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How to Prepare for an Online Chat with an Expert

How to Prepare for an Online Chat with an Expert. Introduction of Chat Preparation Steps. Step 1: Define the goal or focus of the chat Step 2: Clarify your chat objective Step 3: Consider your audience Step 4: Identify an appropriate expert Step 5: Approach and solidify your expert speaker

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How to Prepare for an Online Chat with an Expert

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  1. How to Prepare for an Online Chat with an Expert

  2. Introduction of Chat Preparation Steps • Step 1: Define the goal or focus of the chat • Step 2: Clarify your chat objective • Step 3: Consider your audience • Step 4: Identify an appropriate expert • Step 5: Approach and solidify your expert speaker • Step 6: Choose an online chat structure • Step 7: Set protocols for the chat structure you use • Step 8: Prepare your audience • Step 9: Prepare your expert • Step 10: Prepare your moderation team • Step 11: Create explicit chat prep docs • Step 12: Advertise and get R.S.V.P.’s • Step 13: Get ready! Get set! Go! • Step 14: Wrap it up

  3. Step 1: Define the Goal or Focus of the Chat Once you have established the objectives for the chat, consider the overall goal that you wish to achieve. • Can the goal for the chat be achieved in a medium other than an online chat? • If so, what are the reasons that a chat should be used? SAMPLE GOAL: The goal of this chat is to give participants the opportunity to interface directly with an acclaimed learning styles expert so that they may challenge their own assumptions by hearing of that person’s experience, research and insights.

  4. Step 2: Clarify Your Chat Objectives After you define your goal for the chat, consider your objectives. • What concepts and ideas do you hope to achieve during the chat? SAMPLE OBJECTIVES FOR A CHAT: Participants will: • Explore the various ways that technology can be used to enhance lessons that include a consideration of learning styles. • Discuss the pre-planning strategies necessary for structuring a lesson that includes technology to meet different learning styles and preferences. • Identify the challenges of using technology to teach with learning styles and propose solutions for these issues. • Reflect upon assessment techniques that can be used for a lesson that includes technology and learning styles. • Discuss strategies for garnering support for using technology to teach with a consideration of learning styles.

  5. Step 3: Consider Your Audience You will need to reflect on your audience as you build your chat structure. Consider their characteristics and collective familiarity with the content so you can tailor the chat to best fit their needs and meet your stated goal. You may find the following questions helpful to guide your audience reflection: • How many participants do you expect for your online chat? • What kind of experience does your audience have with online learning and chat technology? Is there a continuum or are most of your participants at a similar level? • What is your audience’s level of understanding of the content you will be covering in your chat? Are they still gathering information on the topic or are they ready to analyze, synthesize and evaluate it? Are they at varying levels of understanding or are they all in sync for the most part? • How will you adjust the chat content and/or structure to compensate for varying levels of experience with the technology and/or the concepts being presented? • Tip: Teaming participants is great way to compensate for those differences. Teammates can help one another and work together to solidify their combined knowledge, then take it to a higher level. To do this successfully, you will want to team folks far enough in advance of the chat so they can build their shared knowledge over a period of time in preparation.

  6. Step 4: Identify an Appropriate Expert • Get Member Input: Depending on your community situation it can be very valuable to get member input when brainstorming possible guest speakers. If participants help identify a speaker, it’s more likely that they will want to participate in the chat when it happens. Additionally, members may have connections with certain professionals, which can be a good lead and helpful when inviting those folks to be your guest expert. • Don’t Forget to Look in Your Own Backyard: Considering that your community is made up of professionals, it is likely that you may have experts already in your midst. Be sure to get to know your community members so you can tap into their expertise when needed. By choosing an existing member as a speaker, you may not get the cache of a guest but you will get to work with someone who already knows the ELC and can contribute to further dialogue on the topic in a discussion thread. You may even be identifying and grooming a future ELC leader! • Be sure the Expert will Meet Your Stated Goals:Ask yourself these key questions before approaching a speaker: • Will they be able to speak to each of your chat objectives? • Do they have enough experience to be considered an “expert?”

