In the current age of physical distancing, the world is seeing an unprecedented explosion of business, learning, and gatherings being conducted virtually. While virtual meetings are essential to public health, they can also be tricky to navigate for both hosts and participants. As social distancing continues, we need to be thoughtful about how we can adjust our practices to make these online meetings productive, engaging, and worth peoples’ time.
Have a clear agenda, and don’t let things run on too long.
When hosting a virtual event, a clear agenda will help establish expectations for both the hosts and participants. Think of your agenda as a game plan; it helps you, the host, to stay organized, on task, and accountable to the value created by your event.
If you are hosting an online event, we recommend sending out an agenda ahead of time so that everyone knows what’s happening and when. This can also increase engagement from your audience--if participants know how much content to expect, they tend to be more interested and active versus when they go into a meeting blindly.
Keep your virtual events to the point, as well. There’s nothing more frustrating than meetings, virtual or in-person, that could have been emails. We recommend sticking to the main points of your agenda--answer questions concisely and be respectful of everyone’s time.
Invite your audience to share their answers, experiences, and feedback.
With physical distancing keeping us apart, it can be difficult to foster feelings of connection. Chances are, the participants in your event are craving adult interaction with someone other than those in their household so reserve time for people to add to the conversation. Asking your audience questions and encouraging their participation can make your event that much more interesting; you may even consider posing questions to them when you email the agenda so everyone comes prepared to actively engage.
Avoid talking too much at your audience, and instead, give plenty of opportunities for people to contribute. When people are invited to share their opinions and experiences, they will walk away from your event feeling validated and confident. According to some researchers, they may also remember more about the event later.
Devote specific time to questions.
Setting aside a specific portion of your virtual meeting to answer questions will help you stay organized and on track. Towards the end of the meeting typically works best.
To save time, you may ask even participants to send in questions before the event. This allows you to review your audience’s concerns ahead of time, which can help you filter repetitive questions and better address the needs of your participants. It can also inform the way you run your event--if you know that a lot of people have questions about a certain topic, for example, you can emphasize it right from the beginning.
Get ahead of any potential technology issues.
Oftentimes, it’s the little things that make a big difference. Taking a moment before your event to check your internet connection, charge or update your computer, and silence notifications on your devices can vastly improve the productivity of your virtual meetings. Cover your bases and have a backup plan in case of unforeseen technical problems.
As we face new developments in our professional and personal lives, it is more important than ever to connect productively and free of distractions. Hosting virtual meetings is a new challenge and opportunity for us all, and with the right mentality, you can close the gap between the physical and digital worlds by creating engaging events right from your home.