With the COVID-19 pandemic, the ground shifted under our feet, seemingly overnight. Organizations are forced to make the transition away from traditional conference rooms, and become acquainted with remote meeting technologies.
SingularityU Canada has experience running meetings in virtual spaces (we are rooted in exponential technologies, after all). Here are a few tips and tricks we have gathered, that will help set you up for success as you navigate the virtual conference room.
Preparation is key – plan for the worst, hope for the best
There is a saying in the SU Canada community: “AI is easy, AV is hard,” meaning that some of the accessible, everyday technologies can end up posing more issues than even the most advanced. Technology may sometimes not act in your favour, and cause complications during your session. We recommend having contingency plans for system failure as well as server overload (too many users):
- If the platform is customizable, alter the wording on error pages so your audience is informed and assured. Add contact information or include your alternate communications channel (such as Twitter), where participants can check the status of your event, and include information in the invitation about what to do if the platform fails (i.e. who should they reach out to)? If the system does go down or is delayed, have a pre-written script for your facilitator to use in their speaking notes.
- Keep the platform chat function enabled or have a designated “waiting room” area (such as Twitter or Facebook), and post an update immediately so you don’t lose people.
Know your audience
Who is attending these meetings? Are they tech-savvy, or do they work in more traditional organizations that may not be as well-versed in using digital platforms? Government organizations have more robust firewalls, and may need to go through their IT team in order for the system to accept (‘whitelist’) the program, which can take some time.
Select a few users to first test out the platform, and ask them to share their screen while they set themselves up. Take note of any pain points and try to solve them, or provide the resources to solve them ahead of time for your whole audience.
Clarify and communicate
The more directions you can share with your participants ahead of your meeting or event, the better. This should include:
- A step-by-step guide on how to download the platform, including the device requirements in order to download. This also encourages participants to trial the platform before, which can lead to a smoother event.
- Send reminder emails shortly before the event begins with access links, and have pre-drafted emails on hand to be sent out if there are issues with the platform, and if those issues are not solved within 10 minutes.
During the event, we recommend that you:
- Begin your meeting on time! Begin with a low risk activity or opener that people can join as they enter, such as an icebreaker.
- Ensure staff are available for technical support, and ensure that they are distinguishable from the other guests (for instance, when we run an event in virtual reality platform VirBELA our avatars all wear pink hats).
- Record your events, so your team can review and analyze what worked and what did not. Test a recording platform before your event to ensure that it doesn’t have a time limit and that it can run simultaneously with your main platform.
- Begin your session with a 10-minute ‘explainer session’ to show people how to use the platform. Areas to cover include chat functionalities and how to mute oneself.
- Encourage participants to close all programs other than the platform itself, especially if it is a larger platform. This will aid platform performance, as well as keep users engaged and focused on the meeting at hand.
- Include troubleshooting information in your introductory or first session, even if things are going smoothly. With all participants dispersed, some people might get left behind without you knowing about it.
Prepare your speaker ahead of the event
If your event will feature a guest speaker or facilitator, ensure that they are also prepared.
- Gather as much information about the audience as possible beforehand, and share this with your speaker so that they can curate their content accordingly.
- Mute all their devices, so no phones are ringing or notification sounds are heard while they present.
- Use headphones, as this minimizes echo and feedback.
- Check the sharing settings for all presentation files in advance.
- When a speaker is onstage in a virtual meeting room with an avatar such as VirBELA, they should try to move around the stage as they would in person.
Leading your team and holding meetings in the virtual world takes time and practice, yet is increasingly becoming an essential skill as we foray into the remote working environment.
For more information on virtual event platforms, assistance in planning your next virtual event, or finding your speakers or facilitators, reach out to us at email@example.com – we are happy to help!