What We Learned
1. Talkers and watchers is the way to go
We think that 5 people talking with dozens watching works very well. As facilitator, I get to know each participant and get deeper into their stories. Yet it’s so valuable to provide that content to a wider audience. We tried different ways to have “watchers” and settled on Facebook Live as the best option.
2. Marketing horsepower required
We don’t have a big enough fan base to “make this thing go viral.” And we don't have enough money to buy significant social media promotions. Outside our existing fan base it’s been a challenge to drive traffic to our sign up page.
3. Online works pretty well
I was a skeptic. But I’m happy to report that the Online Make Shift Coffee Houses have been really fun. I have learned so much! There is no doubt that they are extremely effective at helping people understand each other’s views, our mission. They have the powerful advantage of being untethered from geography. People can participate from anywhere.
People sign up but don’t show up
This was especially frustrating because in a group of five (the Make Shift Online standard) just one or two dropping out can dramatically change the balance. People who signed up didn’t have enough at stake and we did not have a good feedback/confirmation/hand-holding system.
5. Public sign up doesn’t pay
In the experience of the 13 we had, the donations that come in from participants (although deeply appreciated and helpful) are not enough to cover the effort.
6. Attracting conservatives is a challenge
Like with the in-person Make Shift Coffee Houses, we find that the online format is also more attractive to liberals than conservatives. We have to make extra efforts to personally recruit conservatives and Republicans.
7. The Hosting Model works great
Leslie Mortimer of the Patten Free Library in Bath, Maine wanted to help her community discuss a hot topic: Is violent protest ever justified? She hosted a Make Shift Coffee House. She chose 5 participants with differing views on the topic. I facilitated the discussion in the style of Make Shift Coffee House and with Marlene's help, handled all the tech including Zoom and Facebook Live.
Watch it here.
This worked really well.