Champion Ridhima organised an online event featuring everything from yoga to Bollywood dancing and conversations about mental health.

Written by Ridhima, London Champion

What was your activity?

The activity was an online event with fun activities mixed with talks from people sharing their lived experience of mental health problems to encourage learning and break down mental health stigma. The aim was to reach people from South Asian communities and we had attendees joining us from England and India! It lasted an hour and a half and was held on World Mental Health day live on Zoom. 

We started with a mindfulness session from Roya followed by London Time to Change Champion Jon sharing his personal mental health journey with an opportunity to ask him questions after. Yoga teacher, Ritika, then took us through some stretching and breathing techniques explaining the link between yoga and mental wellbeing.  This was followed by a talk with  Pooja, a psychotherapist from India, who explained what therapy was, that it is confidential and how it can help. This was great as many people attending didn't know about therapy and how it worked. The evening ended with a fun bollywood dancing session with Epika Dance. I also shared my own story as a Time to Change Champion.

What was involved in planning?

Planning is so important, you need to think about your own safety, well being and the wellbeing of the attendees and speakers.

  • I pulled in favours from people I knew, asking them to be involved in the event and run an activity or speak.
  • Talking with the speakers and activity leaders was really important to make sure they felt comfortable and not pressured to participate. I wanted to respect their boundaries and for them to feel respected and equally involved in the event. It's important to let them know what you would like them to deliver and also talk about what they want to achieve. I showed them the poster to get their opinions and checked that they were happy for me to promote them in the run up to the event on social media.
  • I planned a detailed agenda in terms of the running of the event and how long each activity would take and I also thought about what activities would go best where for example starting with a mindfulness exercise helped everyone relax and feel comfortable. 
  • I set up an Eventbrite for people to register for the event. This was really useful as it gave details of where attendees were signing up from. When I saw that a lot of attendees were attending from India I made sure to include a list of support services and resources from India for those guests.
  • I asked someone to be in charge of the technology on the day to make sure people were muted and we planned to use the waiting rooms if anyone needed time out of the event. 
  • With the speakers and activity leaders I discussed what requirements they had ie. if they were using presentation slides so I knew if we would need to add them as a co-host on Zoom so they could share their screen.
  • I prepared a trigger warning as we would be discussing mental health and sharing experiences which people might find distressing and drew up a list of support services in Indian and the UK for attendees, if they needed them. 

Any resources you used?

  • I used a free app called Piktochart to make a poster. It is easy to use and you can use clip art and illustration. 
  • Eventbrite, a free event registration website 
  • I used Social media and LinkedIn to promote the event
  • I used Zoom for hosting the online event. With a free Zoom account you can host an event or meeting for up to a maximum of 40 minutes. I paid a monthly subscription of £12 as my event was longer than this. However you could also use Facebook live and BeLive which are free.
  • I got "Just Another Illness" T-shirt printed to wear and promote my mental health blog.

How did you promote the activity to get people to come?

  • I posted on social media in the days running up to the activity to create a buzz
  • I also used private facebook groups which featured the audiences I wanted to reach and who could get the maximum benefit from my event. They are groups for women/men, different communities and interest groups. 

How did the activity go?

  • It went really well. The presenters mostly stuck to the time limit. One section overran so we were delayed by about 10-15 minutes. 
  • There were no internet issues in the UK or India!

Highlight of the activity?

  • Starting with mindfulness was great for everyone to relax and the mixture of having activities and speakers worked well sandwiching talking about difficult things between fun activities.
  • Jon's story was really powerful and gave many of us goosebumps. He also used slides and pictures to illustrate his journey which was really moving.
  • Three people approached me after the event to say it had really helped them coming to terms with their own mental health and others said they had learnt a lot more about mental health in general, how to speak about it and support others.
  • I loved the Bollywood dancing and ending with this on a high note.

Anything you would do differently next time?

  • I would allow a longer time for the speakers and activities so I would have less planned for the one event to give everything more room
  • I would try not to stress so much about promoting it and losing sleep over worrying about the numbers attending. We ended up having 32 people attend which was lower than the 84 who had booked on Eventbrite but it didn't matter as the people who attended really benefited from it. 
  • I would plan how much time I would spend on organising it -  it doesn’t need to be a full time job!

What are your top tips for running an online activity?

  • Don’t try and do too much so it gets out of hand. Have a bunch of people who can help you and take on some of the responsibilities, so you’re are not doing it all alone for example someone could take the lead on sending reminder emails to attendees or you might know someone who would love to act as the MC or host on the day. 
  • Think about how much time you need to plan and how you are going to look after yourself throughout the process. 
  • Have calls with presenters so you can get to know them and be comfortable working with them and get rapport going
  • Ensure the lighting in your room works for being seen on Zoom and that the technology is set up correctly
  • Make sure people have resources they need and space set up to participate beforehand eg. paper to do art or space to do yoga
  • Have any speakers or activity leaders  join 15 min early on the day so you can test everything is working correctly. 
  • Keep the chat alive during the event and get people commenting. It creates a buzz and allows interaction.