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How to engage participants remotely, lessons learnt during the pandemic

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have all had to adapt to a new way of working. Our academic lives, once filled with in-person conferences, training and data collection, switched to the virtual world. In this blog, I will share what I have learnt, from my own experience and from colleagues, about ways to adapt your work to an online format. Practical tips on hosting online events are one thing, engaging your audience remotely is another. I will share our top tips to keep workshops interactive and consider how the applies to engaging people with dementia in the move to remote working.  

5 factors to a healthy brain

During my PhD I was awarded the Beacon Bursary [1], a public engagement fund supported by UCL Culture. I developed and hosted the Body and Brain workshop which focused on ways to achieve brain health using physical health strategies such as healthy eating. I worked with Diabetes UK [2] and the Stroke Association [3] to run these health education workshops. I developed a video of discussion points [4] for other organisations to use with people interested in the link between the body and brain.

Due to ongoing social distancing guidelines, I knew the workshops would be conducted remotely. I also knew I had many colleagues in a similar position and wanted to hear their experiences of adapting content to an online format. So, I brought together academics to share their lessons learnt on how to adapt and run remote workshops effectively. The group had a variety of experience: in hosting training for academics, focus groups for those who deliver arts and cultural projects, conferences focused on aging and dementia and interventions for people with mild cognitive impairment. All agreed that online formats increased accessibility by removing travel issues and through reaching a wider audience by promotion on social media.

Tips for academics hosting online event

Tips for remote engagement

How to involve people with dementia in workshops?

From right to left: Me, Danielle Nimmons (Academic Clinical Fellow, UCL), Katey Warran (Research Fellow, UCL), Penny Rapaport (Clinical Psychologist, UCL), Clarissa Giebel (Senior Research Fellow, University of Liverpool), Michaela Poppe (Senior Research Fellow, UCL), and Christine Carter (PhD Student, UCL).

Overall, we found that people with cognitive impairment were grateful for the opportunity to connect with others, even online. However, it’s important to acknowledge that remote contact does not replace face-to-face interactions. In fact, we found that some older people with long-term conditions would prefer to wait for in-person events instead of interacting online. As we move into life post-pandemic, hybrid events with both in-person and online elements may be the answer to provide digital accessibility whilst also acknowledging the importance of in-person contact.

Thank you to everyone who shared learning for this blog. 

Jessica Rees


Jessica Rees [5] is in the the final stages of her PhD which focuses on supporting the management of long-term conditions in dementia. Originally from from North Wales, her interest in Health Psychology stemmed from undertaking a  Masters in Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool.

Follow @Jessica_LRees [6]