How to FlashForward: A Guide For Speakers & Participants

Thank you for hosting an event at this year’s FastForward. This is a community-led festival and a celebration of your ideas. Without you and other speakers and attendees, there would be no FlashForward.

This event guide is a result of the excellent feedback provided by last year’s hosts and participants. Thank you to everyone that made such valuable contributions. We have listened and learned. And we want to give you some of that valuable insight into running a successful session and reducing the impact and likelihood of some of the common issues experienced at last year’s event.

This pack will also help you make the most of a wonderful week of opportunity to meet others, hear about new ideas, and have richer discussions.It is not exhaustive, however. If you have any further questions or suggestions to make this year’s FlashForward even better than the last, please don’t be shy - we are here to help.

The basics TL;DR

  • Market your session: Please publicise your event and invite people, especially if you want to engage with a particular problem. We will promote your event through our social media channels. Please use the hashtag #flashforwardfest and tag us directly on: Twitter @ShuttleworthFdn - Facebook @shuttleworthfdn - Linkedin shuttleworthfdn.

  • Session streaming: Use our instance of BigBlueButton to host your session. You are free to choose another medium but technical issues marred several sessions at last year’s event, and we are unable to offer any assistance on alternative platforms bar standard suggestions. Talk to us first if you do not want to use BigBlueButton and we can find a solution together.

  • Choosing a slot: Sessions can be held at any time so choose one that is best suited for your needs. There may be clashes. If you have concerns about doubling up or wish to change your time to attend an event instead, get in touch and we will help. Our submission system remains open throughout the entire event, so you can add new sessions as the week progresses.

  • Be engaged: Please try to give as much as you take. FlashForward is an opportunity to make new connections, spread your ideas, and take away insight from a community of brave and innovative changemakers. But it is not a one-way street and is designed to be a mutual exchange of knowledge.

  • Be patient: Please be welcoming and patient with everyone. Not every host is supercharged with confidence, an experienced public speaker, or technically adept at presentations. It is daunting to discuss new, innovative ideas to a new community. Last year’s FlashForward was notable for the patience, understanding, and kindness of its audiences. We would love this year to be the same.

Hosting an event? Top tips to perfect your presentation:

  • It’s good to talk: If you are unsure about any aspect of FlashForward or have any issues preparing for your session, just ask us! We are a friendly bunch and want you to get the most out of the experience. Please reach out - we are here to do everything within our power to help.

  • Your session: Sessions can be formal or informal, a fireside-style chat or open discussion, or a chance to gather around a problem. It can be anything you want, but please remember FlashForward is not a pitching opportunity; we have application processes for that. This festival is a chance to network and connect with others who share similar challenges to those you are facing, or an opportunity to discuss interesting, novel, or experimental ideas with your own community.

  • Marketing your session: We urge you to publicise your session and invite people to come along, especially if you want to deep dive into your preferred subject or engage with a particular problem.

  • Connectivity issues: These come hand in hand with video conferences/festivals. There is a chance they will affect your session. Most connectivity problems will be sporadic and short-lived, but it’s a good idea to have a backup plan.

  • Session streaming: Use our instance of BigBlueButton to host your session. BigBlueButton is open source and suitable for the vast majority of use cases. We know it intimately and enjoy first-class technical support from our event partners Cloud 68: we work in the background while you focus on your session. If you think it doesn’t meet your needs, talk to us first and the chances are we can find a solution together.

  • Take control: Start your session by outlining any technical requirements for your audience. If you want active participants, tell people to join with their microphones switched on, but muted until needed. The same applies for cameras. Whether off or on, let people know beforehand to make awkward incidents less likely.

  • Spam: Sharing links to and about your session is essential but not entirely risk-free. Only one session last year was marred by spammers so, thankfully, it is rare. But we do have plans for when it does happen. Using our instance of BigBlueButton will mitigate this risk significantly.

  • Running times: Each FlashForward session is automatically scheduled for one hour unless you tell us otherwise. Be specific and sensible with regards to time zones. It is helpful for attendees and polite to other presenters to stick within your time frame. Sessions usually wrap up on the 55-minute mark to allow people to grab a coffee before the next event starts. However, some sessions will inevitably run over, so please don’t take offence if people leave suddenly to get to the next session.

  • Time zones: Please make sure you have checked the right time zone in the festival calendar. The vast majority of sessions ran smoothly and on time at last year’s event, but time zones did cause the occasional hiccup. These things happen, but they also have a knock-on effect on other speakers.

  • Choosing a slot: Sessions can be held at any time, although last year’s hosts primarily chose to hold theirs in a slot where no one else was speaking. This happened organically, however, and depending on the volume of speakers this year there may be clashes. Get in touch if you want to change your event time to attend an event instead and we will help. Our submission system remains open throughout the entire event, so add new sessions as the week progresses.

  • Use your own language: We want you to feel as confident and comfortable as possible, so do not feel under pressure to speak in English if it is not your preferred language. We do ask that you let people know in advance, however.

  • Be specific: Feedback from last year’s festival asked for more descriptive and less vague promotional copy for some sessions. If you are struggling to create compelling copy for your session, answering the following questions will help you understand what to include and others understand what your discussion is about:

    • Who is the session for? Eg self-help, community members, a new audience
    • What do you want to achieve with this session? Eg explain a concept, find new supporters, discuss a problem/potential solution
    • What do you want people to take away from this session? Eg information, comprehension, inspiration
  • Avoid jargon: Be wary of using jargon when you are presenting to a mixed audience. We all work in different fields and not everyone has the same level of expertise in your subject matter. This is a judgement call, of course - some subjects are unavoidably dense.But consider the context of your session and try to be clear and concise while using plain language: it will help you get your ideas across without having your flow disrupted by constant questions.

Want to participate? Top tips for excellent engagement:

  • Join sessions: Be generous with your time and join other sessions. Building a sense of community through real-time interaction is immeasurably rewarding. You are also invited to make use of our instance of Gather Town, where you can pick up with loose threads from your session, ask further questions about other events, or simply hang out and meet new people.

  • Be polite: Please follow the standard etiquette for online events: mics and cameras off unless your host specifically asks otherwise. BigBlueButton has two options. Joining with 'Listen Only' means you will not be able to speak. Select 'Microphone' if you intend to participate, but please ensure your mic is switched off until asked by the host.

  • Be engaged: FlashForward is a chance to make new connections, spread new ideas, and take away insight from a community of brave and innovative changemakers. But it is not a one-way street - it is designed to be a mutual exchange of giving as much as taking. So be engaged, get to know people, and or just hang out. The more you put in, the more you will get out of the experience.

  • Be patient: Not every host is supercharged with confidence, an experienced public speaker, or technically adept at presentations. And it is daunting to discuss new, innovative ideas to a new community. Last year’s FlashForward was notable for the patience, understanding and generosity of its audiences. We would love this year to be the same.

  • Be kind: Most of all, we want FlashForward to be a friendly, safe space for self-expression and discussion. And while we do not expect to be in a position to enforce it, we have drawn up a code of conduct for all attendees. Please have a read and take note!