Category Archives: Blog

How to Liven Up a Virtual Meeting: Nail Your Kickoff Experience (Part 1 of 3)

Does your virtual event spark joy? Keeping pace with the surge in virtual events, we consulted new ConventionPlanit.com supplier member Ben Corey, CEO and Lead Digital Entertainer with Stream Variety, for advice on livening up a virtual meeting. Ben had so much to share, in fact, that this is the first of a three-part series.

1. Eliminate extended speaker introductions.

Participants at streaming events can easily be distracted before traditional speaker bios are even delivered. Post bios online for those who may be interested and start with something unexpected or more personal instead. For example, speakers can begin by sharing something about themselves that is 100% true but sounds made up.

2. Focus on emotional connections from the first moment.

If your audience is pulling their hair out as they telework while homeschooling their kids, start there! Start exactly where your specific audience is, and share a related personal story to bring your audience closer, even though they are far away.

3. Engage participants upon arrival with sponsor-worthy Streamosphere.

As your audience arrives, captivate them with unexpected visual streaming entertainment. Create an atmosphere of anticipation before your speakers go live. While others may start a stream fumbling with cameras and lose half of their audience, look like a rock star by going live with something immediately awesome.

Ben Corey provides consulting and support to help you launch successful digital tradeshows, innovative online networking events, and conferences.  He provides a complete roster of sponsorable streaming entertainment.  Contact Ben Corey directly at Stream Variety to learn more.

Virtual Meeting Misconceptions Turned Inside Out

By Nancy Settle-Murphy, Guided Insights

When people evaluate the quality their typical virtual meetings on a scale of 1-10, the average response we get tends to hover somewhere between a 3 and 4. (And that’s progress, compared to a few years ago!) After all this time, why do virtual meetings still have such a bad rap? Are they really that poorly-run, or do people just assume they will be a waste of time, and plan their participation (or lack thereof) accordingly?

Joining me is Steve Bather, Practice Lead for The Realise Group. A seasoned practitioner of planning and leading large events and virtual meetings, Steve runs MeetingSphere, a company that produces efficient meeting productivity tools available from the Cloud.

Our basic premise: Successful virtual meetings require a thoughtful discipline that demonstrates a deep sense of respect for all participants, enabling them to be full and equal participants in the conversation. We also believe that any kind of meeting should be held only when discussions are needed. (If content review is required, let people do that somewhere else.)

In this article, Steve and I refute nine of the most popular misconceptions people hold about virtual meetings, and offer some practical tips that can help transform virtual meetings from mediocre to memorable.

1. People won’t do prework, so why bother asking?  

If you agree with this assumption, then you probably build in time for content review at the start of your virtual meetings, just in case. But, since virtual meeting time is at a premium, why not plan your agenda as though people have done the prework? This means you you’ll need to make the prework sufficiently compelling, accessible and relevant. Give people a small assignment to increase the chances of completion: “Post 3 questions in our online conference area that spring to mind as you read this report.” Don’t be afraid to strike a bargain, using either a carrot or a stick, or both: If everyone comes prepared, you’ll shorten the meeting time by 10 minutes. Those who haven’t read the report must catch up on their own, before they join the conversation. If you reward those who come prepared and provide consequences for those who don’t, your virtual meetings will become more productive and take less time.  If you can encourage the majority of participants to complete the pre-workeveryone will do it next time!

2. Our routine weekly meetings don’t really need much planning. We have the routine down pretty well.

If you think that only “important” meetings need careful planning, think again. Just because your meetings follow a predictable format, it doesn’t mean the format is necessarily a good one. Even routine meetings, or perhaps especially routine meetings, must be designed so they help accelerate progress on current projects. Your weekly status meeting might need periodic tweaking, or it might require an entire overhaul. Even if you think your current format works well, consider how prework can be used more effectively to save time or enrich the quality of conversations. Solicit feedback from participants frequently and make changes as needed.

