Drop-in Sessions#

Drop-in sessions are an informal collaboration format where a team or group of people host regular opportunities for other people within the community or organisation to ask questions or start a conversation on a topic of their interest.

These sessions generally include an online component, typically using Zoom. The format and sign up method will depend on the needs and preferences of the organising team and the target community the sessions are designed for.

The primary goal of these sessions is to provide an opportunity for answering targeted questions on a subject that the team holds expertise in, such as data protection, stakeholder engagement, or research software engineering. The sessions are a resource for community or organisation members to ask questions, receive targeted advice and support, and create space to start co-working or futher collaboration. The sessions are also an opportunity to learn about and connect with new teams and individuals that an attendee may not regularly connect with.

Cartoon-like sketch of people in different nodes connecting into a central node with a robot in the middle. The people represent researchers in different research domains. One group is building a rocket ship, another group is fixing a car, and another group is working on a hot air balloon. In the central node, researchers are performing different tasks to build a robot. Some of the researchers are taking the findings from the central node to the other nodes.

Fig. 175 The Turing Way project illustration by Scriberia. Used under a CC-BY 4.0 licence. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3332807.#

Attending a drop-in session#

There are many ways to manage attendee sign ups that occur before the call and during the call. The best method will depend on the size of your team, the desired audience, and the expected topics. Sign ups are a way to set up the schedule based on the requirements of attendees. Here we share a few approaches, ranging from low touch to high touch:

  • Attendees drop in at any point during a session. This provides them flexibility and removes the need for prior scheduling, but may require them to sit in on other conversations and wait to have their question answered.

  • Allow attendees to sign up directly to fill open slots.

  • Attendees directly message hosts who schedule them into open slots.

When there are more requests than available slots, any additional requests can be accommdated through multiple breakout rooms (if there are more hosts available) or scheduled for a future meeting.

Resources for drop-in sessions#

The resources used for these sessions help facilitate coordination amongst the organisers and also enable attendee sign up.

  1. Online call by Zoom: The Zoom link is shared on internal communication channels.

  2. In person location (optional): A reserved meeting room or location at a shared organisation space.

  3. Online GitHub repo: share information about the session, including the schedule and how to sign up.

  4. Engagement and impact tracking resource: Sheet with information on the topics raised, next steps, and the overall impact of the session.

Sessions may or may not be recorded. If they are recorded, they can serve as a resource for attendees to come back to. It they aren’t recorded, this may enable attendees to speak more freely and openly during the session.

Breakout rooms may be created if there are multiple sessions happening at the same time. In that case, one host will stay in the main room to welcome new attendees and other hosts can meet with attendees in different breakout rooms.

Format of the session#

The following is an example format of a drop-in session.



5 mins

👋 Welcome attendees and assign slot

30 mins

💬 Slot 1

30 mins

💬 Slot 2

30 mins

💬 Slot 3

30 mins

💬 Slot 4

5 mins

👋 Close session

Each slot may run longer or shorter than 30 minutes, and multiple slots may run in parallel through breakout rooms.

Chairing drop-in sessions#

Before the Session#

  • Session hosts can double check the schedule to make sure the correct information is documented for that session

    • Update host names and affiliations

    • Correct Zoom link and physical location of the session

    • Share session on Slack and other channels inviting attendees to the event

  • Session hosts can coordinate amongst each other to schedule and assign slots during the session

During the Session#

  • Make sure there is someone monitoring the main Zoom room and physical space to welcome new attendees

  • It is especially important that someone is available before each slot to guide attendees to a breakout room, if those are being used

After the Session#

Record notes for next steps and follow-ups in a shared document so that teammates can pick up conversations and collaborations in future sessions.

Case Study: Turing Infrastructure Drop-In Sessions#

At the Turing Institute, there are a few different variations of drop-in sessions including the Turing Infrastructure Drop-in Sessions (online and in person), the Turing Research Ethics (TREx) Virtual Drop in Session (online only), the Turing Skills Drop in Session (online and in person), and the Data Protection virtual drop in (online only).

This section will highlight the Turing Infrastructure Drop-In Sessions as a case study to illustrate how a drop-in session can run in practice.

Attending a drop-in session#

Multiple Turing teams collaboratively host the Turing Infrastructure Drop-in Sessions, including Research Engineering Group (REG), Research Community Management (RCM), Research Application Management (RAM), Research Project Managers (RPM), Citizen Science, Data Wrangler, and Trustworthy Systems. The schedule also allows interested attendees to reference when to attend, based on the individual or team that is hosting on a particular week.

In order to sign up, an interested attendee will directly message the hosts for that session on the organisation’s collaboration platforms, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or e-mail. The hosts will then assign the attendee a 30-60 minute slot. Generally there are two hosts for the session, each from a different team so there are different skillsets represented. When there is a question or request for a skillset that do not match the hosts’ expertise, they will direct the question to a member of the team who does who can pick up the question in a future session or outside of the drop-in sessions.

Resources for drop-in sessions#

These resources have been created to facilitate multi-team collaboration on the drop-in sessions.

  1. Online call by Zoom: The Zoom link is shared on an internal Turing webpage and on Slack.

  2. In person location (optional): A reserved meeting room or location at a shared organisation space, such as a table in the Turing kitchen

  3. Online github repo: share information about the session, including the schedule and how to sign up

  4. Engagement and impact tracking resource: Sheet with information on the topics raised, next steps, and the overall impact of the session

Impact of drop-in sessions#

The team is tracking impact and engagement by documenting information like the attendee questions, whether or not they were resolved, the prevalence of new attendees, and any quotes or testimonials from attendees. The sessions have resulted in new conversations and collaborations across Turing teams that typically don’t happen in the regular cycle of work.