A first for two West Midlands Area societies’ collaborative on-line delivery

Two WM Area societies have collaborated to achieve a notable first in delivering a lecture to their combined membership.

Both TAS Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington Spa had booked Sian Walters to give her Raphael lecture but had to cancel their meetings because of the pandemic.   Fortunately, however, Sian was keen not to disappoint and agreed to try a new way of delivering her lecture using video conferencing.

Following discussions between both societies and Katherine Sutton, The Arts Society's Education Manager, a trial lecture was arranged for a small invited audience comprising members of both societies who were asked to log in to a Zoom video conference.   A few minor problems were soon overcome and the result was a success.

The two societies agreed a lecture date with Sian and then set about advertising it to their members. Leamington Spa sent Mailchimp messages to everyone a week before the lecture (reinforcing with another the day before), while Stratford’s chairman organised on-line Zoom training sessions for those unsure of using the new technology.   Both societies found that their members were very enthusiastic about taking part in this new venture, with an estimated 250 people logging-in on the evening but since many were viewing with a partner the true audience number was probably nearer 350.

Unlike a normal Zoom meeting when participants can hear and see everyone else, the lecture format was different as members could see and hear the lecturer but no one else.  Sian shared her screen to enable the audience to see her PowerPoint slides as in a normal lecture.  Everyone agreed that it helped the event to run smoothly by having someone other than Sian host the event so that she wasn't distracted by technical issues.

The feedback from both societies was overwhelmingly positive.  Not only was the subject matter covered brilliantly but also the delivery method succeeded in bringing together members in a shared event.  Although they couldn't see each other, they knew that others were all, simultaneously, enjoying the same experience, an important aspect that we may only just be starting to appreciate.

The Arts Society is keen to encourage other lecturers to follow Sian Walter's lead.  ‘We have a working group (first meeting today, 28 April) who are looking to produce exactly that for societies and lecturers to use’, said Katherine.  ‘We currently have about 25 lecturers, probably more in future, who can offer on-line lectures and the working group is now discussing the best way to make this information available for societies.’

In the meantime, Stratford-upon-Avon is already planning another similar event on the topic of Beethoven ……

[With acknowledgements to Rob Hubbleday]