Virtual meetings allow us to unite when circumstances such as geography, schedules, weather, and crises prevent us from being together. The mobile technology we all have in our hands or pockets offers a remarkable opportunity to connect with people in new and meaningful ways.
Our mission at Wooly is to empower the creation of dynamic teams and communities who share a passion for specific brands. The current change from in-person to remote work has expanded our concept of how groups interact. Virtual events and meetings are ideal for companies and their brand ambassadors.
A few of the brands we work with are holding consistent virtual meetings. The events are a great way to motivate and strengthen bonds with advocates. This article focuses on virtual meetings and events for brand ambassadors, but the process and ideas work for any organization.
Presumably, we all understand what a virtual meeting is. The word virtual means not physically existing or not in-person. But when it comes to events, the virtual aspect is that people are not physically in the same location during the meetings. They participate online via computers and devices, such as mobile phones.
Advantages of Virtual Meetings
First, people can meet together without leaving home and connect in novel ways.
Since everyone has online access, the second advantage is the cost of traveling to and from events is practically nothing. Also, we don't have to drive, fight traffic or even get fully dressed. Virtual events eliminate most of the travel expenses and hassles.
The third significant benefit of virtual get-togethers is that everyone can join. It doesn't matter if you live 6,000 miles apart; you can still attend. Events that are virtual open access for your entire community, even the world if you'd like.
The Downside of Virtual Gatherings
Because we are not physically together, virtual meetings have some uncertainties and limitations. The flow of online gatherings and events can be choppy and disjointed, especially if we try to manage them like in-person activities.
Another drawback is the level of engagement. It's tough to keep everyone's attention and interest. How easy is it to check that text message that just came in or in a big group, turn off the camera and work on something else? The challenge is real. Preparation and substance are covered below and can conquer this hurdle.
Lastly, technology is great until it glitches. The entire success of a well-planned and attended virtual event depends on your equipment and software. Ensure you have good wifi, devices, and tech. And have a backup for each.
We want everyone to take full advantage of virtual events and minimize the downsides. With a solid process and best practices for virtual meetings, organizations have many opportunities.
BEST PRACTICES FOR VIRTUAL MEETING
Most of what we know and do for in-person gatherings translates directly to virtual meetings. From the planning process to the follow-up, virtual meetings are similar. Since many of the details and expenses don't apply to online meetings, they tend to be less complicated and straightforward.
Planning Virtual Meetings
STEP 1 - Nail the Purpose
The very first decision is the reason for the meeting. Everything hinges on the purpose and idea. Is the goal to inform, involve, train, explain, or rally?
STEP 2 - Schedule the Date and Time
Once you determine why you are holding the virtual meeting, pick a date and time. Consider your attendees. When is the most convenient time for them to gather?
When it comes to virtual meetings, you should not go more than one hour. The ideal length is between 30 to 60 minutes.
STEP 3 - Determine the Presenter and Host
You need to select who will present at the virtual meeting and if there will be a moderator. They can be the same person, but it adds variety and might be more engaging to have more than one person.
STEP 4 - Plan the Agenda
Outline a plan for the meeting. Start with a short introduction, the body of the meeting, and close. Estimate how long you'll spend on each thing and the best sequence. The longer your virtual meeting is, the harder it is for people to focus and stay engaged. It's a good idea to keep the online gathering as concise and short as you can.
STEP 5 - Online Meeting Software
Next, decide which virtual meeting platform you will use. Options for online meeting software include Zoom, Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, and GoToMeeting. You could use online meeting apps like Facebook Live, which would be very easy for ambassadors. They may not have Zoom or Google Hangouts on their phone.
Free video conferencing software options:
Zoom - 40-minute limit to group meetings. Multiple participants may share their screens simultaneously and facilitate remote cooperation.
Google Hangouts Meet - must have a G Suite subscription (cheapest plan is $6 per month). HD video and can share screens.
Cisco Webex Meetings - 40-minute time limit. Up to 50 participants, real-time polls, calendar integrations, recording, and screen sharing.
Skype - up to 25 people and 10-language voice translation.
UberConference - limited to 10 participants and 45 minutes. You can record the meeting, and attendees join with the URL and PIN.
STEP 6 - Send the Invites
Typically announcing the virtual meeting should be one to two weeks before the event. Email is one of the best ways to send an invite. You can use Wooly's CRM to send an email directly to all your advocates.
Some organizations announce events on social media and via SMS text.
You'll want to include the following in the email invitation:
- Date and time
- Length of meeting
- Brief outline - who is presenting and what
- Meeting links and instructions
- Registration (great way to get a headcount)
The email is your opportunity to get people excited. Generating some FOMO is perfectly acceptable.
Step 7 - Send a Meeting Reminder
Send an email reminder one day before the meeting. Recap the meeting details, add more buss, and maybe a teaser about the meeting, such as an award or prize.
VIRTUAL MEETING TIME!
STEP 8- Set the Stage (Set Up and Test)
The best insurance against tech problems is to test your equipment and have a backup. Schedule a test meeting about 30 minutes before. Does the camera work? What does the background look like? Is the mic clear and loud? Is the room where you are broadcasting quiet and clean?
Practice welcoming everyone and muting people who are not speaking. If you are sharing your screen, run through a few slides or your video.
Take a few minutes to review your agenda.
It's go time.
STEP 9 - Start the Meeting
Arrive early for the virtual meeting. Some people roll straight from their test to the actual meeting and just wait. If you are using free video conference software, be aware of the time. You probably can't waste 10-15 minutes waiting.
STEP 10- Welcome All Attendees!
Virtual meetings demand more enthusiasm. Be energetic and try to engage attendees immediately. Consider doing a roll call if the group isn't too large.
STEP 11 - Stick to the Plan
You have worked hard to design and facilitate a fabulous online gathering. Honor the time and attention people are spending with you and stick to your meeting schedule.
STEP 12 - Wrap Up and End
Conclude the meeting with a summary and if you are planning to hold another event, share some brief details. If you are recording the meeting, let guests know when you will send the recording.
End with a warm and sincere thank you to everyone!
STEP 13 - Follow Up
You can keep the engagement and community vibe going with follow-up communication. Send an email with a recap summary and the recording.
If you asked people to do things during your virtual meeting, remind them and inspire action.
Follow-up emails can include pictures from the meeting. Also, consider a post-meeting survey or simply ask people to reply directly with feedback and ideas.
STEP 14 - Evaluate the Online Meeting
Take a few minutes and honestly evaluate how the meeting went. What were the successes? And where could you improve next time? Think about what you would change.
Virtual Meeting Checklist
Download this handy virtual meeting checklist to help you plan, prep, conduct, and follow up.
Do you need some ideas and inspiration for virtual events? We are working on a bunch for you. Check back in a few days for great virtual event ideas for brands in 2021. So far we have 37 ideas.