Tips for Discussion Group Conveners

Expectations for Conveners

  1. Draft an initial one-page to two-page, Current Issue Digest to be posted to ILI-L at least two weeks before the event and distributed to attendees when marketing the event.

Note that the digest needs to be submitted to the Committee for approval before posting, and someone from the DGSC will work the convener(s) on drafting the digest. The digest should follow the format described below. You will note that most of the information going into this initial digest is the same information that was to be included in the proposal.

  • Title of Discussion
  • Date, Time, and URL for accessing the discussion
  • Names of Convener(s)
  • Clear description of the discussion issue.
  • Rationale for convening a discussion on this topic.
  • Importance of the topic for academic librarians.
  • Questions that will form the basis for the discussion.
  • Very short recommended reading list to prepare attendees for the discussion. Try to include links or DOIs whenever possible and at least something that will be accessible to everyone.
  1. Facilitate a “Current Issue Virtual Discussion” around the time of the ALA Annual Conference.

As the convener, you will determine the design of the discussion forum that you prefer. For example, you will work with the committee to identify potential panelists to join in the discussion. Additionally, you will help determine the organization of the presentation. For example, you will suggest in which order panelists should present and respond to discussion questions and how to enlist audience participation in the discussion.  These additional tips will help make for a successful virtual discussion. Participants will likely be sharing responses in the chat of the forum platform :

  • Share ground rules for the discussion to ensure the group stays focused on the topic, encourages participation from many people, and everyone understands how the discussion forum is designed.
  • Use the introduction period to briefly frame the issues.
  • Be prepared with a few questions to start the discussion.
  • Give people time to think about the question and respond.
  • To generate discussion from someone’s comments, try rephrasing as a question, for example: “What experiences has anyone else had with (X topic or concept)?”
  • Use the whole group to contribute to answers to questions. The conveners and facilitators are not intended to be the only experts.
  • Summarize frequently and keep the group focused on the discussion forum topic.
  • Ensure that someone is keeping track of the time for various segments of the discussion forum. Let the group know when the discussion is reaching the end of its time limit.
  • Use the final five minutes to summarize points from the discussion, thank the participants, and let them know that a final digest of the discussion will be posted on the IS web site.
  • Practice your discussion beforehand. Make sure you have enough time to cover everything you want to cover, leaving enough time for discussion. A committee member will work with you to schedule a practice session on the platform that will be used for the forum.
  • Have fun! This is a topic you’re interested in and the people who attend are there to discuss — you’re not responsible for carrying the whole weight of the discussion.
  • Members of the Discussion Group Steering Committee can assist with taking notes and recording ideas, or you may want to ask attendees to help. If you need facilitators for the discussion, you are responsible for recruiting a sufficient number.
  1. Revise and submit a final Current Issue Digest to be posted on the IS web site within one month of the discussion.
  • This final version should add a summary of what was learned from the discussion.
  • This is an opportunity to add additional readings, websites, etc., perhaps suggested during the discussion.
  • You will need to submit the revised Digest to the co-chairs of the Discussion Group Steering Committee for approval before it will be posted.

Additional Suggestions for Online Discussion Conveners

Planning and Announcing

  • Know ahead of time the registration limit of the webcasting/discussion software and be prepared for 100+ registrations in the first couple of days after announcing the discussion.
  • Confirm ahead of time that recording is available – this is a highly sought after piece of information. The original announcement should mention that the session will be recorded and made available. Links to the recorded session should be sent to the lists once they are available
  • Seek ways for the audience to provide input (questions, feedback, polls) and discuss their responses during the forum
  • Practice the presentation ahead of time to spot problems like microphone functionality problems, presentation software problems, breakout issues, tendency of presenters to drift away from the microphone, etc.
  • Following the session, an  email should be sent to everyone who registered. The message should include:
    • A thank you for attending
    • A link to the feedback form
    • A link to the recorded session

Engaging the Audience

  • There will be several minutes of downtime while attendants log in and before the presentation begins. Periodically welcome new attendees, and check in to make sure their sound is working.
  • Committee chairs should introduce the session and the presenter and close the session with a request to fill out the feedback form.

Problems to avoid

  • Test all audio beforehand to confirm it is audible to everyone and fix potential problems
  • Powerpoint or Google Slides works best for online discussion formats. Avoid Prezi.
  • Communication
    • Assign someone to watch the chat for comments that the audience is making.
    • Arrange ahead of time a good signal for the people watching the chat to get the presenter’s attention.
    • In some software presenters don’t necessarily see all messages typed into the chat, depending on what the chat person chooses for the audience.
  • Attendance

Plan ahead how you will engage the audience (chat, social media, etc.).

Document Revised: February 28, 2019