Reflections from ClairCity ’ s webinar series
The ClairCity webinars were a roaring success , exceeding expectations of both the project team and participants .
A total of 654 participants registered to our webinar series , held back in June and July 2020 , and of those 291 attended live . Each webinar was unique , focusing on different aspects of our research : citizen engagement , to modelling and citizen-inclusive policy making , with a special fourth event hearing from local campaigners and their experiences of trying to influence change . At the time of writing the webinars have since been viewed an additional 429 times on YouTube .
While we did not capture demographics of participants , we did ask them to share their location in the ice breaker . From this we learnt that all of our case study cities and regions were represented among the attendees , with further representation from countries across Europe and around the world , from Indonesia to Algeria .
The project team would never have imagined that moving their conference online would lead to such a wide reach . If the figures from Eventbrite are added , which details the number of page views for each webinar ( 4,430 in total ), then over 5,500 people were made aware of the project through the efforts of the Communications team - and this does not include social media impressions . Seeing as though the final conference was expecting just 100 delegates , it goes to show that online may be the new offline when it comes to project dissemination .
Opening slide , webinar 1
Each webinar was between 60-120 minutes in length , depending on the number of speakers to present and content to cover . They were all hosted on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra , were introduced and moderated by a senior member of the team and included two Q & A sessions to allow participants to interact with the speakers . Two out of the four sessions also included external speakers .
A steep learning curve
Given the technology was new to most , each speaker was trained in how to use the platform prior to the session and had several opportunities to rehearse their slides . Participants and staff were also provided with a one-page handout , explaining how to use the technology and given the chance to join a training session a few minutes before the start of each webinar .
The events were advertised through the project ’ s newsletter , social media , and external networks , including the delegate list registered for the ClairCity final conference , due to take place in Brussels in March 2020 .
Despite a few technical glitches , such as WiFi dropping out during a few of the presenter ’ s speeches and the inability to show results of a poll in real-time , the events went smoothly . All materials discussed during the sessions were subsequently shared with participants and a few participants got in touch with the team after to show their appreciation and make connections .
While interaction on social media was encouraged , there was not much uptake . We can only assume that everyone was so interested in the speakers that they were not checking their social media ! Either way , one of the downsides of online events is that you cannot always know about the background of your audience , and when participation is high , you may not be able to engage with them face-to-face , leaving them to check emails or switch off entirely .
In balance , the whole team was in agreement that the webinars were delivered professionally and led to much greater dissemination than would have been possible at an in-person conference - they also saved air miles , hotel , catering and printing costs . The project may now have drawn to a close , and the team moved on to their new ventures , but it is without doubt that they will take these learnings onto their new projects , rethinking how they go about their engagements and disseminations for a long time to come .