A couple of years ago, I posted this: An Executive Director’s Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Next Conference. I quoted my friend and client Carol Neuvelt, Executive Director of NAEM, who tells her staff and members to make sure they do this during a conference:
1) Learn something
2) Participate in the conversation
3) Make a friend
During this pandemic, when all meetings and conferences are going virtual, how are we designing the experience so that attendees can still do all three?
Learning something. Check. Organizations are doing a great job here. The content quality is way up. My clients are experimenting with live and pre-recorded sessions. And they’re sourcing speakers from around the globe, speakers who perhaps were never able to participate because of the time and distance.
Participate in the conversation. I think this has been a mixed bag. Most organizations allow comments during presentations, which has been fun and engaging, BUT these conversations can be distracting. And there’s often no way to have a conversation about a session AFTER the session, about a random topic, or with random people.
Make a friend. This has been the hardest goal to meet during virtual meetings. I’m thinking about the bus rides to events during ASAE Annual; I inevitably sat next to someone amazing and I’d make a new friend. I’m also thinking about people I sat next to during sessions or during lunch; how I miss those chance encounters!
Most virtual meetings I’ve attended have been missing this “make a friend” piece and no wonder. Most sessions are in webinar mode, which means only the speaker is on video. And even if you do attend a Zoom where everyone is on video, it’s hard to have a conversation when there are more than 20 people on the call.
The “make a friend” part is something we’re trying to solve for with our virtual meeting platform, BeSpeake. We’re using 1-2-1 video meetings to encourage connection and sharing. If you want more info, reach out.
What I want to know is this: how are YOU encouraging your attendees to connect and make friends during your virtual meetings?