Tag Archives: virtual meetings

How to Liven Up a Virtual Meeting: Breathe Life Into Your Live Stream (Part 2 of 3)

Twists and turns in your voice and the experience you provide will make your live stream an adventure.  Start with the beat of their favorite drummer and you’ll breathe life into your virtual experience. New ConventionPlanit.com supplier member Ben Corey, CEO and Lead Digital Entertainer with Stream Variety, offers advice on livening up a virtual meeting. Read on for part 2 of this new series. 

1. Speed up the pulse with music – THEIR music.

Nothing dials up excitement like people’s favorite music!  Ask participants to turn up their favorite songs while waiting for the virtual event to begin.  “Start the event on your own terms, by playing your own favorite music.”  All of my performances feature preshow music because of how well it gets people going.

2. Engage with your voice.

Let’s face it – on screen, it’s half of what you’ve got! Avoid sounding monotone or that news video in the next window over will pull your audience away. Practice varying the pitch, rate, and volume of your voice to pull your audience in while also non-verbally signaling your credibility. Ex: speak softly on a key point so your audience leans in, then, when they least expect it, pop your voice to deliver an exciting detail. 

3. Keep them on their toes.

Incorporate continuous surprises into the stream that they would never see coming. For example, beam Ben Franklin in to deliver a motivational on theme message. 

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. 

Moving to Virtual Really Fast

When that big onsite meeting suddenly must be remote: An essential checklist
By Nancy Settle-Murphy, Guided Insights and Jesse Bibbee, Gazelle Interactive

After months of planning, everything is finally in place for next week’s two-day meeting in London, which will chart the course for the launch of the company’s new product. The 25 participants from eight countries will be convening to make final decisions on pricing, sales and marketing programs, and launch details. 

As the meeting convener and facilitator, you’re feeling optimistic that the meeting will be a huge success. That’s when you get that dreaded email that upends every single one of your plans: “Out of abundant caution… all travel plans are on hold until further notice. This means that all business meetings must be cancelled or postponed, with no exceptions.” Your manager advises you to put your energy into figuring out how to achieve these same goals remotely. “After all,” she says, “Our competition won’t be taking a break. Neither can we.”

As the meeting convener and facilitator, you’re feeling optimistic that the meeting will be a huge success. The hotel rooms and meeting center are booked, everyone has plane tickets and visas in hand, the room logistics and menus are nailed down, and the agenda is finalized. You breathe a sigh of relief, eager for the weekend ahead.

That’s when you get that dreaded email that upends every single one of your plans: “Out of abundant caution… all travel plans are on hold until further notice. This means that all business meetings must be cancelled or postponed, with no exceptions.” Your manager advises you to put your energy into figuring out how to achieve these same goals remotely. “After all,” she says, “Our competition won’t be taking a break. Neither can we.”

If you or someone you know is facing a similar situation, Jesse Bibbee of Gazelle Interactive joined me to create this checklist of steps that we have found to be essential, as a start:

  • First, don’t panic. You will figure out how to do this, especially if you seek out people who have experience designing and running remote meetings and events. Reach out to meeting participants for their ideas and assistance. Brainstorm ideas and divvy up tasks. Make a list of everyone who can play a role and help out, both internally and externally.
  • Design the basic meeting structure, quickly, and then flesh it out. For example, how many virtual meetings of what duration spread over what period of time will you need to accomplish the same goals you had hoped to achieve in approximately 12 hours of your in-person meeting? You might, for example, settle on four two-hour meetings, spread over three days. Not all 25 participants must attend each meeting. Consider how much and what kind of work can be done between meetings, either independently, in small discussion groups, or a combination. Set up a central place where people can post, access and comment on “homework” prior to the next meeting, so you can allocate all meeting time to interactive conversations.
  • Create detailed agendas for each real-time virtual meeting, linking objectives and intended outcomes to conversations needed to achieve them. Instead of merely listing a topic, use action verbs so people can come well prepared. For example, instead of: “Pricing,” try: “Agree on minimum and maximum acceptable pricing at time of launch for each of our five major regions.” Be realistic about how much you can get done in each meeting. We recommend virtual meetings run two hours max. Keep in mind: Not all objectives need to be met through real-time meetings. Open up asynchronous (any time) meeting spaces where people can ask and answer questions, add ideas, brainstorm options, prioritize, etc. Build in time for thoughtful reflection and paraphrasing, especially when working with cross-cultural teams.
     
