We are all starting to hit round two of our virtual meetings. Hopefully, we do less virtual in the coming months and more face to face. But, if your company policy calls for no in person meetings yet, this article will help to make round two of your virtual meetings a success. Below is a collection of feedback from clients, speakers and my own personal experience hosting and attending virtual meetings this past year.
PLATFORM: Keep it link based or web based. If you can find a virtual platform that provides a link or web browser, do it. When I've been asked to download a platform and programs to attend a virtual meeting, it was cumbersome and time consuming. Ask the platform rep about your options. Do a demo with all the formats offered to compare for yourself. The last thing you want to do is add a step for your attendees. This is already a frustrating process for them, and you want to make it as smooth as possible.
VISUAL CONTENT: Work with your speakers, internal and external staff to keep the content as brief and visual as possible. Pictograms, Pictographs, Infographics are king. There are great resources out there like Piktochart that can easily create visuals. You can also use good ole PowerPoint in one slide to get your point across. Imagine being at your computer and being forced to watch people talk and drone on for several minutes. You might as well be on your couch or laying in bed watching a YouTube video or a documentary on Netflix. Give your viewers a professional experience that keeps them upright at their computer. Working with your speakers to improve their content for this format will engage your viewers & elevate the professional experience. Give your viewers a visual message that can be quickly understood and facilitates action.
DON'T BE SUCH A STICK IN THE MUD, SPICE IT UP WITH FUN ENGAGEMENT: The engagement we've been seeing during virtual meetings this past year has been creative, but, it can be better. Invest in entertainment to keep people on the screen with you between sessions, at breaks or as a lead up to your key note speaker. Some fun ideas we've seen are: dance roller skaters (think TikTok Stevie Nicks style), dueling pianos with live chat request features, relevant poets (think Amanda Gorman), local children's choirs, Improv Games (Bunny Bunny is my favorite), live DJs, acoustic guitarists, karaoke, chair yoga, live painting to classic rock etc. You may think your attendees are too grown up or conservative for this, but, they are not. Trust me. They are in their house, just like the rest of us, looking for something clever to make them laugh and keep them interested. Don't discount your attendees' need for fun. We all need it. If your conference is extremely business focused and data driven, you probably need it more. Adult coloring books is a big business, having fun is not beneath you. This is a nice brain break that re-engages people and brings them back to your mission. Spicing it up with unique engagement will show you've taken a risk to tap into the broad spectrum of your attendees' needs and will make your virtual conference memorable.
KEEP THE PROGRAMMING SIMPLE & SHORT: The attention span of a virtual meeting attendee is shorter than a live meeting attendee. In a live meeting room, if someone is bored, they aren't as likely to get up and walk out of the room for fear of peer shaming. In a virtual meeting, if someone is bored, they will click the X and move on to the next thing. It's also very likely they will have the virtual program running on one device and doing emails on another device. Gone are the days of a full day conference that is 8 hours long if you're doing virtual. Shorten the time frame of the conference. Reduce the number of breakouts. Make the content so good and tight that you can be productive in half the time. It's about quality of content, not quantity of breakouts and length of conference. Too many choices confuses attendees and can dilute your message. Be as succinct as you can to keep as many people captive as long as you can.
ENCOURAGE VIRTUAL SPIN OFFS: Remember the days of yore when we had live conferences and different groups of people would gather to host parties & meet ups? The ole "Spin off" or "In Conjunction With" event as we call them in the convention business. This can still happen in a virtual meeting. You can encourage people to have their own spin offs. These spin offs are perfect for VIP events, host committees, running groups, sales people that want to entertain customers, executive committee members, first time conference attendees, Past President's etc. Imagine all the ways people gather in person in their separate groups at a live conference. Give them a way to do that virtually. You can even create a tab on your registration giving ideas for Spin Offs. Don't be afraid of it taking away from your programming. Encouraging people to gather in small groups using your virtual meeting platform will further enhance the overall meeting experience. Designate breakout rooms, times, and make it easy for people to book and attend on their own. This will stimulate networking. You can even gamify with points and people can earn points for attending a "Spin Off" "ICW" or "Breakout"
GIFTING: Gifting to attendees is more affordable with a virtual meeting. You don't have the costs of shipping to the hotel and paying room drop fees for delivery. You don't have to invest the time and labor for an army of people assemble gift bags and distribute at registration. Use one of the many gifting resources that are out there to curate a gift experience for your attendees. Many of the gifting companies can enable a web link in advance where you can give your attendees a choice of gifts. You can narrow it to 2 - 4 items within a certain budget and the attendees can select what they want, online, and have it delivered in advance. Then, you can use that as a networking tool during the conference. A virtual "show and tell". You can make your gift "Show and Tell" a breakout/networking spin off. Attendees can share what they selected, and why. If your gift is clothing item, the attendee can wear it during the conference. You can even have a "styling" contest, of "Who Wore It Best." Same gift item but have a contest for the attendee who incorporates it into their Zoom screen or outfit best. Encourage people to snap pics with their gifts using your conference hashtag on social media. Many companies have global reach so you don't have to pay high international shipping costs. You can select an item in that region and use local delivery instead of international which will save you money. Don't be afraid of global gifting costs. There are some really cool items out there for $20.00 and $200.00. The companies can work with you on your budget and still provide a quality unique experience. One thing I've learned is don't try doing it yourself. The cost and time to purchase and assemble isn't worth it. There is also a risk it won't get there on time if you aren't tracking it yourself. Let the experts do this. The companies I've worked with have made it so simple for us. They customize, communicate, package, brand and ship.
These are just a few of the many things we've learned about the first round of virtual meetings. If you have any questions about LIVE, VIRTUAL or HYBRID meetings, I've hosted and attended all 3 types of meetings during Covid and am happy to share lessons learned. Reach out to me anytime, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need a recommendation for vendors for global gifting, fun engagement, virtual meetings or Covid Safety at your live or virtual meeting, I have trusted vendors to share with you. Ping me anytime. Cheers to wishing the Covid Gods will waive a wand of vaccine harmony over all of us and we can get back to in person meetings for 2022 and beyond.