  7. Step 5: Approach and Solidify Your Expert Speaker Think about why an expert would want to participate in your chat and strategize your “ask” accordingly. Ask yourself: • What is the expert’s pay-off for participating? • Will you be offering any monetary incentives or is this a professional favor? The tone of your approach will vary depending on these circumstances. Since in most cases you will not have the ability to offer monetary incentives, we suggest thinking creatively about in-kind contributions you and your community can make in exchange. In many instances, in-kind contributions can actually be worth more than monetary ones! For example, perhaps you could offer: • The community as a future bank of related professionals who can participate in research, and/or offer feedback on ideas, documents, etc. • The opportunity for the expert to promote courses, books, conferences, organizations, etc. with which he/she is involved or has a vested interest. • The chance to be introduced to and experience an online professional community. (*Don’t underestimate the power of this opportunity. Many professionals are intimidated by the online medium and would welcome the chance for a hand-held experience to get their virtual feet wet.) • A professional I.O.U. for a similar cause.

  8. Step 5: Approach and Solidify Your Expert Speaker (continued) Give the expert options for his/her participation so you increase your chances for a YES. • You may want to offer a few of dates and times that are workable for your community. • Traditional chats are an hour to an hour-and-a-half, and that’s an optimal time for the exercise, however a 45 minute chat can also be beneficial -- so be flexible if you really want your expert to participate! • Additionally, consider the person’s technical background and their schedule. You can offer to have them online in the chat, or simply on the phone with a person designated as the expert’s “transcriber.”

  9. Step 5: Approach and Solidify Your Expert Speaker (continued) Once you get a YES, confirm it and assure your expert that they will be fully supported. We recommend sending a confirmation letter or email to your expert. Be sure it includes: • The date and time they will be chatting. • Tip: Don’t forget to let your guest know that you will need him/her to be online (and on the phone) before the chat begins. • Your personal touch. Treat your expert as though they were going to be guest in your ELC hotel. Make them feel very comfortable and “taken care of” by letting them know that you will personally be making sure they are fully ready for the chat experience and that you will be in touch with more details and preparatory materials soon.

  10. Step 6: Choose an Online Chat Structure • There are three foundation structures for chats with an expert: • Lecture In a Lecture-style chat structure, an expert presents information to participants who observe through the chat. There is minimal or no direct interaction between the expert and participants. This type of chat is useful when an expert or group of experts needs to present information to a large group of people at once. Lecture-style chats require a significant amount of pre-chat preparation, and light moderation. • Controlled Audience Participation In this structure, the audience has a limited amount of direct interaction with the expert. Interaction with the expert may take place through the moderator, as questions to the expert are filtered through the moderator and posed to the expert at specific times during the chat or at the moderator’s discretion. In another instance, the expert may accept questions from individuals in a raise-hand format. Chats in this structure typically require a great deal of pre-chat preparation, and moderate moderation during the chat. • High-Level Audience Engagement In this foundation structure, the audience has a high level of interaction with the expert. The expert shares information while engaging in rich, high-level discussion with the group. Often, participants work in teams through this structure, and the size of the entire group of participants is relatively small. Chats in this structure require a moderate amount of pre-chat preparation for the moderator, and may require a great deal of preparation for the participants. Also, a moderate to high amount of moderation is required.

  11. Step 6: Choose an Online Chat Structure(continued) The number of and type participants in your chat will influence your pre-planning decisions and will help inform which chat structure will work best for you. • Generally, basic chats should not exceed 12-15 people – however, depending on your goals and your chosen structure, chats with an expert can sometimes accommodate more participants. • Tip: If you have more than 15 persons, it is advised that you have one moderator for every additional 15 persons. If you have a large audience and cannot identify additional moderators, you may want to consider creating two chats to be given at separate times, provided your expert speaker is willing to offer his or her time twice.

