Bringing Recognition Jazz Hands to Your Hybrid Events and Meetings Everyday
By Guest Author, Mallory Dunbar, Learning Specialist, Greatness Magnified
Three 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
Before 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
Before 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
Have 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”.
Try 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.
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: