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Organising online events: How is Sri Lanka doing?

3 years ago

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  In a world where we are so used to going out and attending events, we are suddenly made to go nowhere else but home. However, event planners in Sri Lanka have not given up in keeping the people entertained, informed, and aware despite the difficulties. We spoke about the experiences of a few organisations and individuals who still manage to conduct activities online.  Creating films online Rajeev Colton from Life Broadcasting Productions held an entire film competition online. He managed to get the films sent to him through email using WeTransfer. It was he himself that then forwarded the short films to the judges who were in fact from countries such as the US. Talented filmmakers made their films using their mobile phones or devices such as GoPros. The judges selected winners and the competition concluded very successfully, with the films also being streamed on Facebook. Colton said there was a definite difference in the quality of the films as a result of the lack of equipment. However, considering the circumstances, they did not judge based on the quality of the film in that regard.  He later received a great amount of positive feedback, showing that people were able to enjoy themselves through his competition. The filmmakers too were quite happy to have had this challenge and opportunity to fine-tune their skills and push through. Furthermore, many people were interested in taking part in the future. The biggest challenge they had to face, he said, was making sure that all the competitors knew that they were treated equally and didn’t have to worry about a lack of equipment.  Cricketing discussions with legends The Serendib International Cricket Academy has been conducting a different type of lesson than their normal cricket lessons. They have been organising discussions for their students with the involvement of professional cricketers such as Dinesh Chandimal, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Kaushal Silva, and Ajantha Mendis along with umpires such as Prageeth Rambukwella. They have been conducting interactive sessions with the students and these professional cricketing individuals so that the students will have some theoretical knowledge about the sport.  Serendib International Cricket Academy Managing Director Adeesha Salpitikorala, speaking to The Sunday Morning Brunch, said these kinds of sessions are beneficial for the students to learn about when tackling some issues with regard to the sport which sometimes even our national team may not be aware of. They talk about things which our national players have learnt through experience such as how to maintain your playing when the audience is behaving in extremely enthusiastic or violent ways or how to avoid trouble if the opposing team causes some.  The challenges the academy had to face as a result of having to conduct these sessions as a response to lockdown are largely centred around the number of students. Firstly, while they have about 350 students enrolled, each online session, according to the Zoom and Google Classroom packages they have, can accommodate only up to about 100 kids. However, even with less than half the students involved in the sessions, the questions the eager and passionate students ask can be too overwhelming to be dealt with online and therefore, Salpitikorala and his team had to ask the students to submit their questions and then select a few which the national cricketers can answer elaborately through the online platform.   Another significant issue they encountered was that online connections aren’t excellent in Sri Lanka and students have an issue staying online throughout the entirety of these two-hour sessions. Nevertheless, cricket being a physical sport, they have to keep the students active and practising their skills so they do this by asking the students to send in videos of their playing. This too has proven to be an extremely unique task as the coaches have to study even the minutest details about the students’ style such as footing, body structure when playing, and even eye contact.  Here, it depends largely on the students skills in video recording, as in order for all of this to be perfectly studied, the video must be made in the perfect angle. The academy needs to purchase very elite and high-quality software in order to perform this task properly such as CricHQ, Ludimos, or Coach Logic. They can study a video clip by clip in slow motion and examine everything that is needed to be examined. However, these softwares are too expensive to just be purchased whenever they need it. Nevertheless, the academy is trying to decide on one so that they students will be able to excel despite being at home. What Salpitikorala said is that whether we like it or not, this is what the future is going to look like so we might as well get used to it. He thinks this is a learning curve which not even the coaches were used to and our country is struggling with.  HomeTree’s holistic programmes HomeTree Coworking is an organisation that manages a co-working space and is known to always host events directed at this task. However, naturally, since the curfew, they have had to conduct their events online. HomeTree Coworking Co-founder Semal Luthra shared that it has not been quite a trying task to organise these events online through platforms such as Zoom. However, the greatest challenge is not being able to interact with the partakers. She said that there is a lot of uncertainty as they cannot read the expressions of the viewers and sometimes are unable to monitor if they are still around. She said that conducting events in person is a hundred times better than doing them online.  However, they understand that this is all that can be done for now and have organised weekly events regarding the maintenance of mental health, meditation, and different forms of therapy. She believes this is something people have been getting solace out of during a time like this and is very glad about it. However, she said that the numbers attending the online events are far less than that of in-person events, but believes and hopes that this is so because there are many similar events occurring online and individuals have a bigger variety of those to select from.  Temporary to permanent for Speaker Global Speaker Global was established in 2018 as an in-house public speaking coaching firm in Sri Lanka. Since then, they have conducted public speaking workshops, seminars, and competitions to mould public speaking skills of school students in Sri Lanka. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Speaker Global Founder/CEO Devni Wanigaarachchi had to take a different approach to keep the business up and running. This temporary decision of switching to online later became a permanent move for her in the company when she saw successful results in her students. She uses Zoom for all workshops, seminars, and classes. “It is highly interactive and obviously a lot of people from different parts of the nation can join our workshops without any cost. When we were doing in-house classes, we had students from Jaffna and Galle coming to our workshops in Colombo, so this has created a more convenient experience for our students,” she commented.  She also thinks that now with the online platform, she can train students in Sri Lanka all the way from Melbourne without recruiting additional staff for the small business or having to travel to Sri Lanka on a frequent basis for business-related work. Out of all the decisions she has taken in the company, moving the CSR (corporate social responsibility) Division online is a very special one for Wanigaarachchi. The goal of their CSR Division (outreach) is to overcome educational barriers in Sri Lanka and help underprivileged students to be nourished with the necessary educational facilities and amenities.  Moving online has initiated a new online platform named Teach English Sri Lanka (TES). At TES, they seek to break the cycles of education inequality in Sri Lanka for rural school students by providing them free-of-charge online education. “Speak to Lead” is their upcoming public speaking workshop series. It is going to be held via Zoom. Already, they have 30-plus participants registered for the event. The goal of this series is to help people understand the important tips and tools in becoming a champion speaker. Their first event of the series was held on 23 May 2020. The series hopes to be filled with industry experts and public speaking champions sharing their experience in the industry. Some of their upcoming topics include how to structure a speech, crafting your ideas successfully, using humour in speeches, and presentation skill development. Overall, she believes that as a small business, they have taken the correct approach to keep the business and students connected during the pandemic. “Most people think because their kids aren’t attentive enough online education is not as effective as offline or in-house education,” she said, adding: “I would say, it is all up to the teacher or coach to build an interesting yet engaging lesson plan for the students, be it public speaking or any other subject. Thanks to the teaching methodology and style we follow at Speaker Global, we have managed to keep our students engaged and enthusiastic at all times!”   PHOTO: Pablo Heimplatz/Unsplash