The COVID-19 circumstances that require us to practice self-distancing and teleworking have challenged many youth support structures in Europe to rethink their outreach approach. Our multipliers are taking their usual face-to-face activities online and organising events, meetings and guidance services virtually. To support them we prepared this article that we are now sharing with you. We hope that these tips will help you when organising your events and meetings online.
Organising big online meetings might be a new experience for you, but don't fear, like most conversations, it is all about having a structure, a goal and keeping it simple. Make sure to have an agenda to your meeting and know what your purpose is, whether to inform, consult, discuss or collaborate. When it comes to the conversation, make sure to discuss one thing at a time to keep everyone on track. Sometimes easier said than done. There are some creative options to support you in structuring your conversation, the input you receive and at the same time visually summarize the outcomes. Tools such as collaborative word processing programmes (Google Docs, Microsoft Teams), a Padlet or if you are really up for it, the virtual whiteboard Miro, all work to support you in visualising your conversation. All of these tools can be accessible by participants during the meeting and you can choose whether to allow them to edit, comment or just view. By having everything visual and summarised it is easier for everyone to follow, even the late drop-ins.
2. Your Dream Team
Have a team of people to organise the meeting - divide tasks such as Facilitator of the meeting, Moderator of the comment field, Technical assistance for presentations and management of virtual tools. This will make it easier for everyone involved!
3. Rules of Engagement
Suggest ground rules for all participants - send out the ground rules before the call and place the ground rules in the chatbox for all to see. Here are a few examples:
- Decide on a procedure for how to “raise your hand.” Some meeting tools such as Zoom already have these moderation functions integrated.
- Always state your name before speaking.
- Speak loud and clear but stay muted if you’re not speaking.
- Respect each other in this call and comment field.
4. Duration and Timing
Keep meetings less than an hour if possible. Several short meetings are generally better than one long one. If you need to have a long one make sure to include breaks. You can use a visible timer for breaks, but also for discussions or interventions. Google offers a countdown timer through their browser, but if you want to spice up your breaks, how about searching for one with music on YouTube, or creating your own.
Keeping your audience listening and engaged doesn’t always have to require magic tricks. Support your intervention with slides or videos and allow time for conversations to be held, Q&A’s and discussions are often appreciated. If you want to take your engagement to another level you can always involve gamification. Add quizzes, a game of True or False, Bingo or perhaps some Myth Busters to your presentation. There are many tools to support you such as Kahoot!, Mentimeter and Sli.do.
There are several ways to ask for input from participants, of course, you have the comment field and you can organise a speakers list, but there are other methods that can facilitate more engagement. Create a poll with questions, use a word cloud function or organise a brainstorming. Make sure to pick the methodology that supports your objective and the size of your group. To support you there are several virtual tools that you can use, here is a suggestion of a few:
- Brainstorming: Padlet, Miro Virtual Whiteboard, Google Docs, Here are some Brainstorming techniques that can help you along the way.
- Poll: Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Mentimeter, Sli.do
- Word Cloud: Mentimeter, Sli.do
It’s always great to hear from us but sometimes involving experts or peers or those who have a personal experience to share can boost the dynamics of the session. Make them a panellist in your video conference, a Guest on Facebook Live or invite them as a friend on Instagram Live and you can split the screen for your viewers to see.
8. Get to know each other and Icebreakers
Everyone needs an energy-boosting activity every now and then or activity to break the ice. Include an icebreaker where you see fit. Here’s a list of icebreakers for online meetings.
9. Evaluate and Follow-up
Don’t forget to evaluate - ask your participants for their feedback so that you can improve for the next meeting. And remember, just because your virtual event is over it doesn’t mean your audience engagement has to be. Send a follow-up email informing your audience where they can engage with you further.
10. Have a back-up
Essentially, stay calm, but be prepared for challenges. Have backup plans for your activities, tools, timing and panellists.
Good luck with your next event!