Virtual Engagement Best Practices
By Russell Gottschalk, Innovation Manager
These virtual gathering “best practices” are drawn from successful engagement forums that happen in real life but are sometimes neglected when programming virtually during our new normal:
- Honor your audience: I believe strongly that any event opt-in is based on the axis of compelling and convenience. If something is really compelling yet inconvenient (think a trip to Bonnaroo), you may still attend. If something is convenient yet not compelling (think about some of the virtual gatherings you have passed up recently), you may not attend. The key for virtual engagement lies in building up the case for a compelling use of participants’ time and the best way to begin that conversation is showing your potential attendee that their time is valued because THEY are valued. Virtual gathering invitations should be direct, personal, and sincere. Chances are that your audience isn’t required to opt-in (like an all-pro staff meeting).
- Design the space: Thinking of ways that your virtual areas can mimic those in an in-person event is another successful strategy for making these engagements more engaging Think about the best ways to replicate the experience of randomly interacting with a stranger, strolling a vendor market, and sitting for a featured presentation or break away for a smaller group chat. By creating a virtual space that is more like our real-life experiences, we can expand the opportunities for learning, connection, and joy. One virtual engagement tool that we have been using to achieve this is hopin. (More on hopin below)
- Engineer serendipity: the last point acknowledges that surviving a pandemic while staying sane is hard. Let’s be real, sometimes it’s hard just to put on pants before signing into a work-from-home day. We have the opportunity as event producers and curators of experience to surprise and delight our attendees. This could be pairing people from various backgrounds that happen to serve the same community or bringing live music into the event or just maybe taking time to check in with each other about what content we’re binging these days. Virtual gatherings can feel stale because we’re spending so much time in front of our computers. But this bland default is a rainbow of opportunities when you’re willing to reach towards fun.
We won’t know what 2021 will bring for virtual engagements, in real life events, or in my opinion the likelier outcome of a hybrid model. However, we do know that we can bring successful real-life concepts to a virtual space with the right intention and tools. We have the power and together, we can inspire connection and community that is both convenient AND compelling.
Hopin: A virtual platform you should be aware of (I could see this being removed, shortened or just put onto a web link for click more)
Over the course of one week in November, Federation hosted three different virtual gatherings on hopin, a platform designed to create engaging and dynamic events. Though they happened close together in time and were hosted on the same platform, they served very different purposes with audiences of little overlap:
- Innovation’s quarterly Wisdom Pairings engaged dozens of Jewish Atlantans in meaningful conversation to create and deepen relationships for personal growth and/or professional development
- The Jewish Camp Initiative’s Southeast Camp Fair welcomed dozens of potential campers and their families to learn more about our partner camps throughout the Southeast and across the country
- Federation’s monthly staff meeting hosted dozens of colleagues and special guests to discuss and discover how we’re leaning into Fearlessness, one of our organization’s guiding values
Despite these different functions and audiences, our team used familiar and compelling tactics in each gathering.