHui more accessible for people who are hard of hearing. (Not to mention making sure only one person is speaking at a time!). A more accessible world starts with you!
- At a virtual event, mic etiquette is more about waiting a beat for others to finish before speaking so the facilitators can switch mics on and off. It can also mean using the chat functionality to add a comment or a link quickly while it’s most relevant - be flexible and open to new ways of communicating so everyone can be heard!
- Skip the intro round - you only have an hour to explore a rich and fascinating topic. If you start by giving everyone a minute or two to introduce themselves, you’ll be halfway through your time before you even get to the good stuff. Use some ‘show of hands’ questions as an ice-breaker instead, and use the messaging functions in the virtual event to follow up with interesting people.
- It’s okay to leave or join a session at any time - if a discussion isn’t quite what you expected, or you’re just curious about another. Just slip in and out quietly. If you arrive part-way through a session, take a few minutes to listen before you jump in so you don’t interrupt the flow.
- If you’re torn between two sessions in the same time slot, go to the one you know the least about. You probably talk about your area of expertise or specialisation all the time - this is your chance to mix it up.
Check out the programme to get a sense of what topics will be covered. It’s likely to change along the way, so don’t start planning your schedule too soon. We’ll see you there!
This blog post by Jess Ducey, Community Engagement Whiz at InternetNZ, was originally written for 2019 NetHui. It’s been updated for 2020’s virtual event.