The world is virtually your oyster
The year 2020 will most certainly be described as one of uncertainty, where the word ‘unprecedented’ was heard ad nauseam and where one was either in a state of pure panic or pure focus on innovation. In an attempt to keep this post more on the light-hearted, optimistic side of the spectrum, I’d describe the past 6 months as, um…interesting?!
We’ve seen some incredible responses to COVID-19 with businesses innovating and creating new service offerings in a matter of days (sometimes hours) from the announcement of lockdown in March. Those were the select few, the rest of us (myself included) went into panic mode, frozen and numb from shock and perhaps in a bit of denial too. According to research on how one deals with a stressful situation, these reactions are pretty normal given that we’ve been faced with a global pandemic. So, don’t beat yourself up if, like me, you put your head down and got on with it.
Although the rest of the year, or at least the foreseeable future, still holds a lot of uncertainty, there isn’t much point in sitting immobile until we have some sense of direction. The old adage comes to mind: ‘there’s no time like the present’. Let’s get proactive and look at our options that we can mobilise now to start seeing some positive results. We may not be able to gather for conferences, promotional events, or educationals. It’s also not very responsible to gather your staff for team events right now. However, these are all important occasions that have delivered business success for years so we can’t just write them off until COVID-19 has left the building. I discuss some of your options with regard to these types of events below.
Keep it short
If you would normally ‘conference’ for a full day or over a few days, condense it. The essential part of a virtual conference is to keep your staff engaged and energised. Sitting at their laptop already creates a large disconnect. Ensure your speakers keep their addresses short, to the point and punchy. Have regular breaks and group discussions to keep the energy levels up and people interacting.
Break the Ice
Ice breakers are a great way to set the tone for the conference and break the ‘virtual wall’. There are plenty of great icebreakers to choose from, whether you have a dance-off, tell your best joke, share what you’re grateful for, or play ‘two truths and lie’.
Add some personal touches that say ‘we appreciate you’: Sending personalised food packages, gifts or some fun dress-up items like wigs or oversized glasses for ‘happy hour’ will show your staff that you care and appreciate their hard work and resilience.
Breakaways and Check-ins
Have regular breakout sessions and allocate different people to different groups each time, this gives everyone the opportunity to touch base with their colleagues, engage with one another on a topic, and build a sense of connectivity. Have team-based competitions throughout the conference as this will drive engagement and teambuilding – double win!
Add in a WOW factor
Use the best technology your budget will allow. This will allow you to do some cool and new things that your staff hasn’t seen before which will ‘up’ the engagement factor. Also, make sure you have the right technology for what you are wanting to achieve. Some web conference software has limitations on the number of people able to interact. Make sure you do your homework and get the right functionality for you.
Communication is key
Ensure the content, schedule and conference information is clearly communicated to your staff. Convey your expectations of them too and what the expected key outcomes of the conference are. This will ensure they are fully informed and can make all the relevant arrangements needed at home for maximum involvement.
It’s all in the Attitude
Keep communications upbeat, promoting innovation, and create excitement. By positioning the virtual conference as your ‘plan B’, you’re going to struggle to get your staff on board and actively participating.
Throw some budget into a band, comedian, celebrity or an activity that you wouldn’t normally be able to afford. You’ll be saving costs on food, venue and other areas so allocate that budget into something that will leave a lasting impression.
Test the platform
Do a couple of ‘rehearsal’ sessions leading up to the conference. Get smaller teams online and deliver a similar, but condensed, format with similar content. Get teams involved in some online games or quizzes or engage in some online teambuilding. This will get everyone used to the online format of the conference and build up some excitement.
I highly recommend doing an actual rehearsal with all vendors and speakers involved beforehand. Ensure all participants have the ability to connect and make sure everyone is familiar with the technology. Script your plan B for anything going wrong. If there is constant confusion and people struggle with connectivity, you’re going to lose their focus quickly.
Feel free to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions, need some advice or would prefer me to plan and execute your virtual conference for you.