3. Everyone knows how to use these virtual tools, so let’s not waste time explaining how to use them.

Are you sure? People aren’t always equally competent and confident using certain features of a given tool, even when they’ve used it before. And sometimes, people may be using different versions, which may appear differently on their device. A few tips for ensuring the successful use of a given tool, right from the start of your meeting: Use the same tool for asynchronous and real-time participation to familiarize people with the look, feel and navigation in advance. Include a test or demo link in your meeting invitation. Invite people to log in a few minutes before the call if they’d like a quick tutorial.  Use only those features that will enhance meeting outcomes. Allocate a few seconds at the start of your call to show which tools you plan to use for this meeting. And if you can, buddy up with someone who can take care of the technology as you lead your meeting.  

4. Anonymity isn’t really needed in our virtual meetings. We’re very transparent here.  

Or so you think! That’s what some of our clients say, too, until people admit they would have been more candid if their names had not been attached to their responses. While there are many situations where it’s vital to know who said what, there are probably more times when allowing anonymous contributions can foster freer and richer exchange of ideas.  When in doubt, pilot your questions with a small group, testing whether anonymity or attribution works best. (Of course, you need to make sure that your chosen tool that allows for either anonymity or attribution, in both asynchronous and synchronous settings. Ideally, you want to be able to change between anonymous and attribution dynamically through the meeting to support different requirements along the way.)

5. We only have 60 minutes for this meeting. People won’t stay any longer.

Really? Check your assumptions before you resign yourself to this limitation. If the topic requires an in-depth conversation, participants are fully vested in the outcome, and if you keep the meeting focused, engaging and on topic, people may just accept a request for a 90-minute meeting. If you find that people simply won’t attend a meeting beyond one hour, consider breaking up the conversation into several convenient stages. Keep each session focused and productive, ensuring  that  participants are satisfied with the outcome, and that people know what they need to do prior to the next session to move the work along. Another tip: Don’t be afraid to start or end a meeting on the quarter-hour. Just because many calendars default to full hours or half-hours, it doesn’t mean we need to follow along.

6. We have to wait until almost everyone is on the call before we start.  

This comes down to basic meeting culture and discipline. If your organization’s culture allows people to join meetings when it suits them, you risk frustrating those who join on time. As the meeting leader, you face having to repeat what’s already happened to engage the latecomers, often wasting up to 20% of the scheduled meeting time to rehash what’s already been covered. Organizations with a healthy meeting discipline communicate clear joining instructions, and expect people to join in good time (up to five minutes before the start time), will complete reasonable pre-work (see first bullet) and will focus entirely on the meeting. To change our meeting culture, we must lead with the behaviors we want to encourage, rather than tolerate those that waste everyone’s time. Admittedly, it can be difficult to make latecomers feel welcome while respecting those who came on time, yet it can be done diplomatically and assertively.

7. People who wait too long for a chance to speak may not do so when the opportunity finally arises.

Even if you have a standing set of protocols, it’s worth starting every virtual meeting with a reminder about how you expect people to contribute, ask questions, seek clarification, and ensure they are viewing the correct documentation.  Pause to ask if any updates or changes are needed for this particular call. Remind people as needed how to use various meeting tools for each type of contribution. Consider how best to provide the appropriate environment for people who are uncomfortable or unwilling to speak out, especially those who need reflection time. If you provide multiple ways for people to contribute at any time during the meeting, whether anonymously or not, you may be amazed at the ideas, solutions and issues that may suddenly surface!

8. It’s impossible to know who else is on the call.

In the virtual world, we may never know who might be lurking silently, especially if the meeting technology doesn’t allow us to “see” everyone who is present. As a result, people can be more guarded about how and when to participate, and thus silence often becomes the default. When this is the case, decisions can be made without complete information or needed discussions, slowing down progress. You can ensure that your participants are aware who is participating a few ways. First, choose a tool (audio and/or meeting tool) that makes all participants visible to everyone. Many meeting tools allow the meeting planner to assign each invitee a unique password, making it difficult if not impossible for others to join. You can also do a quick verbal roll call (if you have 12 or so participants or fewer), or you can invite participants to type in some sort of hello as they join. Finally, in your meeting request, make it clear as to whether others can be invited, to cut down on the number of possible eavesdroppers.

