Rachel Brown Kirkland, Dalton, Georgia, USA
Leaders often hear: “I would like to come to a meeting, but I have to work,” or “I would like to come to a meeting, but it’s too difficult for me to get out of the house today.” Expanding meeting choices to include online options can help grow your Group and reach families who otherwise wouldn’t connect with La Leche League.
In several Groups that are using this approach, Leaders say that far from replacing or taking away from traditional meetings, online meetings help a broader range of parents feel more connected and in some cases more likely to attend in person.
Linsey Groth, a Leader with La Leche League of Camden and Glynn counties in Florida, USA explains:
The people who are coming to in-person meetings are generally not the same people who come to online meetings. Lots of people still want in-person help and the reassurance that what is going on is normal.
Many Groups that have incorporated online meetings into their schedule have found there are benefits for participants as well as Leaders. Benefits may include:
- Convenience for those who are unable to attend in-person meetings due to work schedules, lack of transportation, illness in the family or other reasons.
- An avenue to absorb information without pressure to interact or speak out before they are ready.
- Ability for those who need to arrive late or leave early to go back and review conversations that took place before or after they joined.
- No driving, dressing or preparing a baby changing bag or packing toddler snacks.
- Participants who want to discuss an issue privately with a Leader can begin that discussion more discreetly via private message.
- Discussion from the meeting can echo for days after the event concludes. Participants can return to the materials and conversation for further discussion as needed.
- Opportunities to support participants when an illness or other situation in their own families might prevent them from getting out.
- For new Leaders, a forum in which to hone emerging skills before leading traditional meetings.
- Some Groups with multiple Leaders and multiple meetings each month rotate which Leaders attend which meetings. Online meetings provide an easier way for multiple Leaders to attend the same meeting, drop in and out, and still provide attendees with multiple perspectives.
- Ability to reach families who seek parenting information primarily from social media.
- Additional avenues for discovering potential Leader A
For Leader Applicants:
- A forum in which to “observe” another format for leading meetings and how the approaches may be similar and how they may differ.
Christina Hongach, a Leader for La Leche League of Fayetteville/Fort Bragg in North Carolina, USA, shares that in addition to often having much higher attendance, attendees often participate more in the Group’s Facebook-based meetings than they do in person. She said:
Online meetings remove the barrier of awkwardness that I believe many parents feel during any social situation. I truly feel that an online meeting allows for much more observation by parents who aren’t ready or willing to share in regards to the topic but have specific questions or just want to experience a meeting without any expectations.
Because we are a transient military town, we have a lot of social media activity. Our community has a lot of young parents, and parents who do not have support outside of LLL and their social media connections. Having online meetings allows us to get connected with them during this season of life.
But do online meetings actually help grow the Group? In many cases, those attending online meetings are an entirely different crowd from those who attend in-person meetings. These meetings are a way to reach a population segment that otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to LLL philosophies and support. Christina explained:
I think both Leaders and the parents we serve benefit from at least having the option of online meetings.
Further resources for online meetings
Facebook guidelines for Leaders can be found here.
Efrat Burman of West Sussex, United Kingdom, offers a template for Facebook meetings in An Online LLL Meeting via Facebook
Annette Green, Modi’in, Israel, describes a form of online conferencing that she used successfully for a Series Meeting when one of her children was sick in Online Meetings with Video Conferencing
This post discusses some common considerations for Groups using Facebook to spread LLL ideas.
Rachel Brown Kirkland is a La Leche League leader in Dalton, Georgia, USA, where she lives with her husband and four-year-old son.