Baby’s first Online Zine Workshop

I recently facilitated my first Zoom zine workshop (although not technically my first online zine workshop, but I’ll come to that) as part of the Young Friends of the Earth Online Skillshare. It was a wildly different experience from facilitating a in-person workshop, and I thought I’d just jot down some quick reflections since we are all learning – and the original purpose of this blog was kinda a reflective/reflexive space.

I was wild anxious about facilitating this, and the big thing that helped was the support of Catrina from YFOES who was a) much more familiar and competent with the paid for version of zoom, and its security features and b) much more confident with online facilitation full stop. I’d actually attended the YFOES zoom based training on online facilitation which she co-led a few weeks before and it had been a really useful starting point for considering how to translate a zine workshop onto the platform.

We’d planned to run a zoom workshop on the day of Edinburgh Zine Library’s big cross platform event, but security considerations after GZL event got zoom bombed in the morning meant we decided to transistion to instagram live. This wasn’t an ideal alternative as it isn’t the most accessible platform, and doesn’t allow the same kind of structured workshop. So, I was looking forward to getting more confident navigating the security features.

I kept the format fairly similar to a standard EZL workshop – a starter, which in this case I was keen to make a little dynamic, because I know that lots of us are just stuck permanently hunched over and tight, a bit of a preamble about zines and zine making in respect to activism, and a wreck-this-zine style activity.

I’d hoped to play some pictionairy, but in the end it seems that the tighter security features on zoom didn’t allow for the level of interactivity that I’d want. I’m still trying to come up with similar ways of playing …. maybe something using the chat feature, or setting it up differently in advance via email….

I worried that it got a little too presentation-y at points, it was pretty hard not to feel like I was talking into the void – as a facilitator you really realise how much you rely on tiny bits of feedback to keep you going and not feel sort of at sea! I used an altered version of a powerpoint that I’ve used for other introductions to zines, but I actually found the pacing was a bit off – and I think for my next workshop in a couple of weeks I’m going to restructure it and break down the wordier slides into individual points, and have less of them. Having close up images of zines really helped though, in lieu of actually being able to hand some out.

I sent people into breakout rooms after each mini-zine prompt – this was to allow them time to chat and share the page they’d made, in an attempt to recreate the social aspect of zinemaking. I worried about sending them into an unstructured space (not sure I would have liked that…) but it also paced the workshop a bit better. The next workshop I’m running will be on Teams, which I don’t think does break out rooms, so i’m thinking about how to use the channel functions to create a sort of ‘sharing space’.

Overall I got some lovely positive feedback. I’m slowly adjusting to a different capacity at the moment, but I’ve been attending more online workshops as a participant – as I think that’s also a great way to learn better facilitation – and I’m looking forward to exploring different ways of doing things.

Some big takeaways for me were:

  • having a routine or ritual for setting up an online workshop as you would a physical one – having half an hour before chatting with Catrina on zoom meant I didn’t feel like I was just launching in. I also laid out my workshop materials like I would a physical workshop.
  • being explicit about how to participate – eg. muting mics, asteriks if you want to talk, how to flag technical issues etc. – and also about the plan for the workshop.
  • structuring break time – for both you and the participants. Actively faciltiating is exhausting and I was v.grateful for the time when everyone was in the break out rooms when I could just regroup.
  • asking for feedback – I didn’t do a great job of this but wish I had, as its really hard to tell how an online workshop was experienced by a participant, and you don’t get the informal feedback you do with physical workshops!

This is a link to the presentation I used:

Feel free to cut, paste, copy and use in your own facilitation.

Also, I made my first instagram story template as part of the skillshare, and I really liked watching people interact with it – so I’m adding it to my list of ‘things I want to think more about’

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