  • Select the right participants for each meeting. Avoid the temptation to “just include everyone” in every conversation. Managing verbal interactions with 25 people in a virtual setting can be almost impossible, especially when the topics are likely to be complex or contentious. Instead, select only those people who need to participate in a particular real-time conversation, and include others in different ways, such as in a shared asynchronous meeting area or in a different conversation. Limit meetings where in-depth conversations are needed to no more than 6-8 participants, as a rule. If you must include all or most participants in each meeting, enable people to participate in multiple ways, such as via chat, polling, hands-up, or typing into a share space.
  • Establish, communicate and reinforce agreed-upon team norms early on. Such norms, (a.k.a. operating principles), should include meeting behavior and practices, the use of other communication channels, progress reporting, etc. For virtual meetings, norms might include expectations around prework and preparation, punctuality, attendance, level of participation required, and how certain technologies will be used, such as video, use of mute, need to test technology beforehand, etc.
  • Divide and conquer. In addition to asking a team to help with the design of the overall meeting architecture, seek assistance in other areas, too. For planning, you’ll want help creating the detailed agendas for each meeting, which will include identifying the needed prework, establishing participant and presenter roles, pre-meeting communications, and deciding which technology will be needed. For the real-time meeting, you may want to assign roles such as facilitator, timekeeper, scribe, tech support assistant, and action master. In between meetings, you’ll want someone to make sure that pertinent notes are accessible, assigned “homework” is completed and posted on time, and that actions are completed.
  • Select technology that can support your meeting goals. First, take stock of available technology and tools. For example, does everyone have access to video? A shared online meeting app? Audioconferencing capability? Sufficient bandwidth? For those must participate at odd hours from different timezones, are these tools also available from where they will be participating from, which might be their homes for many? Will you need to integrate other technologies you may not have now, such as for polling, sticky notes, dot-voting, etc.? Whatever set of tools you use, make sure all feel comfortable using them well ahead of your meeting. Have a back-up plan in case technology doesn’t work as planned.
     
  • Get the audio right above all. Even if you have the greatest online meeting tools, if people can’t be heard, or can’t hear, then the whole meeting can fall apart. Do a sound check for every possible variation imaginable. If a few people will be participating in different conference rooms around the world, test how well people can hear and be heard. Some speakerphones and conference rooms may distort sound, in which case you may need for everyone to participate from an acoustically private area with a headset. During the meeting, check periodically to ensure that everyone can hear all voices, regardless of location. Build in time for paraphrasing and summarizing questions and responses if needed.
     
  • Connect with video. Apart from the cases where certain systems or locations might make the use of video difficult or impossible, we believe that the use of video is critical for a few reasons. By seeing each other’s facial expressions and gestures, we have a better idea how people are feeling or what they may be thinking, even when they’re silent. Video helps hold people accountable for full participation, as it’s obvious when someone is distracted. Perhaps most important, video can help team members feel as though they’re actually sitting across from each other, in a virtual space. Ask local participants to book a conference room that has video capability if possible. Otherwise, ask people to join using a device that has video capability, either built in or an external webcam. For some, this might require a modest investment, which the meeting sponsor should probably be prepared to fund if needed.
     
  • Embed opportunities for active engagement throughout every virtual meeting. Minimize time spent in passive participation (such as reviewing content that could have been posted in advance), and maximize the number and frequency of participant interactions. Take advantage of peoples’ inherent desire to multitask by building in opportunities to multitask “on task” throughout every meeting. Examples: Soliciting quick verbal responses, polling, dot-voting, use of virtual post-its, hands-up, chat, asking people to type in responses, writing an idea on a piece of paper, etc. Plan on an interaction of some kind at least every 5-7 minutes.

Make no mistake: Being suddenly forced into converting an extended onsite meeting or training program of any kind into a virtual space is not easy. It requires a whole new way of thinking about the kind of conversations that need to take place (and where, when, and by whom) to achieve your intended outcomes. It also means thinking through how best to blend a whole array of asynch and synchronous communications and collaboration options in a way that can make for the most efficient, productive and satisfying conversations. Making such a “conversion” can be arduous and time-consuming the first few times, but with practice and reflection, it may become second nature before too long.

