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Social Interactions

Social Interactions

Introduction

By social interaction we mean any planned or unplanned chats, meetings or trips that in large part involve interacting with other attendees in a social manner.

Usually, at an in-person workshop or conference you have a range of social and networking opportunities available. This may include: icebreakers, cultural trips such as to a local historic landmark or museum, a main conference dinner or celebration, and smaller interactions such as pub visits and break-time chats. Is it possible to recreate these events online? The resources available to online conferences may be more limited, however the social experience can still be rich. We now present several ideas to turn in-person social events to online social events. Throughout all of these it is important to consider whether resources would be accessible to all members of your group.

Icebreakers

Icebreakers are a great way of creating first links between attendees. This is especially important at an online workshops and conferences where spontaneous interactions occur less often. Additionally, having a well run icebreaker at the beginning of each day can set a more open and collaborative tone for your event. Depending on the number of attendees it is likely that you will want to divide the group into breakout rooms using your conferencing software. Here are some suggestions:

  • Divide into groups of up to four people with a time limit of two to three minutes. Ask attendees to introduce themselves and to share something specific about themselves (e.g. their favourite food, where they most recently went on holiday, what they are currently watching on TV, etc.). Inspired from Collaborations Workshop 2020.
  • Minigames Canvas - Remotely Green. For group sizes between two and ten. This link will change soon

Break-time chats

While a lot of people will wish to switch off from their screens during break-times and lunch-times, some will wish to meet new people or continue conversations they had started during the event. Consider keeping the main conferencing room open all day for people to pop into and out of. Also, consider making several social break out rooms for people to use as they wish during the event. A "quiet" room for people to join but not speak may also be useful, for people to still feel connected to the conference (and receive chat messages) but have a break from talks / workshop events.

Cultural trips

There are many online resources for exploring virtual exhibits and landmarks. Using software that allows screen sharing, a conference facilitator can share their screen for the group to view an exhibit. Alternatively, some time can be set aside for attendees to find exhibits that interest them (for example in Google Art & Culture). Chat facilities can be used for attendees to link to recommended exhibits.

Where can the online exhibits be found?

Conference dinner / pub trip

Often at the end of an online event day the last thing anyone wants to do is look at their screen even more. Consider having your social event earlier in the day, as a break from the main event work. This gives attendees a chance to network and socialise without being too tired of screens. Additionally, there may be competing demands with partners and childcare. Here are some creative ways to have people interacting:

  • A "pub quiz" hosted by the event organisers. Bring families into the event with a family friendly pub quiz.
  • Pictionary. Dividing into breakout rooms of around eight people, take it in turns to use the Pictionary generator to draw pictures on an online whiteboard. The first to guess what is being drawn is the next to draw. Count up the number of correct guesses to find a winner.

Only online

Some social interactions are best placed online! Here are some examples:

  • A daily challenge. Ask attendees to post a picture a day to a shared chat. Example challenges include: "What is the view out of your window?", "Best pet!" and "What have you been cooking?". Attendees could vote on a winner every day.
  • Setting conference software backgrounds. If your chosen conferencing software allows users to choose backgrounds for their video image, let them know about this on the first day. Fun and changing backgrounds often spark conversations.

Tools

For all of the suggestions above, only your standard conferencing software (such as Zoom), a chat facility (such as Slack) and an online whiteboard (such as Miro) is required.

Conclusion

Virtual social interactions do not have to be a second best to in-person social events. Additionally, there may be attendees who would otherwise not have been able to join in the social events who can now take part, widening accessibility.