Was that the Presidential Q&A…?

It was promoted as a live Q&A on Facebook with RotaryGBI President Eve Conway but turned out to be a half hour of Rotary Presidential promotion followed by more of a situation where the President ‘Avoided the Question and answer what she liked’.

The Facebook Live session this evening was hosted by Rotarian Kaz Aston, a Rotarian and member of the RotaryGBI Marketing and Public Relations Committee who it would appear was clearly well-rehearsed and primed to offer the national President every opportunity to talk about all the things that she wanted to.

The session (from a room that looked like and had the acoustics of a small yellow broom cupboard) experienced a few technical issues in terms of sound. With one participant claiming that his sound dropped every time the interviewer moved her arms – so he must have missed most of the broadcast – as she did a lot of moving her arms all the way through the Live session. [To be fair the tech guys sorted the sound out after about 15 minutes.]

When the sound was working, the first half hour of the Facebook Live session witnessed the audience receiving a lot about polio; about the President’s visit to India; about national immunisation days; about National Women’s Day; about Youth competitions; about Young Citizens Awards (created by the President herself); about Rotary Foundation and about Conference (have to say Eve’s way of spinning this year’s Conference was excellent – with not even a single mention or question about a certain Welsh female singer star).

So almost 30 minutes into the Question and Answer session Kaz Aston presented the first question of the evening from a participant which focussed around the use of Facebook across RotaryGBI and Rotary International. This prompted a response from the President which basically talked around the importance of using social media in Rotary and receiving full affirmation and endorsement of the interviewer – but yet still not really answering the question.

GRILLED: Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland President Eve Conway takes part in the first ever Facebook Live session on 28th February finding herself being interviewed by Rotarian and RotaryGBI Committee Member Kaz Aston

The second questioner asked the President what single major thing she would change in Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland?

The President said that change was important and then quoted Paul Harris the founder of Rotary. However, she answered that she felt Rotary needed more women and more diversity in the organisation – to a whoop, a cheer and a one-woman mexican-wave from Kaz Aston as she threw her hands in the air to celebrate the President’s response – sadly for one participant probably cutting of the signal again…

The next question was a follow-up by the same person and asked about the legacy Rotary will hand over to the next generation?

To be honest, I’m not sure the question was actually answered directly. The President did talk a lot about the new way to do Rotary, citing some new Clubs that seem to be doing things well and attracting members. But the interviewer then took the conversation away from the question and prompted the President to start answering questions about general Rotary clubs. And although not answering the question asked, Eve Conway did sum up as if she had by saying about Rotary in these islands,

We’re adjusting to the way that people live today and giving them options.”

A further question came from a participant who was watching the Live Cast asking why the dedicated President’s Facebook page is no longer being used. To which the incumbent effectively said, it was nothing to do with her – but a decision taken by the RotaryGBI Marketing and Publicity Committee. Outlining that the RotaryGBI online strategy is for all communications to go through the main Facebook page.

The President was then asked what should change about the Presidency? To which she responded that it should be outward facing – and then went on to outline a list of her achievements – and most definitely not answering the question at all. Probably the most body-swerved question of the night – with an occasional nod back to the question and reiterating her position that the President should be outward facing.

The final question came from another online participant asking for a definitive answer as to the definition of a satellite Club?

Kaz Aston again got quite excited about the fact her Club had a satellite Club but was then put firmly in her place by the President who told her that in fact what she thought was a Club was in fact a satellite group. However, the interviewer got her own back by firmly (albeit slightly excitedly) speaking over the President and demanding that she therefore explain the difference between the two.

I have to say that by this point in the question I had lost the will to live as the answer was once again in true-politician style the response that Eve Conway wanted to give and not really an answer to the question that was asked.

In amongst all the comments made throughout the hour-long session there was no real references to:

  • Membership initiatives;
  • The structure of RotaryGBI;
  • How the organisation may look in the future;
  • Involving Rotaract in the future of Rotary;
  • The finances of RotaryGB
  • And there was certainly no mention of ‘The Ten’ meeting in Alcester about the future of Rotary…?!?

