Bringing Recognition Jazz Hands to Your Hybrid Events and Meetings Everyday

By Guest Author, Mallory Dunbar, Learning Specialist, Greatness Magnified

image of a laptop on a table with many people on the screen attending an online meeting and a hand on the mousepad of the laptopThree years ago, when in-person events came to a screeching halt, we all spent some time getting adjusted to the virtual world. To keep the world turning, we had to adjust.

  • Healthcare embraced patient virtual consults.
  • HR folks conducted MS Teams job interviews.
  • Educators leveraged Google Meets and other platforms to instruct students.
  • Professional speakers delivered presentations at virtual conferences.
  • And the list goes on…

For a time, expectations were low. We did our best, managing the transition and climbing the learning curve together. It got better.

We were initially doubtful and then realized how helpful and useful virtual connection could be. No matter how you stand on the “love it” or “hate it” continuum of virtual connection, it’s here to stay. When we embrace that virtual is here to stay, we can say, how do we keep getting better?

One particular area so many of you have asked us to write more about specifically is virtual meetings, events and conferences. It’s time to revamp our old techniques and strategies to engage attendees as well as we would in person. We’re not beginners anymore.

Advice for Bringing Recognition into the Virtual World

Bestselling author Robbie Samuels, author of the new book Break Out of Boredom, shows us that with a little bit of extra thought and effort, we can transform virtual spaces into places that promote connection and recognition. Watch the full video interview between Robbie and Sarah.

Juicy Insight 1 – Get on the Same Page: Meeting Agendas

image of a meeting agenda with a pencil sitting on top of the paperBefore your meeting begins, you should know exactly how your meeting will unfold – and your participants should know too. It’s easy to go with the flow and adapt on the fly, but the problem is that it doesn’t work for everyone. (This is not unique to virtual, of course! Let’s not carry over bad “no agenda” meeting habits to the virtual realm!)

Meetings, particularly virtual meetings, typically favour those who are outgoing with an extroverted preference. These people aren’t afraid to jump in, unmute themselves and share their ideas on the spot. Think of those who are shy or have an introverted preference (notice we said “or”…shy and introverted are not the same thing). They may be reluctant to speak up and share their insights if they’ve not had a chance to reflect on the content.

By sending out a meeting agenda ahead of time and outlining the structure, objectives, questions and content of the meeting, everyone has a chance to digest the content and come ready to share. (PS. If there isn’t enough content to create an agenda, a brief email will suffice – valuing people’s time is a form of recognition!)

If you want your participants to be connected, engaged and feel a sense of belonging, you must create a thoughtful participant experience that places their needs and preferences at the center.

Juicy Insight #2 – [Virtual] First Impressions Matter: Waiting Rooms

image of 3 white chairs against a light blue wall with a clock above and a plant beside as a virtual background for a Zoom waiting roomBefore a meeting begins, people evaluate their experience. Think about it: if they attended in person, they would form opinions based on their parking experience, coat check, and venue cleanliness; were they greeted, know where to go, what to expect, and how organized was the event? Any negative experiences they encounter will impact their impression of the event and their satisfaction – before the meeting has even begun!

It’s the same in the virtual world – attendees begin to form opinions about their experience the second they log onto Zoom or MS Teams. (And if their first impression is negative, they may leave – it’s a lot easier to quietly log out of Zoom than standing up and walking out of a crowded auditorium!)

Waiting rooms help to control any potential confusion or tech mishaps. Have you ever joined a virtual event and a few people are having a conversation before the event begins, and you feel like the odd one out, unable to contribute to the conversation? Awkward, right? By starting with a waiting room, you can wait to let attendees in two minutes before you begin, that way, everyone feels welcomed and can start the event on the same page.

Juicy Insight #3 – Avoid the Breakout Blues

image of a man looking at his laptop confused with a pad of paper on the table in front of himHave you ever been put in a breakout room where no one knows what’s happening or what they’re supposed to talk about? Or worse, everyone in your breakout room starts to log out one by one, until you’re the only one remaining.

It’s not their fault – if the instructions were unclear or participants weren’t prepped ahead of time, they may be reluctant to share (or have no desire to stick around).

To avoid this, ensure participants know what they’re expected to do in their breakout rooms, including any discussion questions, tasks, or activities they should complete. Show it on a slide, make a PDF downloadable, encourage participants to invite you into breakouts if there is a question, and use the broadcast feature to reiterate short, clear instructions.

It’s also helpful to share a clear timeline so everyone knows when they’ll return to the main meeting. If people know where they’re going, they can get there. Let’s ensure everyone is clear on the objective, can prepare quickly, and succeed collectively.

Juicy Insight #4 – You’re a Genius: Recognizing Contributions

When participants return to the main meeting, create opportunities to share their experiences and insights from their breakout sessions. Avoid “voluntolding”.

image of 3 colleagues looking at an online meeting on a laptop screen in a hybrid meetingTry out different prompts like:

  • Who took a lot of notes during the breakout?
  • Can anyone raise their hand and share the top two takeaways they wrote down?
  • Who learned something new from a member of their breakout group? Nominate them in the chat to volunteer or share their insight there.

Use the post-breakout time as a way for people to see and hear the group’s greatness, encouraging resource gossiping of juicy ah-has and insights. With thoughtful preparation, breakout rooms can be a tool to drive connection and engagement between participants.

Hosting a fun, interactive and engaging virtual event or meeting isn’t about having the best technology, lighting or software. It’s about building purposeful, people-centric structures and strategies that boost engagement and recognition and builds a sense of connection among participants.

image of the book Break Out Of Boredom by Robbie SamuelsFor more ideas on how you can boost connection and engagement in your virtual events and meetings, check out Robbie’s book, Break Out of Boredom or connect with him on LinkedIn

And remember, you can dive deep into recognition in a virtual and hybrid world too. We can celebrate and appreciate in the virtual space and in-person. Good thing, too, since virtual is here to stay in a big way!

For more ideas on virtual recognition, check out these blog posts for some juicy tidbits that you’re sure to put into practice:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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