Meetups: Presentations and workshops

Every day there are a number of technology-related Meetups in Tel Aviv and in other cities of Israel. The majority of them have the same schedule.

A half an hour allocated for meeting and mingling. Then 2-3 presentations with some breaks with more mingling. Then people go home. Ocassionally Pizza or other refreshment at the beginning or during the break.

This is a reasonable format for many events, but I felt I would like to do something different. So I started to run Workshops.

Hands-on Workshops

I organize my events via the Code Mavens group that has more than 1,800 members now. We had a few events at the beginning where we had only presentation, but soon I felt that in order to make something different where people can really learn I need to get them involved. Just as I do during my training courses.

So I started to organize workshops that were in fact just mini-courses. 2-4 hours long events where someone gave a presentation and then some tasks so the participants can practice whatever they learned.

I like the quote:

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

that is attributed to both Benjamin Franklin and Xun Kuang.

Another version of this is:

"Not having heard something is not as good as having heard it; having heard it is not as good as having seen it; having seen it is not as good as knowing it; knowing it is not as good as putting it into practice."

For a while I organized the events together with Yonit Gruber-Hazani and then, when she got too busy with work, I continued alone.

In this format we still have the gathering time with possible mingling, but then after a presentation the participants get tasks and they do those tasks on their computers. Sometimes even in pairs. I believe getting them actually do stuff makes a much better learning experience than just giving a presentation.

After a while though I noticed a couple of issues. Some of these exist in regular courses as well, but they are amplified in a workshop that lasts only 2-4 hours.

  • Some people need a lot more help than others. Especially with installations where each computer can have a different set of issues.
  • Another way to put it: Some people dare to ask for help while others want to do without help, yet others might feel intimidated asking questions in front of many people.
  • Some people arrived with a lot more related background knowledge than others.
  • Some people make much faster progress than other. The faster ones started to get bored while we were waiting for the slower ones. The slower ones felt frustrated by this.
  • It was nearly impossible to organize a second part of some content as it would really only fit the people who were in the first part, that reduced the potential participants by a lot.

Games for Mingling

In my experience in most of the Meetups and tech-conferences during the mingling and during the breaks there is rather little interaction between strangers. It is usually happens among people who already knew each other from other places or from previous events.

I never liked this as a participant and I don't like it as an organizer. That's why I've started to offer my help to various conferences (PyCon Israel and Craft-Conf Budapest) to help them organize BOFs and other social events.

During the workshops I've also started to experiment with various games that encourages people to talk to random strangers in the group.

Most participants are quite surprised by these games, but many love it.

Apparently even programmers like to talk to other people. Who would have thought :)

What now?

If you are interested in the events I organize, mostly in Tel-Aviv, check out the Code Mavens group.

If you'd like to get help increasing the interaction between the participants of your events or if you'd like to host one of my workshops: talk to me.

Published on 2019-12-24 by Gabor Szabo