The President was asked to finish (well kind of) the session by summing up Rotary using only one word which she described as ‘inspirational’. Which was kind of ironic in terms of the Live Cast.

…and that ladies and gentlemen was effectively it.

This was a great experiment – and there was a lot of information about Rotary given over in an hour. I’m not sure as a BBC Journalist Eve will be overly happy with the way in which the final interview will look when she plays it back. Yes, she got all her points across and answered the questions in the way she wanted – but it all got a bit messy at stages with the interviewer talking over the President throughout and not enough time allocated to ‘questions from the floor’.

Perhaps that was why there was a little bit of confusion as to who was going to take control at the end to wrap the interview up – who knows? But ultimately President Eve got the last word…

So in my humble opinion, or as the social media chaps say, IMHO this was not really a proper Q&A session. Far too much of it was about Rotary in general; the President; about her year in office; about her key topics and interests (such as polio) ergo insufficient time was given to the actual Question and Answer session.

You can watch and judge for yourself by watching the Live Cast here. Just a word of warning; try to ignore the interruptions, the increasingly annoying affirmation sounds and the signal-cutting hand-waving and fidgeting then you may enjoy it. However, I’m not sure you’ll learn anything or hear anything new.

Well done to those who organised this Facebook Live session. Great to see the technology being used in this way lets hope it’s not the last one we will see.

RotaryBlogger.co.uk ratings:

Information about Rotary in General = 8/10

Information about President Eve Conway = 9/10

Response to questions = 2/10

Enthusiasm of presenter = 10/10

Expectations met = 3/10

Use of social media/technology = 8/10


Despite this, if the session was to be run again, I’d definitely tune in – it was a great starting point with improvements to be made and lessons to be learned.


33 thoughts on “Was that the Presidential Q&A…?

  1. David Ellis says:

    Well done Blogger for a rapid critique. As one of the lucky 3, yes just 3, who got ta ask a question, I can categorically say that the Presidents Facebook page was started by Alcester but quickly took up by Ray Burman, the President 11/12. The following year the president ignored it and did a blog, the next didn’t use, the next didn’t know what Facebook was…..need I continue. The reason I know that it was the decision of the presidents to curtail it, is I was the Chair of the Communications committee and we gave up trying to get them to use it. The problem is that unless you are a friend of current president Eve, you don’t see the posts.
    Poor interview more talking point about what wasn’t spoken about.
    Like Blogger, 10/10 for setting it up.

    1. Thanks David. It was good to watch – and a great ‘amateur’ effort overall. My reason for giving it such a low score in overall performance was due to the ‘mis-selling’ of the fact it was a Q&A. I was recently involved in an online Q&A about Social Media – and the organiser had set it up in such a way that a couple of initial questions were asked and then the rest of the hour was ‘over to the floor’. Like I said in the blog – let’s hope this isn’t the last Facebook Live session, but equally hope that lessons are picked up from this ‘pilot’.

  2. I am sad to say that this was a lesson in how not to conduct a live FB Q&A. To have 15 minutes of Q but no real answers that were muffled by the interviewer constantly interupting was dissapointing. I wish I could say better things but regrettably I cannot especially as TWO of the questions were mine!!

    I can only assume that there were not many Q’s or I must be privileged to get both my Q’s raised. The second one was the most important to me but was not really answered and then was swampled by the interviewer muddling the discussion diverting it completely, which I am sure was unintentional.

    Sadly, 4/10 is generous … Sorry

    I would attend again in the hope of the benefit of lessons learned.

    Well done Eve for at least trying 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting Martin. As we’ve said full marks for effort – but the fact the questions weren’t really answered is leaving me and others cold. Definite lessons to be learned for next time.

  3. Mike Thorn says:

    Thanks James for you erudite review. As you say it was a first effort and Eve is incredibly busy. It took three months to get an available date. We certainly had no time to rehearse the event other then the welcome and share the questions received before the night.