  12. Step 6: Choose an Online Chat Structure(continued) Following are five examples of chat structures that can be used when working with a guest speaker: 1. The Lecture Hall: This is a chat structure where all questions are determined ahead of time via discussion thread. You do not need to team members for this structure since they will simply be “listening” to the speaker and will not have an opportunity to participate in the dialogue. Benefit: You can invite a large number of participants since they will primarily be only “listening” and very little participant preparation is necessary other than determining the questions in the discussion thread.

  13. Step 6: Choose an Online Chat Structure(continued) 2. The Lecture Hall with an Audience Microphone: This chat structure calls for the same pre-determined questions via member discussion thread, however participants are given the opportunity to build on the dialogue. For example, the moderator can ask a question of the expert, the expert can post a response and then the moderator can use the “open/closed forum” strategy for further discussion – upon which the expert can comment and contribute. Depending on the size of your group it may be useful to team members and use an online seating chart. Benefit: You can have a controlled but organic conversation and involve all participants.

  14. Step 6: Choose an Online Chat Structure(continued) 3. The Lecture Hall with Index Cards for Audience Members:This chat structure is similar to the first two, however instead of using open and closed forums for member discussion, the only way that members participate is through the moderator(s). Members can IM or email moderators questions for the expert while the chat is happening. Of course, you can infuse prepped questions with spontaneous ones. Because of the fast pace of these kinds of chats, it’s recommended that there be a moderator whose job it is to only receive participant questions. Teaming is optional for this structure. Benefit: You can add a lot of rich texture to a chat by giving your audience members a voice, but still maintain control of the chat so that it doesn’t get off-track. As the moderator you can choose which member questions to ask and when so that you can stay on target to meet your chat goals.

  15. Step 6: Choose an Online Chat Structure(continued) 4. The Lecture Hall with and Audience Microphone and Index Cards:This chat structure is a combination of numbers 2 and 3 mentioned previously. You can offer prepped questions to the moderator, use open and closed forum and allow participants to send suggested questions to the moderator. These types of chats can be challenging for the moderator(s) since there is so much happening at once, however if you set up a strong moderation team, you can have great success using this dynamic structure. Like number 3, it is recommended that you designate a moderator whose job it is to simply receive member questions. Teaming is also recommended for this structure. Benefit: You offer participants multiple ways to interact with the content of the chat. This structure is lively and tends to be exciting because it moves very quickly.

  16. Step 6: Choose an Online Chat Structure(continued) • 5. The Workshop:This chat structure is popular for groups who wish to have a tangible product after a chat. In this structure, an expert can actually present prepared content like a PowerPoint presentation and ask questions of the members in order to spark higher level thought – thus stepping them through a process of creation. It is recommended that members be teamed for this exercise. • Benefit: Participants have expert advice and help in creating a professional product. Participants are actively involved since the expert is asking questions of them.

  17. Step 7: Set Protocols for the Chat Structure You Choose Etiquette The world of virtual chat requires a distinct etiquette. In a community, whether virtual or face-to-face, there are basic guidelines for behavior and interaction. Etiquette is usually passed by word of mouth from old timers to newer members of the community. However, in a moderated virtual chat setting, the etiquette or protocols are often set by the facilitator or developed collaboratively by the participants prior to the chat. Protocols • As the facilitator you will determine the protocols you feel are necessary for your chat. Protocols will differ depending on the chat structure you choose. Here is a sample of chat protocols. • Tip: Once you have developed your chat protocols, start disseminating them to your audience members. Attach them to emails and announcements that are advertising the chat. Additionally, we recommend making them part of the essential documents that members will need to have if they are participating in the chat. It’s a good practice to remind participants to print these documents before the chat begins. If your protocols are concise, you can post them directly into the chat room. If they are more than 10 lines, simply post the link to the document in the chat room so if people don’t have the protocols in front of them, they don’t waist time hunting for them. The more familiar your participants are with the protocols, the more smoothly your chat will run!