9. We don’t need meeting notes if everyone was paying attention.

Let’s assume for a minute that everyone really was paying attention (which requires a big leap of faith). Different people may have a different recollection as to agreements, decisions, or next steps. (Plus, we tend to get fuzzy on our commitments as soon as new priorities come into play.) Discuss what level of detail is appropriate for any given type of meeting, and make sure that someone is assigned to capture and post (or send) notes. Some virtual meeting tools make it simple to capture meeting output, while others may require extensive writing, cutting, pasting and formatting. Even if your meeting notes consist only of decisions made and actions taken, people will feel more accountable as a result.

The next time you find yourself bemoaning the inherent shortcomings of virtual meetings, challenge yourself by asking: In what ways can we more effectively use technology, clear operating norms, and instill a healthier meeting culture to achieve our outcomes in an efficient, effective and engaging way? We promise you, it can be done!

Note: The article originally appeared in Guided Insight’s Communique

Nancy Settle-Murphy is the President of Guided Insights. She is a renowned expert in the fields of virtual leadership, remote collaboration and navigating cross-cultural differences, and the author of Leading Effective Virtual Teams. Learn more about Nancy at www.guidedinsights.com.

Virtual Meeting Etiquette Tips

With the increased number of remote meetings taking place these days, let’s take a moment and refresh ourselves with some etiquette best practices for virtual meetings.

1. Log On Early

Be respectful of others and their time by logging in early to test your audio, webcam, screen-sharing tools, etc. That way, the meeting can start right on time.

2. Dress the Part

Proper work attire is expected for all web-based meetings, even if you’re sitting on your couch. Remember, you are still a professional who wants to be taken seriously. You will also feel more productive and confident, so you may want to dress up even if your meeting is phone based. 

3. Consider Your Background

While not everyone has a home office, it’s important to make it look like you are in an appropriate setting (ie no dirty clothes, household clutter, or open closets visible). Prior to your meeting, test out what will be seen in your camera. Try and sit in front of a wall instead of an open room or a window (can make you appear dark).

4. Address Distractions

It would be considered rude if your phone started ringing in a boardroom, and the same is true for a virtual meeting. If possible, close the door to the room you are in and turn off your phone, music, tv, etc. Take notes with a pen and notebook to avoid keyboard noise, and no eating!

Some potential distractions are unavoidable if you are sharing your work space with others in your household temporarily. Be upfront and let your colleagues know they may hear your dog bark, children playing, or the landscaper working outside. This will save time from needing to pause to apologize mid-meeting.

5. Be Present

Look directly at the camera and speak clearly. Make virtual eye contact when speaking and listening. Pause for a response after you speak to account for wi-fi delays.

6. Mute Yourself

Since some level of background noise is likely when working from home (see above), it is extremely important to mute yourself when you are not speaking. Sometimes the meeting host will handle this, but be sure to know how to do it yourself just in case.

How the Events Industry is Changing

PCMA Convene recently surveyed event professionals to gain insight about the impact of COVID-19 on the business events industry. Here are our key takeaways:

  • Meeting professionals are resilient: the survey reports many are taking the opportunity to reset and rethink a future with digital events and face-to-face working together while they redraw their value propositions.
  • Contracts and insurance will look different: planners will be more specific in the wording used for cancellations and what unforeseen circumstances the force majeure clause covers. Some will consider not just where the event takes place, but where the attendees are coming from.
  • Rebooking windows remain generally unclear: over 25% have not determined when they will reschedule their meetings, and another 25% have booked for September or later.
  • Virtual meetings are happening: 70% of respondents are moving all or some of their meeting to a virtual platform. They will use livestream speakers, webinars, abbreviated programs, have an emcee, include Q&A and chat and interactive features, and virtual exhibits.
  • Virtual meetings will offer new perks: respondents noted they will add new features to their virtual meetings including small group peer coaching, sending gift baskets to registrants with a dessert to be consumed en masse to end an event, creating a closed Facebook group, virtual networking lounges, happy hours and round tables, speaker podcasts, instant translation services, virtual awards ceremonies, and quizzes with instant results for certifications.
  • Pricing will change: 46% of respondents said the registration cost will be lower with the virtual meeting.
  • Re-education is key: planners are re-skilling themselves in virtual meetings and digital technologies and are studying crisis management, honing contract and marketing skills.