    We learned a lot on the tech side with different microphones and cameras. On the day we were in the corner of a room with hard surfaces. We got the positioning wrong. The viewer watching on a low bandwidth connection overseas suffered when video processing was needed (ie movement) reducing the space on the connection for the sound as well. I watched on a phone over a 2 bar 3G connection and it was fine.

    We reflected upon what the content of the Live session should be, A Facebook live event is not a private discussion like Eve is due to have with the ECLub next week – which I am sure will be an interesting session 0 or the Annual Business Meeting. I observed quite a lot of people on the feed that I know are not related to Rotary. Therefore we decided that this should be a positive event that can be shared publicly with questions that reflected that. Most did.

    We invited questions via Facebook, twitter and email. We did receive a small number plus a few more on the night. We also pulled together a handful of general questions. I was disappointed that we did not get more. Some of the questions asked were not attributed, even though sent in. Given this we continued with the backups. As far as I could see only a couple of questions were missed including yours, that we picked up just too late as we were starting the finish.

    I thought that both Kaz and Eve did well in a very difficult job first time out, especially trying to make the broadcast accessible to non-Rotarians.

    I hope that we can do further events – there is already one in the plan if the logistics work out.

    1. Thanks for taking time to comment Mike Thorn.

      Like I said, this was a great effort and everyone involved should be applauded for making the effort to get President Eve on the new Facebook airwaves.

      I’m slightly confused now though with some of your comments, particularly those in relation to ‘non-Rotarians’ – as surely this was branded as a Q&A with the President. Now unless by President, we mean Trump – then I’m unsure as to why any non-member would want to look in, far less ask any questions.

      I hope you are able to do this again in the future – however if you do it needs to be less ‘All about Eve’ and much more about the questions from the Regular Rots. If we looked at the percentage of time spent on Eve talking about what she was doing in her year against that allocated to the Regulars – the balance was all off – thus turned people off. I think if you look in the comments on the feed you’ll see comments about ‘When do the questions start?’

      I’m not sure I agree the broadcast should have been set for non-Rotarians – as this is certainly not how it was billed. On reflection, this now explains the format of the Live Cast and why it was perhaps not as engaging and ‘inspiring’ for the Regular Rots in attendances as had perhaps been hoped.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting – and we look forward to the next session.

  4. Tony Jordan says:

    As Chairman of the RIBI Rotaract Committee I am understandably interested in your
    reference to “Involving Rotaract in the future of Rotary”
    With 60+ active clubs across 23 districts engaging around 700 members, Rotaract has to be a serious membership potential for Rotary when they approach the end of their time in Rotaract and Rotaract should sensibly be involved in discussions as to the strategic planning of the future of Rotary.

    1. Interesting point you may Tony – and I, along with many others will be very glad you have picked up on the comment.

      There is an increasing view that it is essential that Rotaract are involved in the ‘future formula’ if Rotary has to succeed into the next decade.

      You comment that “Rotaract should sensibly be involved in discussions as to the strategic planning of the future of Rotary” – something you will receive resounding support for both from this blog and its subscribers. However, I am not sure if you have read the last blog .

      It therefore seems strange that on the basis of your comment, not one single Rotaract member was either invited far less in attendance at ‘The Ten’ meeting in Alcester earlier in the month.

      One has to admit that seems to be somewhat in odds to what you are suggesting the Chair of the committee?

  5. Well apart from the signal failures and the Oscar winning theatrics, or not, depending upon envelope choice, I was understandably underwhelmed with the ‘hour’. I was hoping for something offering a little more (read lot) insight as to where we are going.

    For an organisation with 1200 clubs not 1800 and 47,000 members supposedly made up from all walks of life and professions, I was amazed at how ‘amateur’ the broadcast was. My grandson (10) makes You Tube videos, somewhere around 1,000% better produced and presented…anyway I did get a question in regarding Satellite Clubs (a group by any other name). Been trying to set one up for 6 months now and the resistance is unbelievable and it is truly because there is not definition in black and white so some clubs see it as a way of increasing membership, some as a way of hiving off the active members of their club and others as just an extension of their club, meeting at a different time. Even is it a Group or a Club has become contentious.

