Tuesday Trainings: How to organize a successful discussion group

WordPress contributor teams announced the Learn WordPress initiative in August 2020, which offers recorded workshops paired with live online discussion groups to help participants learn different features of WordPress. Learn WordPress is gearing up for a full launch, and during the past few months, we have had several workshops followed by successful discussion groups. Discussion groups are, in fact, an essential part of Learn WordPress workshops. In August, @angelasjin published an excellent Tuesday Training post on being a successful discussion group leader. This post serves as a follow-up to explore ideas on how to organize a successful discussion group. 

What is a discussion group? 

A discussion group is an event where participants of Learn WordPress workshops can discuss the workshop topic amongst themselves, solidify their learnings, and find answers to their questions, in a live discussion. These discussions can take place over video calls on Zoom or text based meetings in WordPress SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/.. Discussion groups are facilitated and moderated by discussion group leaders who have watched the workshop and know its contents. 

How can I organize a discussion group?

Just like a WordPress meetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area., anyone can organize a discussion group! There are two ways to organize discussion groups:

  1. You can apply to be a discussion group leader, which will allow you to organize an official discussion group event for a Learn WordPress workshop.
    Once you are approved, you can organize a discussion event on the Learn WordPress Meetup group, just the way you would schedule a WordPress Meetup on a meetup group. Approved discussion group leaders will be promoted as event organizers for the Learn WordPress group. 
  2. You can directly organize a Learn WordPress workshop for a local WordPress meetup.
    Anyone can organize a discussion group for their local WordPress meetup. All you need is to watch the workshop of your choice and schedule a discussion group event for your local WordPress meetup group. If you are not the organizer of your group, you can reach out to members of the meetup organizing team to schedule the event for you. 

Discussion group leaders can organize the discussion event based on any available Learn WordPress workshop. They will need to watch the workshop in advance and should have a good understanding of the topics covered. Each workshop has comprehension questions and learning objectives, which will help discussion group leaders prepare well in advance for a discussion group.

Discussion group leaders for Learn WordPress can then go to the Learn WordPress Meetup group and schedule an event, just the way you would organize a meetup event. Make sure that you mention the name of the workshop and a link to it in the description. Past discussion group leaders have observed that asking a confirmation question to attendees in the meetup options ensures that participants have watched the workshop before attending. 

Preparation before the event

One of the first things you need to keep in mind is the discussion group format. Most discussion groups are organized on video over a video hosting tool such as Zoom (you can reserve a community zoom room, if available). Alternatively, you can also organize a text-based discussion group in the #community-events channel on the WordPress Slack. 

Make sure that you have watched and understood the workshop before the event. Based on the Learning objectives and comprehension questions on each workshop, it might help to prepare some notes. Based on these, prepare a list of discussion points that you can introduce to the audience. Sometimes, many participants in a discussion group may not have seen the Learn WordPress workshop before, so it might help prepare a recap of sorts using slides. Some discussion group leaders have had success organizing quizzes as part of discussion groups. If you are interested, you can create a short, fun quiz with a tool like Kahoot! and use it for your discussion group. 

Ensure that you have scheduled the discussion group at least one week in advance; this will help you get the most participants. Send your group participants reminder emails to watch the workshop along with a reminder about the upcoming discussion group itself. It might be helpful to send a reminder email 24 hours before the workshop and another one shortly before the event.

Tips for a successful discussion group event

Join the discussion group call five minutes early – this will help you stay prepared. Start the discussion group by welcoming everyone. Introduce yourself, briefly talk about the Learn WordPress initiative, and explain what discussion groups are. If you do not have many participants (less than 5), it might help to start with self-introductions – that can be an excellent way to break the ice. Then, ask the members if they have seen the workshop. If at least 20-30% of attendees have not seen the workshop, you might want to start by sharing the gist of the workshop in a capsule form. Do not take more than 10 minutes for the recap. Once the recap is done, you can officially start the discussion group!

Here are some tips: 

  • You can ask open-ended questions based on the workshop and ask participants to answer them. If no one answers, reach out to folks individually and ask questions. 
  • Another way to start the discussion is by reaching out to individual participants in the call by asking them to share their learnings from the workshop.
  • Based on your notes, find a couple of tricky points and try to initiate a conversation. If your group does not seem to be active, you might want to intervene and lead the discussion. You can slowly pass the ball on to other members. Within the span of a few minutes, you should see the discussion gaining momentum.
  • Ask your group members to share any questions that they may have. When they ask questions, even though you may know the answer, ask other group members to answer them. 
  • Some people may not be comfortable talking on a video call. They can always share their thoughts in chat. In fact, you can encourage folks to share their questions in the Zoom chat.

In the meantime, keep a note of the time. Discussion groups are typically one hour long you do not want your group to go past the time limit!

Get creative with discussion groups

Just like how you have the chance to experiment with online WordPress meetups, you can also get creative with discussion groups. Here are some ideas that you can try out:

  • Do a quiz: You can use free tools like Kahoot! for quizzes. The quiz works best towards the end of the discussion group. It need not be long – all you need to have is about 5-8 questions. The questions can be simple yet fun and playful. Add trick questions if you want to! We’ve found that activities like quizzes help spice up discussion groups!
  • Group activities: For discussion groups on practical topics such as the Introduction to publishing with the block editor workshop, it might help organize activities (either individually or in groups), depending on the number of participants. For example, you can ask participants to create a quick blockBlock Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience. layout by giving them some instructions. The task should be fairly straightforward, and participants should complete it in less than 30 minutes. You can then review the work and share instructions on how to get it done. If you are using Zoom for your call, you can use breakout rooms to divide people into groups (this would work if your event has 10 or more participants). 
  • Play games: Several fun games can be used to make online events more effective. Like quizzes, making them the focus of your discussion group might not precisely be effective. But having a short game somewhere towards the end of the workshop might be sufficient. 

Concluding the discussion

Start wrapping up the workshop five minutes before the time is up. You can share a summary of what was discussed and allow for one or two closing remarks. Once the workshop wraps up, it might help send all attendees a personalized message thanking them for the participation. Please don’t forget to share any additional information shared in the workshop (any discussion points, links, slides, etc.). 


Do you have any ideas for organizing a Learn WordPress discussion group? What can we do to make sure that the discussion group is engaging for our participants? Please share your thoughts in the comments! 

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