Have something to say on the topic? Comment here to continue the conversation!

A Message From Our Meetings and Events Teams

Our friends at the Universal Orlando Resorts would like to share the below message with you.

To our Friends in the Meetings & Events Industry,

While for now our parks are closed, our roller coasters quiet and hotels empty, we wanted you to know that we are still here. We are taking care of each other, our families and our community. Our hearts go out to those that have been especially impacted by this crisis.

We are also thinking about you; our partners, our clients and the entire meetings and events community. We stand with you as we navigate these unprecedented times and recognize the need for increased flexibility going forward. Our sales team is here and eager to assist you with your meetings and events needs when you are ready.

In the meantime, we are busy enhancing current procedures and developing new ones. Every decision we make begins with the health and safety of our team members and guests. Our goal is to make the best use of this time so that we are more ready than ever to deliver unforgettable experiences that engage, inspire and entertain.

So it goes without saying; we can’t wait to welcome you back to Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood when the time comes. After all, it’s the power of bringing people together that unites us. Until then, please take care of yourself and your family.

We’ll see you soon.

Your Universal Parks & Resorts Meetings & Events Team

5 Key Considerations When Transitioning from In-Person Events to Virtual

By Beth Becker, Global Meeting Services Manager, Attune

Many planners today find themselves scrambling to transition their in-person events to virtual platforms.  Below are five areas to consider when converting your event:

1. Content

When hosting a virtual meeting content is king.  Content will attract attendees, maintain audience engagement, successfully communicate your message, and promote sales. Virtual meetings should promote collaboration; however some content or activities may not transfer well to a remote environment.   it may be necessary to adjust your content slightly to accommodate a virtual setup and maintain attendee engagement.

2. Platform

Deploying a virtual attendance platform typically involves buying a license (or licenses) for virtual meeting rooms and determining how those rooms will be utilized during live events.

There are quite a few platforms available on the market today, most of which are capable of sharing content. Choosing the right platform should be dictated by the nature of the content. If it’s purely informational, shorter in duration, or has 50 or more attendees, a webinar format may be your best option. For content that is more interactive, a two-way platform may be a better choice as it will better replicate a live, in-person environment.

3. Peripheral Equipment

Virtual meetings can be conducted using the built-in camera and microphone that come with most modern computers. However, upgrading your equipment can go a long way in improving presentation quality.  Items to consider include: a high-definition video camera, external microphone, external lighting, larger monitor, and enhanced bandwidth. These items, with the exception of bandwidth, are easily accessible at local stores and online.

4. Delivery and Support

Just as with in-person events, proper planning, preparation, support, and backup plans are essential to the success of virtual events.  Many planners underestimate the value of technical support. Unless you have a dedicated IT department that has both the knowledge and bandwidth to support your event, you’re better off working with a meeting delivery specialist, like Attune, to help you plan, deliver, and support your event.

Whether you choose to go it alone or work with an event delivery partner, here are a few key considerations as you plan your event.

Presenter Training:  How familiar are your presenters with technology and virtual platforms?  Conducting a training session with an experienced virtual technician can help presenters feel more comfortable with the technology and reduce delays or confusion during the live virtual event.

Attendee Support:  Attendees can occasionally experience challenges logging in or staying connected. An established protocol and dedicated support team will ensure maximum participation, attendee engagement, and satisfaction scores.

Rehearsal:  One of the benefits of virtual events is the ability to conduct unlimited rehearsals.  This allows you to work out the kinks and address any technical difficulties ahead of time.  Inviting a few colleagues to attend the rehearsal as audience members can provide valuable feedback prior to going live.

