How to improve virtual collaborative meetings – sharing experiences, resources and stories

Dr Stefanie Kethers1, Dr Sara King2, Dr Frankie Stevens2, Dr Lesley Wyborn3


A variety of reasons have led to a massive increase in virtual meetings over physical ones. While the COVID-19 situation may, at some point, again allow for physical meetings, other aspects, such as climate and carbon footprint considerations, travel costs (money, time) will probably lead to fewer people being able/wanting to travel to meetings that have traditionally been held face-to-face.

How then can meeting organisers, facilitators and attendees make the most of virtual meetings? What can we learn from smaller and larger meetings to make working meetings more effective, efficient, and fun?

Example questions include:

How can virtual meetings be more inclusive, enabling participants from all areas of the globe to join and contribute?

How can session facilitators make virtual meetings engaging and interactive?

What technologies and techniques can support networking, serendipitous conversations and other unplanned interactions that usually occur at face-to-face meetings?

How can we continue to build a community in the virtual space?

What is the virtual equivalent of the traditional conference ‘icebreaker’?

For an organiser, what are the key differences in preparing a meeting?

This BoF aims to bring organisers, facilitators, and attendees of virtual collaborative meetings together to share ideas, resources, experiences, and stories of what worked and what did not work, and start a curated list that would be useful to organisers and facilitators, as well as attendees of virtual meetings.

The session will start with 3-4 lightning talks (5 minutes each) followed by breakout discussions on the above aspects of virtual meetings.


Stefanie Kethers, ARDC – Dr Stefanie Kethers is the Director of Operations of the Research Data Alliance and has been a member of the RDA Secretariat since before the RDA’s launch in 2013. She has a strong interest in supporting cooperation and collaboration in the workplace, and has previously worked as a researcher on a variety of related projects, including investigating archival services for Koorie communities, researchers’ data management practices and needs, and improving handover processes in hospitals.

Sara King, AARNet – Dr Sara King is the Training and Engagement Lead for AARNet. She is focused on outreach within the research sector, developing communities of interest around training, outreach and skills development in eResearch. She is currently working on creating reusable guidance information for Jupyter Notebooks and other AARNet services to be adapted for Carpentry training workshops. She is passionate about helping others develop the infrastructure and digital literacies required for working in a data-driven world, translating technology so it is accessible to everyone.

Frankie Stevens, AARNet – Dr Frankie Stevens is AARNet’s Associate Director, eResearch. Previously, Frankie has held roles with the Australian Research Data Commons, the NSW state body for eResearch, the Research Data Storage Infrastructure (RDSI) Project and was eResearch Programme Manager at the University of Sydney. Frankie has 20 years’ experience in the Higher Education Sector, having worked in both the Australian and overseas university sectors. She is on the Technical Advisory Board for the Global Research Data Alliance.

Lesley Wyborn, ARDC / ANU – Dr Lesley Wyborn works part time at ARDC as a Senior Data Strategist. She is also a visiting fellow at both the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) Facility and the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU). She had had nearly 50  year’s experience in scientific research and in transparent management of geoscientific data in Geoscience Australia. She is currently Chair of the Australian Academy of Science ‘National Committee for Data in Science’ and is a  member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Data Management Advisory Board.