  18. Step 8: Prepare Your Audience To Team or not to Team? Every community is different and each chat circumstance unique. There are situations in which teaming members is clearly a worthwhile practice and other instances which there is no value added. Effective ELC facilitators carefully weigh the pros and cons of teaming members as they prepare for each chat. As you are thinking through the prospect of teaming members, it is useful to note that there are two compelling reasons to team participants.

  19. Step 8: Prepare Your Audience(continued) 1.To provide an organizational structure that will reduce chat chaos: Based on the needs of the chat structure you choose, teaming members, even just 24 hours in advance (so you have time to create and disseminate a seating chart), can be a useful technique if you have a large group and want to prevent a potentially chaotic dialogue. Members do not have to participate in teambuilding activities for this purpose; in fact, members of a team might not know each other at all. The team structure allows the moderator to break down the participant postings into groups of 3-6 (ideally) people at a time.

  20. Step 8: Prepare Your Audience(continued) 2. To increase the richness of content exploration:If your community needs permit, you can delve farther into content by teaming members – especially in preparation for a chat. This method is only recommended if your member group is relatively small (under 40 people) and there is ample time before the chat for team building and collaborative exploration of a topic. Listed below is a basic structure that allows you to take members to an entirely new and higher level of thought in teams and prepare to them to get more out of the chat experience. • Step 1: Build a Shared Knowledge Base – Have all members of a team “empty their pockets” (i.e., share their experiences, knowledge, comprehension and beliefs) on a topic. Once you know where said team is with the topic, you can begin to go farther into it and move on to Step 2. • Step 2: Offer New Content and Challenging Questions – You can introduce new content that will increase the team’s understanding of the topic as well as pose questions that require higher level thinking about it (like questions that call for the team to apply – not parrot – their understanding of a topic, and help them analyze and evaluate what they know). Once you get the team to this second level, you can move on to Step 3. • Tip – Depending on your community timeline and goals, you can repeat Step 2 as needed and lead the team up a virtual ladder of comprehension on a specific topic. • Step 3: Formulate Sophisticated Questions for the Expert – From their new, higher level of understanding, you can ask the team to develop valuable questions for the chat. The questions they craft will be sophisticated and strategic since you have given them the opportunity to elevate their comprehension on a topic by first learning from each other in Step 1, and then collaboratively exploring a new frontier of concepts in Step 2. • Tip: Participating in this journey with your members can help you better understand where they collectively are (or are not) with the chat topic so you can easily share their knowledge level with your expert. Knowing where they are with the content can help the expert tailor his/her contributions to your members and make it most valuable for everyone involved.

  21. Step 8: Prepare Your Audience(continued) If neither of these reasons makes sense considering the specific circumstances of your chat and neither help to get you closer to achieving your chat objectives, then it is likely that teaming members is not necessary for the success of your chat.

  22. Step 9: Prepare Your Expert Preparing Your Expert Regarding Content As far in advance as possible, you will want to communicate the following with your expert: • The goal and objectives of the chat • Background on your community and the members within it • A basic understanding of your members’ collective knowledge level of the concepts that will be discussed • Information on the chat format (how it will begin, what it will look like during the chat, and how it will end) as well as how they will maneuver through the chat (i.e., will they fully take over and run the chat once it begins, or take cues from the moderator throughout?) • Any and all prepared questions • Expectations of their preparation of content • Tip: If you choose the Workshop Structure, significant preparatory work will be needed with your expert so they know exactly what kind of product your members are looking to develop and can tailor their contributions accordingly.