    I, along with others was hoping the Eve, a journalist with the BBC would ensure that Rotary was all over the media for at least a year with a PR machine working to do nothing else except demonstrate what we do but it was the same old same, Polio, Polio Polio. 17,000 under fives died yesterday from preventable diseases…….that’s where we should be.

    In the true nature of the ‘new’ BBC this session could be edited to take out the extraneous and published leaving about four minutes of relevance.

    We know that Eve has worked hard, she gave up a year of her time exclusively but she has an opportunity to leave a legacy…

    There is another session next week (March 7th) I have registered, signed up and diarised. I have sent in my question which may get a hearing….

    For that effort I agree with James, not COULD have done better MUST!

    I might say I was not as excited as Kaz…..#peace

    1. Thanks for your comments Adrian.

      As I outlined in the main blog – fair play to those who put the session on and gave it a whirl.

      I’m not sure that Facebook Live is meant to be a fully produced ‘BBC’ style interview from the breakfast TV couch – but basic principles relating to undertaking an interview must at least be applied.

      I have to agree with you that way too much of the interview was about Polio and there was so much more we could have listened to.

      Anyway, like you say – maybe next time.

  6. David Ellis says:

    As I have said to Eve herself, she has no need to visit every district. Our own DG invited her to visit last week, very few of our clubs knew the visit was taking place. Eve attended the DG’s club charter and was due to fly to the Isle of Man (part of our district) to witness the lighting up of public buildings, this went ahead last year very successfully with such a visit. Isle of Man is one area of RIBI that does not have a major membership problem, our main issue at the moment and not even mentioned in the interview last night. Mike Thorn mentioned “quite a lot of people” were watching, in truth it peaked at 21 and dropped either by boredom or bad signal to an average of 14. Mike should be congratulated on setting the meeting up but he was let down by an annoying interviewer with loaded questions to self promote the president. No mention of our membership problem, the “Ten” meeting, strategic plans, entertainment at the Manchester Conference or any marketing plans.
    Verdict…an opportunity missed.

  7. says:

    It was great for Eve to manage to fit this into her busy schedule for which she should be thanked.

    As for the content I understand that Eve is a professional journalist/broadcaster so with all due respect if anyone should know how to lead the discussion there should be no-one better.

    As for the interviewer I have to say she wasn’t that good, and that is being polite. As a former freelance broadcaster working mostly for the BBC I was always taught to preface questions with one of the words, who, what, where, how, when, why.
    This means that the interviewee has to give you a proper answer, rather than a yes or no, and a golden rule was not to try to talk over the reply with either your own view or another question, although to be fair it does seem to be an increasing and irritating trend with professionals like BBC Breakfast’s Charlie Stayt. However I digress.

    Let the interviewee answer, and if they haven’t done so properly you can come in with a follow-up question to challenge them to actually answer the question that was asked. The interviewer should be in charge in an unobtrusive way.

    If David’s figures about the take-up of ‘viewers’ are correct, and I’ve no reason to doubt them, then everyone concerned must be disappointed to say the least, and you have to ask if it was making good use of the RIBI President’s valuable time.

    However perhaps it should be built on as from little acorns…well you know the rest!

