For upcoming face-to-face engagements, we may be faced with this question: should I cancel, postpone or try to hold it virtually?
We don’t know how long this period of uncertainty will last, but at Stratos, and for many other businesses as well, we are doing what we can to move forward. Many organizations have mandated that their employees work from home, so the need for effective virtual engagement is critical.
Benefits of virtual engagements
Whether it’s a team meeting, workshop or conference, there are several benefits of planning virtual engagements (aside from being the only choice for most people working from home right now!)
When planning for virtual meetings, different strategies and approaches will need to be considered. Here are tips and ideas for how to effectively transition your event to an online experience.
Tip #1: Design an approach with #WFH in mind
The difference between a good meeting and a bad meeting is a well-designed approach!
We recommend that you:
Clarify your objectives
Why are you gathering people? What do you hope to achieve? How do you want people to feel? We’ve outlined five potential objectives for gathering people in Figure 1.
Understand your audience
Your audience members may: need more flexibility while working from home; find it hard to concentrate for long periods; get distracted easily; be intimated by new technology; or have limited access to bandwidth. Wherever possible, take the time to check-in with potential participants and gauge their capacity to engage digitally (e.g., do they have the internet bandwidth or digital skills).
Break up your session (e.g., 1-day meeting = 4 x 90 min sessions):
Since you are no longer confined to a time or venue – break it up! Breaking up an agenda also gives participants more flexibility as not everyone can work a full day anymore. Key questions to ask yourself are:
- What can be done on people’s own time? (e.g., where people can review, contribute on their own time, etc.)
- What needs to be done collaboratively? (e.g., where would people like to join a digital platform at the same time to engage with one another)
Align invitees with session topics:
People feel most engaged when they are comfortable, when things make sense to them and when they believe they can make a difference. If you break up your agenda by objective, potential participants can engage with the topic that is most relevant to them.
Co-design the agenda:
We find it most helpful to co-design or test the agenda with select participants in advance to ensure it will resonate with everyone.
Tip #2: Know your options
Once you have defined the objectives, consider the virtual options for each.
Tip #3: Play around with digital collaboration tools
There is a wide range of great digital tools out there to help you make the most of your online engagement. Here are a few we like:
Tip #4: Listen, learn and improve
Get feedback on your engagement to learn and improve. This can be done:
- In real time at the end of the event through polls, survey questions or a discussion (e.g., using a whiteboard, chat function or simple dialogue on “what went well and what could be improved”), or
- Afterwards through an online survey.
If you break up your agenda into several sessions, you can put the feedback to use immediately and improve the experience for the next engagement.
For a PDF version of this tip sheet, click here.