Note: The article originally appeared in Guided Insight’s March 2020 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.

Tips for Planning a Virtual Meeting

New to ConventionPlanit.com, may we introduce Mary Ann Pierce, President & Founder of MAP Digital, who spoke to our Advisory Council about getting started with a virtual meeting or event. Mary Ann has produced onsite and virtual events worldwide for the past 20 years. What information should you consider? Mary Ann says to find the best virtual meeting company for your needs, it’s important to qualify your meeting. Sound familiar? Virtual meetings have nuances of thier own, just like a face-to-face meeting. She offers the following qualifying information to consider when searching for a virtual meeting partner:

1. Date(s) of event  

2. Examples of website or agenda that you want to replicate virtually

3. Where are the speakers located (time zones matter!)

4. How many sessions, and what is the format (panels, keynotes, individual presenters, etc/)? Are any sessions concurrent? Will there be slide presentations? Video or audio only?

5. Audience locations / time zones? 

6. Interactivity (ask-a-question, chat, audience response, etc.) 

7. Is admission free? Does it require payment? Is it restricted but free? 

8. Where will your content usage data be sent? 

9. How long do you want the content available? 

10. Do you need video snippets for a content marketing campaign?

About MAP Digital Virtual Events powered by MetaMeetings:

mary ann pierce

For over 20 years, MAP Digital has fused the digital space onto investment banking conferences and CEO-level events. Headquartered in New York City, we produce onsite and virtual events worldwide. MAP Digital: MetaMeetings® platform captures speakers’ presentations from anywhere; and then streams them onto the content-rich, interactive, secure and compliant MetaMeetings® website. There is no limitation in the number of attendees and sessions that can be archived for return engagements.  Attendees’ content usage data is captured and resides in the MetaMeetings platform. Post event the archived videos can be transformed into content marketing snippets amplifying your speakers and brand thought leadership via social media which expands your networks and audience development efforts.

Learn more about MAP Digital

Virtual Meeting Room Checklist

by Nancy Settle-Murphy, Guided Insights and Rick Lent, Meeting for Results

If you were creating a checklist for the ideal meeting room, what would be at the top? Maybe comfortable seating designed for interaction, natural light, space to move around, good ventilation, easy-to-use temperature controls, acoustical privacy and plenty of wall space? You might add a good A/V system, a variety of music, and continual access to food and drink.

But what about a virtual meeting “space?” What would that checklist look like?

Rick Lent, from Meeting for Results and I build on the Meeting “Room” Checklist that he created for his book, Leading Great Meetings: How to Structure Yours for Success. This checklist lays out a basic set of requirements for a virtual meeting that encourages and enables interaction and active participation, regardless of the technology you may choose to use. 

  • Virtual meeting technology. Think carefully about what kind of technology will best help meet your objectives and keep people engaged. Sometimes a simple screen-sharing tool will do the trick. At other times, participant interaction online will be crucial. In some cases, phone alone may be all that’s needed. Choose only what you need, and no more. Make sure that everyone has easy access to the tool and feels comfortable using it (including you!). Arrange for a demo or training in advance for those who need it. If possible, line up someone to help handle technical issues and provide support if needed. Allow a couple of minutes on the front end of each virtual meeting to make sure everyone can join.
  • Audio.  Without good audio, it’s impossible to have a good virtual meeting. Here are some considerations: Ask participants to avoid using speakerphones and cell phones, if at all possible. Speakerphones (as well as VOIP) can result in background noise and oftentimes, interruptions.  Some speakerphones also make it hard for others to contribute to the meeting, as some phones “cut out” interjections. In addition, some audio conference systems don’t allow people to jump in while someone else is speaking. Request that participants use headsets, and ask them to call into a shared conference line. If you have fewer than 10 people on the call, ask participants to refrain from muting themselves. Even though the use of mute can block background noise, it also gives people permission to multitask while no one is listening.
  • Creating a visual presence. When people aren’t sitting across an actual table, you can help them feel as though they are. Video can certainly help here, if you are so inclined. Also, some virtual meeting platforms can show pictures of participants. One low-tech solution that works every time, though it requires a bit of work: Have participants send a photo of themselves to you, which you can paste into a slide, along with names. You can post this in your virtual meeting room, or send it in advance.  Ask participants to have this slide handy during the meeting. As the meeting leader, you can use the printed slide to note attendance and participation.
  • Real-time visible notes. Keep a discussion focused by letting everyone see the discussion as it progresses by showing notes as they are captured. You can do this a few ways. Ask a volunteer to take the notes on a shared screen as you lead a discussion. Even better: Use a technology that allows everyone to add notes and ideas. For example, Google Drive works well for this. Even better: Use a virtual meeting technology that allows people to type notes in a chat box or an electronic flipchart, which can then be included in a comprehensive meeting summary that includes all notes from all sources.
  • Making space for frequent participation. You want people to be able to participate freely, without necessarily having to interrupt others. Many virtual meeting tools have features to encourage frequent participation, such as a hand-raising tool, a chat box or quick polls. If you plan to have verbal check-ins around the virtual table every so often, make sure you allocate the needed time, and prepare questions that can be answered succinctly.

