If your association’s member base is well dispersed, an excellent opportunity to foster a true sense of community is to plan out the occasional online event. Of course, this comes in many forms: educational summits, webinars, webathons, etc.
But what about a more personal event? What about a video conference with a handful of people within your association? There are several instances when this format makes sense.
It could be for a committee planning session, or even as a way to boost engagement in the online community by bringing together its most active members.
Here are a few tips on how to host a successful event that maximizes value for all attendees from my own experience holding (and attending!) such events:
Step 1: Schedule strategically
If you schedule with plenty of notice, it will give your members ample time to plan around it. I’ve had good experiences scheduling the event for a Friday afternoon, as people tend to be relatively less busy (and subsequently more relaxed!)
Step 2: Keep the event small
If there are too many individuals on the call, each person will have little opportunity to contribute meaningfully. Further, it will be difficult to have a smooth conversation. You will likely notice these two phenomena: 1) Multiple people will try and talk at once, and interestingly, 2) Awkward silences will occur when everyone is under the impression that someone else will pipe up. That is why classrooms have standards of hand raising, unless group discussions are occurring on a much smaller level. I have found that 8-10 people is the sweet spot for your online event.
Step 3: Invite multiple perspectives
This one may not be in your control depending on the reason you’re holding the event, but you can have a really powerful discussion if you invite people with very different perspectives. Each will tackle the same problem from a different angle, making it a very productive and interesting get together.
Step 4: Have an agenda
Of course, if you’re asking for a substantial chunk of time out of everyone’s day, your online event needs to be providing value to all of those who are on the call. That is why you want to make sure you have a clear reason why you are bringing people together, and plan out some discussion points ahead of time. You will be ready to move the conversation along if you hit a dead end on a particular subject.
Step 5: Include everyone
Pay attention to who is and isn’t contributing to the conversation. It’s very possible that your more introverted members will be shy to jump in, especially if you have one or two people who are dominating the conversation. You can curtail this by addressing them specifically. Try not to be too obvious with your intentions though, as it may make them feel uncomfortable. Try something like, “X has a lot of experience in this area. Do you have any thoughts on this subject?”
Step 6: Document your call
When ideas are flying back and forth quickly, and you’re busy making sure everything is running smoothly, you’ll probably find that when the conference call ends, you will have retained very little information. That is why I like to record the conversation, and actually rewatch it (make sure you ask permission of everyone to do this, and explain exactly how the video will be used). I watch for two things: 1) The attendees’ engagement level. Were people into the conversation? Were they smiling? How did they react to certain things? 2) The key takeaways. When appropriate, I will even type these up and send them to everyone on the call so they really get the most of their time.
Step 7: Have a technology back up plan
As we have all painstakingly learned, technology can go awry at anytime! That is why you want to be prepared. For instance, I was recently on a video conference call that couldn’t handle the bandwidth of the 10 members who were invited. Luckily, the organizer had preemptively set up a conference call on another platform, and so we quickly transitioned over without a hitch.
If you’re planning on hosting an online event in the near future, drop us a line! We love to talk community, and are happy to offer some more tips: