Facilitating growth virtually: 5 tips for digital facilitation from Kasvu Open
The past year has accelerated the digital transformation of organizations. One such organization is Kasvu Open from Jyväskylä, which would regularly organize hundreds of live events a year. Kasvu Open had started designing digital concepts and implementations already well before the pandemic, but the exceptional circumstances pushed the plans into practice faster than anybody had anticipated.
“Last year went really well, all things considered. The biggest success was that we didn’t have to cancel anything,” rejoices Leena Räisänen, the Business Development Manager at Kasvu Open. Kasvu Open transferred all their events online with the help of Howspace. The past year made learning and continuous development a daily thing, but it also brought successes and great feedback. Leena Räisänen and Vivi Pöntiö, the Community Manager at Kasvu Open, shared their learnings and helped us gather five tips for digital facilitation.
1. Take time to plan the process
When Kasvu Open started transferring their events online, they first made several plans. This helped the team to learn and figure out how they could best structure their online events and what to take into account when designing the customers’ paths online.
The more they learned, the more they realized how crucial it is to outline the entire process beforehand. Even if it takes time to prepare well, a good plan can speed up the production in the longer run.
“We learned that with a proper plan, we can actually really save time during the execution,” Pöntiö explains.
Howspace has enabled Kasvu Open to restructure their customer paths in a new way. It is good to start with the bigger picture of how you want the process to look like and then figure out how to divide it into smaller steps. For example, all information doesn’t need to be shared at once, but instead, you can gradually share information with the participants as they move forward on their path.
2. Focus on the customer experience
Kasvu Open, including its events and the entire ecosystem, is known for positivity and a unique sense of belonging. Creating and maintaining this atmosphere in an online environment has been a vital element in their event planning.
Räisänen describes how the idea of smooth and meaningful experiences with wow factors has been guiding the decision-making process. Last year people were still hesitant whether meaningful encounters would be possible online, but Kasvu Open managed to positively surprise their participants. Of course, a year ago, people were not necessarily that familiar with online events, so creating a positive experience was perhaps slightly easier as people were more forgiving.
This year, however, the situation is different. Now we are all used to participating in different kinds of online meetings and events. Some are even undergoing digital fatigue. That is why improving and creating a more memorable experience is at the heart of Kasvu Open’s plans for this year, Räisänen explains.
3. Build trust inside the community
Kasvu Open is built on their communities – from business experts and growth partners to entrepreneurs looking for sparring – but also on their ability to enable collaboration within the communities. With Howspace, Kasvu Open has been able to bring together the entire ecosystem in the same place to share and discuss with each other.
For the discussion to take place, it is important to pay attention to trust and a sense of belonging in the community. If there’s no trust, there’s no open discussion. As a community manager, it is good to facilitate the first conversations and help the members of the community to get to know each other. Getting to know each other builds a bridge for dialogue.
“We have learned that having each member introducing themselves is a very important step when building a community. With Howspace, this is easy to do with guided paths and assignments,” Räisänen points out.
Pöntiö has also noticed that people are getting more active all the time, when the trust deepens. Especially with new communities and groups, it may take time to build trust. That’s why the facilitator’s role is very crucial in the very beginning, because the facilitator can lead by example and show how people should interact in the workspace. In a new digital environment, it is very common that people first observe how to participate and interact with each other.
“Howspace has enabled us to bring our community of business experts together in a more meaningful way and it has made the work in the community more transparent. Howspace also enables us to facilitate and support the discussion,” Pöntiö describes.
4. Instruct and engage participants for continuity
From trust, we get to the ever important role of the facilitator. Kasvu Open’s operational model is based on continuous development and collaboration, not just on individual events and workshops. The biggest challenge has been to keep members engaged throughout the process and make sure the process continues.
Räisänen and Pöntiö have learned that conversation doesn’t necessarily happen on its own on the platform, even if it would be technically possible for people to easily stay connected and discuss with each other.
“Creating dialogue requires strong facilitation. The people need to be invited to take part in the discussions and guide them and engage them to be active online,” Räisänen emphasizes.
5. Centralize your communication
“We’ve been able to take the collaboration of our communities to a whole new level with Howspace. The platform has allowed us to centralize our own work and communication,” Pöntiö sums up the benefits of using Howspace.
Working in the digital environment has made Kasvu Open rethink their communication. With Howspace it is effortless to plan the communication for the members based on their activity and set reminders for events.
Pöntiö considers that leading her own work has become a lot easier now that she can plan out the communication and schedule her messages in advance. Also tailoring and targeting the messages play a big role when it comes to smooth customer experience. With Howspace, Pöntiö is able to make sure the process progresses smoothly for all members.
What does the future look like for Kasvu Open?
The past year has brought new knowledge and a bag full of learnings to Kasvu Open. Both Pöntiö and Räisänen feel confident about the future. Right now, they are working on different hybrid models and fully digital programs. Räisänen predicts that one thing we are going to hear a lot more in the future is “Can I participate remotely?” This question will challenge us all and really requires us to think about what our guidelines will be.
Kasvu Open is an official Howspace partner. Read more about our Partner Program and apply to join!
If you want to learn more about digital facilitation, download your free copy of The Digital Facilitation Playbook.