If you have previously run club meetings in person, and are now running meetings online, you may have found that keeping the energy up in online meetings is way harder than it is for in-person meetings. There's a certain "magic" to being in-person that makes it a lot easier to keep people engaged.
Claire is a club leader at an online high school in California, so she's been running online meetings since before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the rest of us to do so. Because of this, she's learned how to overcome the traditional obstacles standing in the way of running great online meetings. In this meeting, she's able to masterfully control the energy in the room and create an incredibly fun experience.
What Claire does right
What Claire does in this meeting isn't magic; in fact, it's pretty easy to run the exact same meeting in your own club. Broadly, here a few tactics she employs in order to keep the energy high:
She made a beautiful slideshow for this meeting, and she's sharing her screen on the slideshow for the entire meeting. This is surprisingly effective, because it gives people something to look at as the workshop is going on. If a club member were to stop looking at the slides, they would feel lost—so people stay engaged.
She frequently pauses to ask questions, e.g. "Here's a piece of code—what would happen if I did x?"
See a great example of this from to (with reveal at ) in the recording
Another great example is from to in the recording
See a more simple example from to in the recording
She encouraged everyone to keep their microphones unmuted at the beginning ( to ). Less than half of the club members actually unmuted their mics, but even that seemed to be enough to keep the energy up throughout.
When there's a long period of silence, Claire has a bunch of conversation starters, random tangents, or stories ready to go.
The short corn maze story from to is a good little example of this
Another great example of where this worked is at in the recording, where everyone starts arguing about the pronunciation of GIF
Wait about 5 minutes for people to come in. Make conversation with people as they start arriving. Have the slideshow already open to the first slide, so that that's the first thing people see as they come in.
Introduce generative art
Go through the first 3 slides, showing the 2 demos of cool art, then introducing the topic of the workshop: Generative Art.
Go through slides 4-6, which introduce people to the tools they're going to be using, as well as further introducing generative art.
Continue going through the slides. Slides 7-9 introduce basic p5.js concepts and walks people through making their first piece of art.
Slide 11 shows how to draw an ellipse and a line in p5.js. Once you get here, ask "Why do you think the p5.js graph goes in the directions it does?" (See in the recording for an example)
Repeat until slide 30
The rest of the slideshow until slide 30 follows a similar format, and you can run it in the same way: 1) introduce next topic, 2) show cool examples/demos, 3) ask what will happen if x happens.
Every time you share an example—code, gist, etc.—share the link to the gist or give people time to copy the code in their own browser. It may help to recommend that they open multiple p5.js tabs so that they can copy every example they find interesting. It's important that they have at least one or two demos on their computer, because they will need it for the hacking section.
Hacking section & project demos
After slide 30, stop sharing your screen. Tell your club members that it's their turn to build their own generative art. Give them about 15-20 minutes to make cool things in the p5.js editor. They can build off of any existing example or they can do their own thing, if they feel comfortable.
Ask people to share screenshots, videos, or links to their demos in the Zoom chat, Hack Club Slack, or your own club Discord/other communication platform. As the demos start coming in, react to them and shout out some of the coolest ones.
Offer to answer any questions people may have. Check in with people individually (if your club is small enough, you could call their names out in the meeting; if you have 20+ people in the meeting, it may be better to check in with people via Zoom chat or Slack/Discord DM). Offer to go back to any examples people may have found cool.
Once the hacking time is up, or everyone has submitted a project, start sharing your screen again and go through every submission. Ask people if they want to present their projects to the group (it's okay if most people don't want to demo—even a few demos are great).
Slides 31-42 follow a similar format to step 3.
Once the slideshow ends, enthusiastically announce that that's the end of the meeting.
Send the slideshow to your club members and encourage them to use the rest of the examples to make even cooler generative art. If there's time left in your meeting, you can add another mini hacking section. But it's okay if you don't do another one.
End the meeting how you started: make conversation, let people chill out, maybe play some music.
Slideshows make for great additions to club meetings, if done right. "Doing it right" means 2 things:
The slideshow contains mostly pictures and some code, but very little text. It should serve more as a visual aid rather than a "presentation"
The slideshow looks fun and is presented in a way that doesn't feel like a class. You should never read off the slide.
Don't be afraid to go off on unrelated tangents. They will make your meeting take longer to get through, but it can be a great way to take a break from the work, get your club members to know each other, and keep the energy up.