Remembering a most extraordinary online event (and human)

What is your most unusual online hosting experience? For me it was exceptional, unusual and cathartic. Surprisingly, it was hosting a celebration of life.

The last two years have been full of online interaction. But which stands out the most? For me, it was designing and tech hosting a meeting to celebrate a friends’ life. This friend was also a colleague, master facilitator and mentor to me (and many others). A facilitator is someone who is essentially in service to the group. What better way to honour an extraordinary man than to offer the skills I have to his partner, family and friends and host an extraordinary online event for over 250 people?

Like any meeting, it starts with planning. What’s the purpose of the event? How should it feel? How to bring in parts of Gary’s facilitative style? With Anna, his partner and my dear friend, we organized the online celebration in the spirit of a great meeting. The task list was long but in brief: 

  • Gather a team of dedicated and skilled volunteers
  • Develop an agenda where people can both share their words and also have time to connect with each other
  • Embed humour, art and music 
  • Stay brave during a heartfelt celebration while working behind the scenes

Over a series of months and weeks, Anna and I met regularly to check-in on tasks and progress, adapt the agenda based on ‘family feedback’, and more friends raised their hands to help on the range of activities needed to pull off this event, which the community needed so much (other planned celebrations had been cancelled due to the pandemic). Using features unique to the online environment, as a team, we managed to undertake a great technical accomplishment and host over 250 people (for many it was their first time on zoom). It was also purposeful, uplifting, and engaging.

It’s been one year since this most unique and heartfelt meeting. I think of Gary often and wish we could hang out, chat, perhaps get a tidbit of his thoughtful advice. He was a great listener, contributor to conversation, full of humour, worldly insights, and eternal optimism. These ingredients made for an amazing human who touched many lives around the world, online and in his community. I learned a lot from being Gary’s friend and colleague and I’m very proud to have put my skills to use by supporting his community in this most unique and wondrous online meeting. 

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