Nothing can truly replace the unique dynamics of speaking with someone face to face. But with the right approach and some creative tactics, you can bring some of that in-person energy to your digital gathering. These six tips can help liven up your next online event, whether it's a small business meeting or a large conference with hundreds of attendees.
Add a Personal Touch to Smaller Meetings
Zoom fatigue (or exhaustion with any videoconferencing platform) is real. If your company is sticking with online meetings for the foreseeable future, try these three tips to make a personal connection with colleagues and clients.
1. Take the Conversation Beyond Work
Small talk happens naturally in person, but not necessarily over video. Yet these conversations are important for building personal connections within an organization.
Consider setting up a time when people can talk about life outside of work. Bring a specific prompt or exercise to kick off the meeting. What have people been looking forward to during this unusual summer? Are there any fun traditions or hobbies folks have developed over the past few months? This will encourage everyone to participate, including those who tend to be quieter on calls.
2. Send a Thoughtful Gift
The physical connection you experience when you're in the same room as someone gets lost over video calls. Sending a meaningful gift is one way you can establish relationships with clients or business partners even when you can't meet them face to face.
Today especially, many people are keen on helping local nonprofits and underserved communities that the pandemic has affected most. Sending gifts that make a positive impact on these groups is a great way to give back and connect with people's desire to do good.
For instance, you could give coffee sets from a company that supports after-school programs, or granola bars from a company that donates to anti-hunger programs across the country. These gifts showcase your company's values while also benefitting a community beyond the recipients themselves.
3. Make It a Phone Call
If you have an upcoming one-on-one meeting with a colleague or client, consider making a phone call instead of sticking with video. A phone call is more personal and lets you address topics outside of work. It also frees people from sitting at a desk and being locked onto their camera. You can always send presentations and other information over email, afterwards.
Create Buzz for Larger Virtual Gatherings
Many conferences have been rescheduled and moved online. Unfortunately, virtual events don't generate the same buzz or atmosphere as traditional conference environments. Using these strategies can help you keep everyone engaged and deliver a memorable experience.
4. Send Gift Packages
As you know, conference gift bags are a requisite for any business gathering. Bring your virtual conference to life by mailing a memorable package to your virtual gathering attendees.
Consider items like notebooks and t-shirts to commemorate the event. Send coffee and treats that people can enjoy during early morning gatherings. These packages can also be an opportunity to implement the gifting strategies mentioned above, focusing on gifts that give back.
Include a prompt or question in your gift packages that relates to the theme of your virtual gathering. Could be a small note card explaining why you sent the gifts, or a question that you want attendees to think about throughout the conference. Including these messages will get people excited to join and engage them early on.
5. Offer Sneak Peeks and Opportunities for Interaction
Leading up to a virtual event, send teasers via email and social media to generate excitement. That might include messages like:
- "Did you know x? You can hear more on this topic from the following panel..."
- "Here's what you can learn from y seminar."
- "We have a surprise guest speaker…"
For another opportunity for interaction, consider sending preconference activities for attendees to complete in advance. Ask them to think of questions for panelists or prepare a list of ideas that will serve to kick off a particular event. This lets you interact with attendees and encourages them to be active participants.
6. Mix Up the Agenda
Make sure your virtual events aren't structured as one large video call. Switch things up by splitting large groups into smaller rooms. Have different people interact with each other to create new dynamics and give everyone an opportunity to create deeper connections with fellow attendees.
In addition, be sure to include pop quizzes, polls, videos and humor. These interactive elements can inject life into your presentation or meeting and make it more enjoyable.
We're All in This Together
As we all adjust to a new way of life, we must support each another and continue having meaningful interactions with everyone. This includes those we work with. Online business communication can get stale fast, which is why it's important to liven it up with unexpected gifts, engaging events and non-work-related topics.
Using these tips will help you form personal connections and energize your next virtual gathering. With any luck, people will recognize the efforts you put in to keep their spirits up during these times and want to establish stronger relationships with you moving forward.
Leeatt Rothschild has more than 15 years of experience at the intersection of business, sustainability and brand purpose. In 2016, she founded Packed with Purpose, a corporate gifting company that embeds social impact into the everyday act of gift-giving, from empowering underserved women with job skills to supporting sustainability efforts. Packed with Purpose gifts allow companies (from Fortune 500 to nonprofit organizations) to create societal impact while positively influencing their business with employees, clients and other key stakeholders.