  23. Step 9: Prepare Your Expert(continued) Preparing Your Expert Regarding the ELC Technology that supports online communities and chatting may be completely foreign to your expert -- or not! Investigate how much assistance and guidance he/she will need to feel fully supported in this endeavor. • For the tech savvy expert, you may want to make him/her a temporary member of your community, conduct a brief phone tour of the tool, and do a quick run through of the chat features. (It’s important to test it once to be sure there aren’t any technical issues that might prohibit the full participation of your guest the day of the chat -- like a firewall, etc.) • For the not-so tech savvy expert, you may need to plan on a couple of chat run-throughs or even their participation in the chat via phone with a designated transcriber. • Tip: The phone is a necessity for expert facilitators when they moderate a chat. It’s imperative for you to be in audible contact with your expert – even if they are going to be present in the ELC and do not need a transcriber -- to ensure that the chat runs smoothly. Don’t forget to share that important information with your expert as well!

  24. Step 10: Prepare Your Moderation Team Always swim with a buddy – even online! At the very least there should never be less than two moderators for any chat. • Tip: It’s ideal that your entire moderation team (which includes your expert) be together on the phone (or within earshot if you are all working out of the same office) for the duration of the chat so you can communicate quickly about changes in the chat format, collaborate on content delivery, and trouble-shoot potential pitfalls. You will likely need to use speaker phone and/or conference calling technology to get your Moderation Team together. If you are having more than 15 people for a chat or are using one of the more dynamic chat formats, you will need to: • Assess your moderation needs and determine how many moderators to use and what roles each should have. • Identify people to moderate and confirm their participation. • Assign your moderators clear roles so they know what is expected of them during the chat.

  25. Step 10: Prepare Your Moderation Team(continued) Moderation Team Roles: Primary Moderator: Host • Greets participants at the beginning of the chat, and provides closing remarks at the end of the chat • Sets the tone of the chat • Consistently guides the structure of the chat • Sets open and closed forums • Determines each group’s turn to speak • Manages the time through each section of the chat and for the chat as a whole • Communicates with other moderators to ensure the chat runs smoothly Secondary Moderator(s): • Summarizes at the end of every major section or question for the chat • Saves the chat periodically to preserve a record of the dialogue for archival purposes • Provides technical support before and during the chat through email, instant message, and telephone support • Manages incoming questions in queues, or questions submitted by individuals, and puts them forward to the group or directly to the expert • Focuses on the content of chat (if this role is filled by the expert, then someone must support the expert in content) • Tracks participants to ensure equal participation Tip: Depending on the size of the group and the competences of the group, moderators, and the expert, the moderators can juggle multiple roles. For example, a inexperienced audience will bombard the technical support person, so another moderator may be needed to summarize and save the chat. On the other hand, when working with an experienced audience, the technical support person may be available to summarize.

  26. Step 10: Prepare Your Moderation Team(continued) One example of roles divided across a moderation team: Primary Moderator (essential position for any chat): • Greets participants at the beginning of the chat and sets the tone. • Posts content to introduce and officially start the chat, provides all structure during chat (i.e., opening and closing the forum, posting questions, etc.), and officially closes the chat. • Cues Support Moderator to post summaries to bring sections/questions in the chat to a close. • Manages the participation of the group through the chat experience. • Thanks members and expert at the close of chat for their participation. • Posts any necessary after-chat information in the ELC (when and where to find the chat log, next steps, etc.). • Saves chat periodically to preserve a record of the dialogue for archival purposes. Tech Support (essential position for any chat, unless audience is highly experienced with ELC chat): • Is online throughout duration of chat and serves as tech support for any member having difficulty with the chat technology, through IM in the ELC, email, and phone contact. • If needed, saves chat periodically to preserve a record of the dialogue for archival purposes. Summarizer (optional position, as needed based upon number of members participating, chat structure, and experience of the moderators): • Greets participants at the beginning of the chat. • Compiles summaries of content to post at the close of each section/question, as directed by the Primary Moderator. • Saves chat periodically to preserve a record of the dialogue for archival purposes (as a back-up for the Primary Moderator). Question Queuer (optional position, as needed based upon number of members participating and chat structure): • Greets participants at the beginning of the chat. • Keeps email and Instant Message lines open to receive questions from the members for the expert. • Queues questions and posts at the direction of the Primary Facilitator.

