I'm an active member of my town's mom group on Facebook. I was pleased to see that one of our board of education's elected officials knows that this is a great place to get feedback. If you want to know something, ask the moms, am I right ladies?
She was curious why no one is attending their monthly meetings, which are held roughly at dinner time, and wanted how to better engage parents. It doesn't take an expert to tell you that no parent wants to go to a public meeting and watch bureaucrats talk at 7:00 at night. Parents commute, they have to worry about homework, baths, dinner, and hopefully getting to The Walking Dead before passing out at 10:00 PM.
We are hyper connected and over scheduled. We have a million obligations and often both parents work or one parent is holding it together on their own. Kids are involved in a plethora of scheduled activities and the days of running around the neighborhood unsupervised until the street lights come on are a thing of the past.
We also live in a "maybe" culture. Being able to RSVP via Facebook and other online means has made us less accountable. How many times have you respond "maybe" with no intention of actually going to an event?
As an online engagement professional who's worked in both corporate and education settings, I can tell you. It doesn't matter if you're an 18 year old student or a 50 year old doctor - no one wants to come to your meeting. Unless there is free food or they are getting paid -- and sometimes not even then.
It can be frustrating but there are solutions! Here are my tips for when no one wants to come to your meeting:
1) Try doing asynchronous activities
Don't let schedules and conflicts stand in the way of a great conversation. Start a group or a discussion thread on your Facebook page or group, on your website, or blog.
Try a survey if you want direct feedback that doesn't require a dialogue. SurveyMonkey.com, and Emailmeform.com offer both free and professional versions, and Google Forms is always free - all you need is a Gmail account. You can create awesome reports by exporting the results to various file formats.
2) Do it Live
You could also consider broadcasting meetings online via free software like Skype or Google Hangouts on Air. This way busy parents don't have to travel and can view from any device (even while holding a baby!) Be sure to experiment with a test run before you go live to make sure you are comfortable with the interface. Remember to give users 5-10 minutes to log on and test their audio and video capabilities.
3) Put it On Demand.
You can then edit and post the recorded video on YouTube for those who have missed it and host it on your web page and/or blog using the embed code.
If you're not adept at video editing, a great option is to also do a more polished, pre-taped recording of your event or lecture. Sometimes live events can have dead space or slow moments that would make it boring for someone watching on-demand. Also, you may want to break it up into chapters or shorter segments in case people don't have time to watch longer videos (or let's face it, have short attention spans). 2-3 minutes is plenty.
Looking for feedback? Invite people to comment directly below the video or privately by posting a survey link or contact email in the description.
4) Foster Civility
Online discussions are notorious for getting out of control if there is a disrespectful comment or opinions vary widely. This is especially true with anything involving parenting decisions! My advice is to set ground rules for civility and kindness. My favorite one is a simple acronym that can be used for any age group:
THINK before you speak. Is it...
Also note that you will not tolerate discrimination or bashing of any kind and be sure to moderate comments and report and ban users who act inappropriately. But ask yourself: are they just being negative but maybe have a point? Don't delete their comments as it can make you look like you have something to hide. Acknowledge their opinion and offer to take it offline so the potentially tough conversation isn't public and doesn't get out of hand.
5) Build Relationships
Don't forget that you are building relationships with your audience, not just using them for feedback. Use your own authentic voice, interact like you would face to face and get to know people through your responses. Be sure to provide contact information and website for follow-up interactions and future engagements. Use every live or asynchronous event as a chance to build your brand and cultivate your social media following. Taking the time to build a relationship will keep them coming back for the next event or feedback opportunity.
What Facebook mom groups have taught me is that what we lost in our communities -- knowing our neighbors, having a village of moms nearby, borrowing a cup of sugar -- we've gained on social media. Seeing the support that moms give each other online can be truly inspiring. This concept can be used in almost any circumstance where people need to get together to solve problems, support each other, and foster positive change.
Getting anyone to attend any event even with an incentive is hard. By giving people options to engage on their own time and their own pace, everyone gets what they need .
What other advice would you give someone in this situation?
Nice to meet you!
I am an online engagement professional, social media expert, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!