Community meeting

11 Steps to Hosting an Online Community Meeting

Open organizations explicitly invite participation from external communities because these organizations know that their products and programs are world-class only if they include a variety of perspectives at all stages of development. It is essential to liaise with and assist these communities. And community calls are my preferred method of interacting with stakeholders inside and outside of an organization. In this article, I’ll share best practices for community calls and talk a bit about how they can drive growth.

What is a community call?

You can think of community calls as office hours for particular topics or as program design sessions. A community call is a meeting, held online, that invites people to come together at a specific time each week or month. They are recurrent and open to anyone who wishes to join them. A community call is a tool for solving problems, breaking out of individual silos and finding points of connection between different initiatives or people. More importantly, a good call serves as a springboard for communities. Community calls bring people together from all over the world. They serve as a social and cultural touchstone. It’s all about connection.

How does a community call develop leadership?

A community appeal demonstrates transparency and collaboration. Invite others to speak. Facilitate a conversation. Do not present. A good community appeal invites people to have ideas, speak up, and talk about their own work. Good leaders encourage action, build partnerships, motivate and empower. A community call develops these skills through thoughtful and fun animation. Community calls thrive on open practices. Open planning, documentation and open thinking are essential.

Make a community appeal

0. Commit

To plan, execute and organize a successful community appeal, you will need to devote some time and energy. In the beginning, you’ll need a day to brainstorm and document what you hope to accomplish, and you’ll need another day to do the logistical setup and promotion. If your call is successful, you will need several hours for each call. You will need one hour to write the agenda each week or month, time to promote, one hour to make the call, another hour to write a reflection, followed by more promotion. A successful community call is a production, but as you get used to it and your community grows, it will become second nature.

1. Determine the identity of your community

If you’re planning on hosting a community call, you need an idea of ​​the community you’re trying to create. Sure, your target audience is “everyone,” but to gain traction, you need to reach influencers first. Define what you hope to “get” from the call. This will focus your community. I am currently leading a community call that focuses on using stories to create impact. I focus on people creating impact with a specific story, people interested in Greenpeace and the 7 changes to openness.

2. Record the purpose of your call

You are going to ask people to join your community appeal. How are you going to present it to them? Write a few sentences summarizing the subject of your call. You can use these phrases to help you promote the call. For instance:

Our community appeal features concrete examples that embody the new story of Greenpeace and the 7 changes. We want to make this community a network that can engage around all things history.

We hope to celebrate each other, identify knowledge gaps and share skills. We serve as a peer group to develop campaign ideas and bring to life the stories we tell at Greenpeace. We want to create campaigns that sing, dance, dream, laugh and capture history and change in new ways.

People will be invited to bring what they are working on or need help with. We hope people will contribute story ideas to improve campaigns, actions and engagement. We see it as a fast and flexible way to collaborate and innovate.

3. Choose a date

Before you promote your call, you need to schedule it! Pick a date and time when most people are likely to be available. Do most members of your community have day jobs? Schedule the call for early evening. Is your community based mainly in Europe? Schedule the call at a time convenient for Europeans. There is no science to choosing the best time. Just find a day/time that works for most members of your community.

4. Choose your technology

Next, select the particular technologies you will use to bring everyone together. I recommend using video conferencing software. You can use anything from to Zoom. Pick something your target community is already using and give it a try. If they’re all part of a Google community, try Hangouts. If you communicate through a specific forum or mailing list, use that list to ask people what they use for video conferencing.

5. Write the agenda

You don’t want to waste people’s time, so you need a plan. If your community doesn’t feel the call is helpful, they won’t come back. They won’t spread the word either, and your community appeal won’t have…community. Balance your schedule. Provide enough of a presentation that people have something to respond to, but also provide enough time for interaction, so people feel invited to speak. Use a collaborative note-taking device (like Etherpad) to schedule your call. This is where you can store logistical information (when the call is, how to connect, etc.). It also serves as a living document for note taking and collaboration.

To help you imagine what a community appeal might look like, I made you a model. Insert your own call info and topics to talk about, and you’re good to go (don’t forget to copy and paste this into your own etherpad!):

Image courtesy of Laura Hilliger (CC BY-SA 4.0)

6. Contact influencers

To grow your community appeal, you need to find like-minded people who are interested in the topics. They can help you spread the word. They are also the people most likely to have the skills to collaborate or discuss “work”. For example, the story community call is open to everyone, but I focus my promotional efforts on people who understand (or at least know) what “story as a theory of change” means. Generate a list of influencers speaking prominently on the topic of your call, then reach out to them individually. Ask them to attend your call. The personal and specific request is much more powerful than a mass email. This is a critical step!

7. Promote your appeal

In the two weeks leading up to your call, you will want to share your schedule widely. Use social media to promote your call, send personal messages and email to lists. Ask people to come to your launch call. Involve your community members from the start. Ask for their opinion. Ask for an entry. Not sure how to write an email inviting people to a community call? Carefree. Here is another model.

8. Arrive early

Load your calendar and dial into the video or conference call at least 15 minutes before everyone is scheduled to join you. You can prepare for your opening, make sure the technology is working, and be ready when people start arriving. Give people time to connect. I usually “officially” start the call about five minutes after the scheduled call time. In the meantime, greet people on the call and explain how to use the etherpad for those who connect.

9. Be a superstar moderator

When you’re ready to start the call, begin by welcoming your attendees and reviewing the purpose of the meeting. Explain how to use Etherpad. Explain how the call works. Let people know that you encourage their participation! Outline the agenda and ask participants to help you take notes. During the call, invite other people to talk. If someone strays from the topic, gently refocus the conversation. Listen. I cannot stress this enough: Listen to your community. Also be sure to take notes! When your time is up, invite people back by notifying them of the next call. And don’t forget to say “thank you!”

10. Write a reflection

This is where notes come in handy. Documentation is an integral part of open organizations. A community call can help you make decisions, brainstorm ideas, and assign tasks, but only if you take care to document your conversation and follow through! Write a personal reflection after each call. Just read the notes and note what the calling experience was like for you. Write down your thoughts shortly after the call ends, so you remember how you felt, what the conversation covered, and how people interacted. Then, when you start promoting your next community call, share the new program as well as the reflection.

I love community calls. I have frequented them and directed them for a long time. Read my experiences on my blog-Where get in touch!