  27. Step 11: Create Explicit Chat Prep Docs Before starting a chat, an effective facilitator always gets ready by filling out chat prep and chat directions templates and creating a seating chart. • Click here to see the chat prep template (for moderator use only) • Tip: Don’t forget that since you are introducing an expert, you will likely want to give a brief description of his/her background. A good way to do that is to type the bio ahead of time and include it in your chat prep document. • Click here to see the chat directions template (to be distributed to members prior to the chat). For samples of past chat resources, click below: • Chat Prep SAMPLE (for moderator use only) • Chat Directions SAMPLE (to be distributed to members prior to the chat) • Seating Chart SAMPLE (to use when teaming your participants)

  28. Step 12: Advertise and Get RSVP’s Remind your participants of the chat early and often. You don’t want them to miss out on this terrific opportunity! • Use email and announcements to let them know about the event • Tip: When you do, you will want to give them the chat directions and protocols you created so they know what to expect. • Sending a reminder email to all members and posting an announcement, 24 hours prior, is a very useful step to securing a good base of participation.

  29. Step 12: Advertise and Get RSVP’s(continued) It is also helpful to seek RSVP’s to gauge interest and forecast participation levels, since this can effect your structure, the need for teams, etc. • Don’t be afraid to advertise the chat as a hot commodity. After all, it is! For example, we’ve had success making the chat feel more like a special commodity by letting folks know that “participation slots are filling up quickly.” You can expect to see a jump in the roster number after a message like that. People don’t want to be left out! Attached are samples of: • An email inviting people to join a chat • An email sent to those people who were confirmed for the chat • An email sent to those people who were not able to join the chat because the maximum capacity for participants had already been met • Tip: Setting a limit on the number of participants who are able to join a chat is a useful technique for a large community – especially if you don’t have access to build a correspondingly large Moderation Team. Capping the participant number keeps the chat manageable for the moderators and therefore valuable for all members. It can even bolster enthusiasm for the next chat!

  30. Step 13: Get Ready! Get Set! GO! Countdown!This suggested timeline will ensure that your Moderation Team is ready to go at chat time. 24 hours prior • You will want to contact your expert as well as your moderation team and remind them of the chat. • Post a reminder announcement in your ELC for all participants. 1 hour prior • Contact your expert and let him/her know that you will be calling in 50 minutes. 20 minutes prior • Moderation Team logs into the chat room to greet any early-bird members. • Moderation Team opens all chat prep docs for quick and easy cutting and pasting into the chat room. 10-15 minutes prior • Moderation Team gets connected via phone if they are not in close enough proximity to talk with each other. • Moderation Team contacts expert (via speaker phone or conference calling technology). 1 minute prior • Primary Moderator informs participants that chat is about to begin BLAST OFF!

  31. Step 14: Wrap it Up • When the chat is over, be sure to post the chat log in your ELC and create an announcement immediately with a link to the log for members who were not able to make it, or who wish to reference it. • If the momentum of the conversation is such that it should be continued, you can create a discussion thread so that members can continue dialoging about the chat. • Don’t forget to thank your expert and your Moderation Team soon after the event. If you get positive feedback from members, you may wish to include that as well.

  32. Summary of Chat Preparation Steps • Step 1: Define the goal or focus of the chat • Step 2: Clarify your chat objective • Step 3: Consider your audience • Step 4: Identify an appropriate expert • Step 5: Approach and solidify your expert speaker • Step 6: Choose an online chat structure • Step 7: Set protocols for the chat structure you use • Step 8: Prepare your audience • Step 9: Prepare your expert • Step 10: Prepare your moderation team • Step 11: Create explicit chat prep docs • Step 12: Advertise and get R.S.V.P.’s • Step 13: Get ready! Get set! Go! • Step 14: Wrap it up

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