Reinventing Working Groups Remotely with Safer Together 

By redback

Safer Together is an oil, gas and related industry safety collaboration hub. The not-for-profit, member-led organisation provides the leadership and collaboration needed to build an industry-wide strong and consistent safety culture that keeps pace with rapidly evolving work practices.

As part of its activities, Safer Together facilitates a number of safety working groups that convene at designated times to identify safety issues and ways to improve standards in their particular area of concern.

Prior to 2020, most working groups met in person to collaborate and work through and solve the various safety issues in each area. That was impossible in 2020 thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented members from travelling internationally and interstate.

The organisation approached Redback Connect about facilitating a remote working group for its Marine Safety working group to allow the important work of improving safety standards to continue.

The successful event was carefully tailored to meet Safety Together’s needs and set a high bar for facilitating remote collaboration.

We asked Stacey Gainsforth, Executive Assistant at Safety Together, and Redback Customer Success Manager Melanie Forbes, to talk us through the process.

 

Hi Stacey. Thanks for chatting with Redback! How long has Safer Together been a Redback customer?

We ran our first event with Redback in June this year. I think we’ve held about eight virtual events in total.

 

Tell us about the recent safety working group event you held with Redback?

Stacey: All the working groups are made up of people from different companies. They come together to share if they have incidents or different learnings.

In this case, it was our marine working group — they were doing a risk assessment on lifeboats.

We had about 20 people physically in the ballroom in the Perth Convention Centre, and another 15 joining online from interstate and international locations as far afield as Brisbane, Denmark and the Gulf of Mexico.

They had a live spreadsheet they wanted to share and work on. They went through all the different risks related to lifeboat safety over two half-days.

We partnered with Redback Connect to help us manage both the physical and remote components of the event. That way, we could focus on the content and the event itself.

 

What was different about this event?

Melanie: We often work out of external facilities such as convention centres but what was interesting about this event was that we used Zoom to bring in the remote attendees, which was a first for us.

We have our own video conferencing platform but we are starting to integrate Zoom into our system to ensure we meet all our clients’ needs — offering our managed services with different platforms.

We managed the online attendees remotely from Sydney, and we worked with the AV team at the venue in Perth, so our technicians were talking to each other and we could notify the people in the room when someone wanted to talk.

When a remote attendee wanted to speak they raised their hand, and we introduced them.

Those who were in the Convention Centre were given a hand-held microphone to make sure everyone could hear them.

 

It sounds like a complex event. What was the experience like?

Stacey: It was the first time the members of this working group had done anything like this but they had seen one of our other webinars where we had people in the room and others dialled in and they said that was exactly what they wanted.

There were a lot of moving parts. I dialled into the call from Brisbane. I could see everyone else who had their camera on. One of the boxes I could see was the room. A technician would get the attention of the room when someone raised their hand and then unmute that person so they could address the group.

The working group also had a live spreadsheet they wanted to share and work on. One of the facilitators sat at his computer and shared his screen to show the spreadsheet. They went through all the different risks related to lifeboats and decided which were important and which weren’t.

We made it as complicated as possible! It was also quite long, running over two days. But it was super-successful.

 

Were there any technical hitches, or anything that worked particularly well?

Melanie: No issues cropped up. I think what worked well is having the remote attendees, no matter where they were located, able to hear what everyone was saying and also enter data into the spreadsheet.

We were patching people through so everyone could hear each other and see the spreadsheet. Our technicians were chatting with the venue AV team and the remote attendees the whole time.

 

Stacey: I watched it from Brisbane and the sound was fantastic — but if someone who was at the venue wasn’t on the microphone we couldn’t hear them.

We did a dry run through prior to the event from the Redback studio in Sydney and one of my guys in Perth dialled in and we watched how it would happen.

No one really had any issues. We had tested people dialling in, what we would be able to see on-screen, and so on.

 

What has Safety Together’s experience of live and remote events been this year?

Stacey: We were already working remotely as most of our team is spread out across Australia, and one is actually based in Chile.

We used to meet regularly in person, with whoever was available attending. We never used to use video conferencing for our meetings, but that has changed.

A lot of our members are missing the personal interaction but I don’t know if our events and meetings will ever 100% go back to in-person formats.

Some of the smaller groups may be able to meet face-to-face but I think all of our mid-sized events and meetings will be hybrid.

Being able to hold our Lunch’n’Learns remotely has meant we could push them out to a bigger audience. The same with our safety forums.

Getting people to click a link and watch a webinar, and then recording it and making it available online, is such a cost-effective way to get everyone to attend an event.

I think we see ourselves doing additional hybrid events to share incidents and findings next year.

 

What have the learnings been for you personally?

Stacey: It’s been interesting because when you’re running a face-to-face event, on the day it’s really busy.

We found with virtual events that it’s crazy in the beginning, but on the day I just sit back and it runs like clockwork.

It’s been a bit of a learning curve but it’s been a great year for us in that sense.

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