    1. says:

      Ron as you say a proper interviewer would ask open questions to avoid the yes no answers. I like you was mentored by a BBC journalist in the art of interviewing and the interviewer leads. Talking to one BBC very respected interviewer I was told that quite often interviewees have their own agenda and that has to be cut through with follow up questions. Mike Thorn did indeed set the whole thing up prompted by an interested Rotarian who wanted to hear from the RIBI President directly. It’s difficult to understand how only 3 questions were answered in a 60 minute session but I am informed that although it was a question and answer session the first question was not raised until 34 mins into the session so 3 questions answered in 26 mins even if you are generous and allow 5 mins to reply to a question that should have been over 5 replied to. Not good. the reports of the session are not good since RotaryBlogger scores it a low 4/10 but opportunities like this are few and far between and RIBI should be setting the standard for others to follow. Also such a session run by the RIBI Public Image group attracted at its highest 21 attendees which once again by any standards is low and because of the very poor performances people were dropping out. Had this event been publicised correctly then the audience should have been 50+ and even then a minuscule percentage of the membership. Busy people had given up their time to follow this event and obviously some were disappointed, that is not good and now I am reasonably happy I did not attend. Well done to those who did and stick at it to the end, some stamina.

    2. Thanks for commenting Ron – your points about interviewing are absolutely spot on.

      To be fair, nobody is sure if Kaz Aston is professional or semi-professional at doing this kind of thing – but as I outlined the blog it was clear that the interview had been set up to basically showcase Eve and the interviewer allowed that to happen. That’s not what I thought the hour was meant to be about.

      David Ellis’s comments about the viewing figures were absolutely spot on. I recorded it peaking at 21 at then bumbling around the 13/14 mark for the majority of the broadcast.

      Fingers crossed the next one will be a bit more along the lines of a Q&A and the viewing figures will be higher.

    1. Not only 21 viewers Mac – that was the highest number of viewers at any one time. I am sure it would have had a few hundred viewers as it averaged 13/14 viewers throughout. RotaryGBI would have got the insights into who viewed the Live Cast once it finished.

  8. says:

    The great project for Rotary is to eradicate Polio…but how many new potential Rotarians are interested or engaged ??
    I was at school in 1950 when we had a case of polio very rare then -I am an old man-this is a disease really only known (in this country ) by old people-its not the right target health objective for modern Rotary-how does a 40 year old react ? Polio targets the wrong group of volunteers – Rotary needs to get to a modern problem…one that people of the younger generation will recognise eg malaria,water borne diseases
    Interviewer ” youve cracked it eve !” but what have you cracked ???
    There are several Turn Off words e.g Council of Legislation Foundation Attendance…Conference in Manchester. Chartering Rotary Assembly in San Diego
    Re run this and aim it at 40 year olds who have no knowledge (yet !) of how Rotary works where they live and how they may contribute….its not attending a conference ,attendance rules ,councils of legislations
    Satellite Clubs but what is it ??? poor answers
    How on earth can you sum up what Rotary does in “one word”…
    I agree that unfortunately this was a very UNPROFESSIONAL interview ,broke all the rules of good interviews ,seemingly had no proper objective ,was not intelligible to any non Rotarian audience…we just keep speaking to ourselves….and even then we dont agree

    1. This really is a great point Mike.

      There is no doubt that Rotary needs to finish what it started, apparently we are ‘this close’ so that needs to be completed. But to a modern society – there is a need to engage with younger people in a way they understand. You are correct that a young person will hardly know what polio is. Take an example of speaking to a friend (in their 20s) about polio and as a quick test just happened to ask them about smallpox and when it was eradicated. They hardly knew what smallpox was and thought it was ‘one of those diseases like the plague from back in Victorian times’.

      However, speak to her about malaria, HIV or breast cancer or even STIs then she knew everything she needed to about them.

      I’m not saying we should throw the baby out with the bathwater – but we do need to look at how we engage with that age range if we want to bring them into the organisation over the next few years.

        1. says:

          I appreciate that Nan but it can’t be right that several hundred Rotarians at the ABM get around just two hours to change things (after all the reports have been presented). Regards Ron

          1. Nan mccreadie says:

            I totally agree Ron. However, some of that is down to apathy of clubs not wanting to participate and some is down to lack of communication in preparation. Looking at the possibility of a one day event not attached to conference, allowing more time for discussion, might help.

