The 2020 pandemic forced the cancellations of meetings and important events across the board. But rather than focus on the loss of connection, hosting a virtual meeting allows event planners to reimagine and refocus on what is important. Certified Meeting Planner Melanie Payne discusses "Ten Things to Consider When Hosting a Virtual Meeting":
Reprioritize Your Goals – It is easy with events and meetings to stick to a status quo and use the same successful pattern year after year - registration, welcome worship, morning plenary, afternoon breakouts, evening social time. A virtual event gives you flexibility to mix it up, to strip down all the excess and get back to the real purpose and goals of the meetings. A virtual event allows you to be creative, concise, and effective and focus on completing your work and meeting your goals.
Do a Dry Run – The old adage “practice makes perfect” holds true for a virtual meeting. It is inevitable with technology that something on some front will have a glitch. The day before, ideally the same time of the virtual event, make certain you do a full dress rehearsal. This will help highlight if you have internet connectivity issues during a certain time; if daily noises (like that neighbor mowing his lawn or the trash truck) will be heard by attendees; that your equipment is working properly and presentation slides are all in order.
Have Presenters Mute Their Notifications – There is nothing more distracting for attendees than hearing a loud bing in the middle of a presentation. Make certain all presenters mute their notifications and silence all devices.
Think Through Ways for Attendees to Feel Included and Engaged – If you create opportunities for engagement, your audience will be more involved. It’s as simple as that. One of the things we love so much about in-person events is the ability to connect with those around you and have a common experience. Think through the ways you can encourage those same feelings of inclusion, connection, and common experience even while people are not together.
Choose Dynamic Presenters – Let’s just admit it, when listening to a virtual event our attention spans are small. Each one of us can sit down and spend 30 minutes to 3 hours watching a movie or TV show, but you sit in front of a 30-minute presentation on a single topic and it’s hard to stay focused. Choosing dynamic presenters is like choosing the right soundtrack for your movie. You think the point will get across without it, and it may, but it just isn’t as effective. Whether your presenters are experts in their field or high energy, make certain they know how to engage your audience. They may be the most engaging presenter during your in-person meeting, but consider if that translates well in the extra engagement efforts that a virtual event needs.
Technology is Simply the Medium – There still needs to be a flow and narrative to your meeting that stems from your goals and through your presenters. Focus your content with a clearly recognizable beginning, middle, and end to each presentation to keep the attention and allow participants to feel involved.
Think Mobile – In such a digital and mobile world, many attendees will be using mobile devices to access the virtual event. Depending on timing and life, some may move between a mobile device and a computer as their day progresses. Thinking through what the mobile view looks like can inform your slide text, how many features you may enable, and quality of presentation.
Assign Moderators to the Chat and Q&A Features – It’s important for attendees to be engaged but also for presenters to focus on what they are presenting. We all have experienced those long moment lags where a presenter has to read through the chat conversation and attendees are left twiddling their thumbs. Or even worse, when an important question is asked and it didn’t get addressed. Assigning a moderator to respond to the “quick” questions and bring to the presenters attention the longer questions will allow for a better presenter and attendee flow.
Create a Calendar – Many people think a virtual event will take less time to plan than an in-person event, but oftentimes virtual events come with a large learning curve that ends up taking lots of time. Creating a production schedule for the event early will allow you to have time to train presenters, delegates, and cross all you t’s and dot all your i’s.
Pick a Time and Date - When picking a time and date, think about the day-to-day activities of your audience. If you’re appealing to the 9-to-5 crowd, Monday is probably not going to work. But later in the week, when they’re needing a mental break from their workload may be better. Is your event international or does it cross time zones? Think of all of your attendees when picking the date and time.
Virtual meetings can be intimidating. But with a well-thought-out plan, practice for presentations, and a focus on community, these meetings can be just as successful. If you are interested in hosting a virtual meeting and don’t know where to start, reach out to the event planning professionals at UMC Support. Visit our Virtual Meeting Service page, email us at ConnectionalRelations@gcfa.org, or call us 866-367-4232.