And here are some other tips to make this virtual meeting a success that go beyond any virtual or physical characteristics:

  • Before the meeting: Setting expectations with clear communications. Make sure everyone knows what preparation is required, from whom. Post or send content that can be reviewed ahead of time to save valuable meeting time. Make sure everyone has the needed log-in information for audioconferences and online meeting spaces. Send a detailed agenda in advance and invite questions ahead of time. Reach out to those who may need some guidance or encouragement in advance.
  • After the meeting: Follow-up. What needs to happen after this meeting, by whom? How will people be accountable for actions or other next steps? What kind of communication needs to take place, among whom and how, before the next meeting? Are the meeting notes sufficient, or is any outreach needed?
nancy settle-murphy

If you want a super-productive virtual meeting every time, create your own “must-do” checklist, borrowing some of the points above, and adding some of your own. Encourage others to follow your lead. Designing and planning for a successful virtual meeting isn’t exactly rocket science, but it does require thoughtful preparation that deserves time and attention, and lots of practice.

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.

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.

Virtual ASAE Marketing, Membership & Communications Event Sees Three Times Normal Attendance

Over 3,000 individuals registered for the reimagined one-day virtual Marketing, Membership, & Communications Conference on April 29. The previously scheduled event on April 16-17 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual MMCC was the largest ever with registration over three times higher than the event’s highest recorded attendance in 2015. The event could not have happened without the support of ASAE’s Strategic Partner; Naylor Association Solutions; the virtual platform provider TopClass LMS by WBT Systems who made it possible for attendees to access the event free of charge, and Matchbox Virtual who provided video production services for the event.

Attendees experienced a virtual MMCC tailored to focus on relevant communications and membership issues based on the COVID-19 crisis. The virtual event kicked off with a keynote from Afdhel Aziz, Founder and Chief Purpose Officer Conspiracy of Love, a brand purpose consultancy advising Fortune 500 brands. He shared the three principles of purpose that organizations should keep in mind as they begin to envision a post COVID future. He stated purpose needs to be built from the inside out, purpose does not have to be political, and purpose must measure what matters. Aziz concluded by encouraging attendees that in these difficult times to remember to be transformational, rather than transactional and that resilience is a responsibility.

The keynote presentation was followed by 12 additional sessions that focused on proven email techniques, membership strategies, and the intersection of crisis communications and cultural chaos among many other topics. Each of the sessions was pre-recorded which allowed speakers to participate with attendees in real time during their sessions. The event concluded with a moderated virtual happy hour where attendees discussed the highlights of the day.

“Due to the extreme circumstances presented by COVID-19, marketing, membership and communications professionals were seeking ideas and solutions that can be thoughtfully applied in a rapidly evolving environment. Speakers quickly pivoted to recast and reframe their content to address the current climate. And sponsors jumped in to ensure the content could be delivered in a way that was user friendly for attendees and speakers” said Robb Lee, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, ASAE.

All content from speakers will be made available post event. For details visit: https://mmcc.asaecenter.org/.

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.