          2. Thanks for commenting Nan – it’s nice to see some of our Past hierarchy taking part in the discussions. Trust me it doesn’t go unnoticed by the subscribers to the blog. I think your comments about apathy is absolutely part of it. As I’ve said before – if you asked the vast majority of Regular Rots who is the President? Who is the General Secretary? What is the General Council? Perhaps even where is RotaryGBI Headquarters – most of them wouldn’t have any idea what you were even talking about. Perhaps instead of trying to fight these Clubs, we should be looking at some ways of embracing this ‘all about my Club’ situation and going with it as the direction of travel for Rotary in these islands.

            Thanks again for coming into the Blog Nan.

          3. says:

            Rotary Blogger wrote: “Perhaps instead of trying to fight these Clubs, we should be looking at some ways of embracing this ‘all about my Club’ situation and going with it as the direction of travel for Rotary in these islands”.


            I see a growing realisation that there are other clubs around and more of them are working together to do good works in the name of “Rotary” not just their club. That’s something we should build on.

          4. Nan mccreadie says:

            It is all about clubs. They are the drivers. Some are good at driving change and some don’t want any change. Bit like politics really – oops, not allowed to say that. I have always urged clubs to work together to make a difference. Of course they have their own projects but some of them more than overlap.

            Polio is important because we made a promise to the children of the world. When rotary got involved, it was because of a club project in the Philippines. Polio wasn’t even an issue in many parts of the world. But if us still there in countries where rotary is strong. Plus it’s only a plane ride away.

            We need to do what we can for many problems. We are so few, trying to do so much

  9. Lindsay Pearson says:

    I’m not sure it is apathy.

    At our last Club meeting a couple of us (answers on a postcard who they were…) mentioned the “difficulties” that RIBI are in, and there was a general expression of “wot?” so in a couple of weeks we are having an evening presenting “wot” is going on, and what we can do about it. I am very impressed (no criticism implied, praise indeed!) that our DG will be attending to throw his views into the pot. In fact we are getting seriously top-heavy as our DGE will be attending the following week!

    It really is up to those of us who want Rotary to triumph to tell our Members what is going on, and get them involved in bringing about change

    1. Thanks for the reply Lindsay – you raise many common points in Clubs across these islands. Interesting that your District top-knobs are coming along over the next few weeks. Will be interesting to hear their views – as I am receiving an increasing amount of concerned contacts from District Governors (and even RIBI Past Presidents) who are also becoming concerned at the ‘wots’ going on at RotaryGBI.

      It will be great to hear how your ‘wot’ session goes – perhaps get in touch to do a guest blog to the RotaryBlogger subscribers?

  10. says:

    Is the Polio Project the “elephant in the room” should we move on? the world’s little corners of conflict,inaccessibility and resistance of bacilli probably means we will NEVER eradicate it.(this is Rotary heresy!) We will reduce it to the very minimum of cases forever …….so move on Rotary Foundation…find a world cause that 45 year olds can believe in.

    1. Lindsay Pearson says:

      You may remember that there was a strong project, the Rotary National Cycle Ride for Prostate Cancer, which after one successful year was hijacked by elements of RIBI to transfer its allegiance to Polio Plus, without any discussion and agreement with the organisers. Or so I understand…

      Whilst the eradication of polio is a laudable objective, as Mike says, it may be impossible in practice. There are very few of us left who remember the results of polio, the iron lung etc, and so the impact of the eradication campaign is lost on a vast proportion of the population.

      Prostate cancer, on the other hand, is a disease known to almost everybody – most Clubs probably have at least one sufferer, and that is reflected in the general population. Perhaps it is time to reverse the transfer of the Cycle Ride back to its original object. (and why did it happen in the first place ?)

      1. Ron Duxbury says:

        I take the point that perhaps it’s not possible to stop polio but if we stop supporting ‘End Polio Now’ it will return with a vengeance. Rotary has achieved much and we can’t throw it away now.
        In D1190 we have a Rotarian who goes around exhibiting an iron lung, and the reality of having to have one is quite frightening for most people who see it.
        Yes by all means support prostate cancer or any other good cause but we cannot and must not give up on ‘End Polio Now’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *