Using Messenger Apps For Digital Event Facilitation

Instant success: Messenger apps as an alternative means of digital event facilitation

Was it Zoom fatigue? Or maybe the wrong event design? Was the topic not interesting enough? The Bosch Alumni Network’s Media Cluster wanted to learn about and showcase the innovative power of Media Startups in Eastern Europe – but despite a strong narrative and engaging content, the response to the Zoom call series was surprisingly low. Starting out with 15 participants, attendance was down to 7 by the third call.

Close to calling off the whole mission, the project’s initiator and Bosch Alumni Network member Pauline Tillmann remembered her very positive experiences with WhatsApp meetings at her own startup Deine Korrespondentin – a digital magazine aiming to increase the visibility of inspiring women worldwide. The organization team pivoted, set the calls to 1 hour only, exchanged the video-calls for text and voice messages, and substituted the temporary Zoom calls for a constant WhatsApp group that offered easy access to the information after the event.


Challenge: Improve diminishing participation in digital event series
Approach: Pivoting and radically redesigning the setup
Solution: Moving to a closed messenger app group
Possible long-term impact: The successful solution inspired participating media professionals to transfer the approach to their reader-journalist-interaction as well.

Radical redesign

As soon as the new concept was communicated, participant numbers rose significantly, reaching a constant average of about 20 participants from various countries, providing a solid proof of concept for this new form of community engagement.

Increasing participation was only 1 of 2 goals. The other was to intensify personal exchange among equals. So far, the calls had been up-front presentations by chief editors followed up by a few questions via the chat function. Although the new setup minimized the possibilities of interaction, the format gained attractiveness and – counter-intuitively – increased actual interactions.

Backed by this positive development, immediate learnings included:

  1. The new format of using a messenger app and providing the protected space of a dedicated group sparked curiosity, increased the feeling of security and therefore triggered exchange.
  2. Shortening the events’ duration made them easier to be squeezed into tight schedules.
  3. The variety of useful links, photos, text, voice, and video messages made the content more accessible for members that couldn’t attend the meeting but were still part of the group.

After initially hosting an event on WhatsApp, as the most popular messenger app, the organizers quickly moved to Signal due to its higher data security standards – accepting the possibility of losing participants that might not want to download an additional app. Numbers remained constant, however, and the feedback was again more than positive.

Multi-level success

Eventually, the event series facilitated substantive exchange between participants as well as the intended positive stories from Media Startups in Eastern Europe. Highly under-represented in public and in a politically very tight spot, these young organizations provide fresh and creative perspectives on how to create new and innovative approaches for quality content and community building. Some of the most impressive examples have recently been published in the dedicated reader “Spotlight on Media Startups from Eastern Europe” (see download below).

Going beyond the immediate success of showcasing the quality and innovation of Eastern European Media Startups, this new way of facilitating an event series could still have long-term effects as media experts experienced first-hand how creating different and protected safe spaces can increase a feeling of security and trigger more interactions.

The publication “Spotlight on Media Startups from Eastern Europe” has been disseminated by various national and international news outlets and is available to download:

Do you want to learn more about the setup and the results of this experiment? Please feel free to get in touch with:

Lisa Richter
Coordinator Bosch Alumni Network