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How to run social sessions

Social sessions can be an effective way to get postdocs to interact and build a sense of cohort/belonging. In this article we outline key points to bear in mind when planning a social session, examples of social sessions and our recommendations. Running social sessions can be a very effective tool to normalise the postdoc experience, encourage peer sharing and combat feelings of isolation.

Things to consider when running a social session...

  • What is the main outcome you’re hoping to achieve by running a social session?
  • Do you want to run it virtually or face to face? Is there any cost associated with running it face to face? 
  • How informal or structured would you like the session to be?  
  • Do you want these to run regularly? For example, one social session per fortnight or month.
  • How long do you want the session to run for?
  • How are you going to advertise it to the postdocs?
  • Have you considered any barriers to attendance? Can be addressed by something as simple as moving the day or time of day these events are held
  • Do you have any postdocs who may wish to lead running this type of session?

How we ran social sessions

The social sessions we ran fall into several distinct types: 


  • Set a theme or prompt question, we found a ‘social’ isn’t typically enough of a draw to get good postdoc attendance.
  • Consider carefully how you can involve anyone unable to attend live. You could share any outputs from discussions with the whole cohort on a Mural or Padlet.
  • Avoid recording the live sessions as this can limit and prohibit discussions.
  • Steer clear of running these sessions simultaneously live online and in-person.
  • Run social sessions face-to-face if possible. Neither of our two pilot cohorts liked Kumospace (an online platform where your video appears as a floating head and you can navigate around a virtual room to talk to others). Zoom with options to breakout was slightly preferred.
  • Don't underestimate the value of social sessions, we found that encouraging postdocs to have discussions led to sharing of challenges and solutions, enhanced networking and benefitted their career development .
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