Backup Plan:  It’s important to establish a backup plan in case encounter problems or an internet outage occurs. Many platforms offer a dial-in option that enables the user to listen in and take part in the conversation, though they won’t see any video or content being shared.

5. Optional Features

There are many optional, interactive features offered by today’s virtual platforms. Items such as live chat, polling, and built-in surveys can be useful for gathering information and maintaining attendee engagement.

beth becker

In today’s uncertain environment, virtual attendance platforms can provide viable options for delivering live events. Planning, technical support, and back-up plans are a must to mitigate failure. Planners should seek assistance from an event delivery partner who can assist in the set-up and support of the virtual event.

To learn more about converting in-person events to virtual, Attune is currently running a webinar series on this topic.  Click here to register one of their upcoming webinars.

Beth Becker is the Global Meeting Services Manager for Attune and has more than 20 years’ experience in the travel/hospitality and meetings industry. 

Active in the Meeting community, Beth currently serves as a moderator for MeCo and Global Correspondent and Talent Bench member for i-Meet. You can connect with Beth via Linkedin.

An open letter to #eventprofs – as an industry united, we are stronger together

Our friends at Visit Britain would like to share the following letter with you.

Dear events industry colleagues

In these uncertain times, as the world copes with COVID-19 and the challenges it brings you, your organisations and your events, we want you to know you are not alone. This is a time charged with difficulty both professionally and personally, and the UK is here to support you.

It’s a turbulent period for the events industry, as we tackle postponements, cancellations, rapid switches to virtual events, as well as uncertainty about what the future may bring. Yet the events industry is like no other – we are a community that supports each other both in times of celebration and in times of need.

So, the UK wants to say to all event professionals that you’re not alone. It’s tough right now, but we’re here for you.

VisitBritain and its UK partners are committed to supporting you in any way we can as we navigate these turbulent times. As an industry united, we are stronger together.

Acknowledging that your immediate priority will be to support your events, staff, customers and members, we want to ensure that you have access to the most up-to-date information on the situation in the UK. For the latest information on holding events in the UK, please visit our website for updates.

We want to assure you that, when the time is right, we will be here to welcome your events back to the UK. But until then we are planning virtual ways to meet, talk and help you explore the UK event possibilities from your home.

For now, we send you this message of our continued support – we will get through this together.

From the Business Events team at VisitBritain

Planners Helping Planners

Submit a Tip to Win a Gift Card

In these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever to share knowledge. 

Let other meeting planners in on your best tips and advice to navigate the current climate. What have you learned from meeting cancellations, postponements, working from home, or doing more with less staff?

Enter your tips for a chance to win a gift card and vote for your favorites. 

New Webinar Series – Using Technology and Tools to Move From Live Training to Virtual

ConventionPlanit.com partner Attune is hosting several webinars this week:

Creating an Effective Virtual Classroom Using Remote Attendance
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 | 2 p.m. ET
REGISTER NOW >>

This webinar will focus on how to use virtual attendance tools effectively to create a virtual classroom.

  • Learn how to turn in-person training into meaningful virtual experiences—tips and best practices
  • Learn how to use virtual attendance platforms to connect learners and gain the advantage of greater flexibility in your training programs
  • Hear from others who have used virtual attendance technology to successfully transition their live events to remote

Creating an Effective Virtual Classroom Using Virtual Training Labs
Thursday, April 23, 2020 | 2 p.m. ET
REGISTER NOW>>

This webinar will focus on how to use virtual training labs effectively to deliver technical content.

  • Learn what a virtual training lab is and its various applications
  • Learn when to use a virtual training lab
  • Understand the pros and cons of a buy vs.build decision
  • Hear from others who have used virtual training labs to successfully deliver their live technical events remotely
  • Learn how to combine virtual attendance and virtual labs technology for a more enriched experience

If you tune in for one of the webinars, comment below and share something you learned!