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You're not on hold! Takeaways from a multi-day virtual event

September 26, 2020|Account Management, Change, Crisis, Leadership, Planning, Sales, Strategy, Team Effectiveness

Flashback to March 2020, the beginning of quarantine for most of us in the US. Travel stopped, spending stopped, and many learning, strategy and networking events got put on hold. If you are like me, you thought this was going to be a lot more temporary than it is, so the hold made sense. Now we are 6 months in and many of us are still delaying important meetings and events.

The good news is, you do not have to stay in your holding pattern, and you don’t have to be in a high-tech industry full of super-savvy people to hold effective virtual sessions. We just wrapped up a multi-day virtual learning event and it left us more confident than ever that these types of meetings and training sessions can work well, and in some ways even better, virtually. So if you’re ready to take the leap (hint… you are), here are a couple of our takeaways.

People are ready… given the right expectations

People are ready to develop themselves and their businesses! We have all felt personally on hold in many ways too, and while some of that cannot be changed, you CAN move forward. An effective virtual session will not only help you do that but will give your team much-needed connectivity.

It does require appropriate expectation setting, so ensure participants are clear on the goals of the time, what they are expected to do, and how they are expected to show up. We actually experienced more focus, more timeliness, and fewer distractions than in in-person meetings because we had the right setup.

It is not just your same old event, delivered virtually

Please, please do not just try to deliver your previously planned meeting or learning event online. It will not work the same. You CAN achieve the same outcomes, but critical shifts in your approach will help you succeed. For example, if there is not travel, you don’t have to pack your session into full days. Sitting in virtual meetings for hours at a time is exhausting. Consider spacing out your event a bit and transitioning some elements into offline individual or group work.

Don’t underestimate the setup and planning

Like most things, doing this well takes work, but unless you’re planning a complicated conference for hundreds, you can do it with systems you already have in place (or can easily get). Task yourself or someone else with the job of considering the experience, how to keep it engaging without over-complicating, and aimed at your objectives. If you have multiple people leading portions, ensure each of them is prepared to facilitate virtually.

  • Call on individuals for opinions rather than throwing questions to the whole group

  • Minimizing visuals such as PowerPoint when not needed so you can focus on each other’s faces

  • Leveraging other interaction tools like shared documents, whiteboards, chat, and polling to facilitate your goals

There are even some things that work better!

Virtual events usually mean saving time and money, but there are some ways they are even more effective than in-person sessions. We found it much easier to manage time and direct people’s attention. You can quickly push people in and out of breakouts, and people seemed to return early from breaks (if you’ve lead large group sessions before you know how rare that is!).

The bottom line, we know in-person events are enjoyable and a big part of how many geographically disparate organizations build relationships amongst their teams. There is a place for them, but they are not the only way to get things done, and you certainly do not have to put your important events on hold. Who knows, you too many find that some of them are even more effective delivered virtually!

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