Chapters have always had regular opportunities for members to get together in person to share ideas and learn from each other, but just as important is the ability to connect to simply have fun and socialize. While members may need to “social distance” during a period of virtual operations, chapters can help alleviate the isolation by creating opportunities for authentic social connection.
If your chapters are having to run things virtually, you’ve already had to help them adapt to virtual governance and adjust the way you communicate with chapter leaders. Once you have operations and communications running smoothly, encourage chapter leaders to make the most of online platforms to create an environment for social bonds to develop.
VIRTUAL SOCIAL MEETUPS
During regular chapter operations, chapters might host monthly social programs for members. They can still host meetings and lunches – just take them online. Chapter leaders could host a monthly lunch online where members “eat together” over a video conferencing platform.
Members can be encouraged to get takeout to support a local restaurant or bring their own bag lunch. Or change it up by scheduling virtual coffee breaks and breakfast meetups. Chapters can make these meetings educational by coming up with discussion questions before hand or keep it light by just catching up.
Other virtual hangout ideas we’ve seen:
- Book/Podcast clubs
- Recipe clubs
- Trivia or game night
- Watch parties
TIPS FOR HOSTING VIRTUAL MEETUPS
Let’s face it, sometimes connecting virtually can be awkward. Hosting a virtual hangout or meetup could be new territory for chapter leaders, so provide them with some tips for success. Suggest the chapters adopt these guidelines to create the right environment for interaction:
- Be willing to try unfamiliar technology.
- Be present – turn off distractions, like email or phones.
- Be a conscientious participant – step up if you don’t hear yourself participating, and step back if you hear yourself talking a lot.
- Accept that some things are out of your control.
- Be a conversation facilitator – jump in to keep a conversation going or offer prompts to spark them back up if they slow down.
Encourage leaders to share technical tips or requirements before the virtual meeting so it doesn’t feel forced or awkward during the call. They can also advise members on the best web-conferencing set up – webcam position, audio preferences, best lighting, etc.
Every virtual event should have a leader or host – someone who can keep the conversation flowing. It also helps to have them behind the scenes to help with muting or any technical issues. Adrian Segar, founder of Conferences That Work, shared advice for supporting a community online during COVID-19 and tips for hosting virtual meetups.
TECHNOLOGY PLATFORMS FOR VIRTUAL MEETINGS, EDUCATION, AND SOCIAL EVENTS
Regardless of the virtual event they are hosting, have chapters think about their goal before choosing the hosting technology or platform. They may need to use one platform for educational events if they are expecting a large crowd and another for smaller virtual meetups.
Zoom seems to be the top choice, but it’s not the only choice. There is also Microsoft Teams, Slack, GoToMeeting or Webinar, and Adobe Connect. Or try something completely different with the trivia app Houseparty.
The web has exploded with articles about web-conferencing platforms. Here are some that caught our eye:
- 10 Virtual Event Tools You Can Use to Move Your Meetings Online(Association Success)
- 12 Game-Changing Zoom Hacks for Work Meetings and Virtual Happy Hours(HuffPost)
- A Guide to Hosting Virtual Events with Zoom(Google Doc from Creative Mornings)
- Best Practices for Hosting Digital Events(Zoom webinar)
Depending on the meetup goal, they may want a platform that offers breakout rooms, chat feature, polling, whiteboards, and/or screen sharing. Based on the needs of the event, be sure chapter leaders compare features before making a decision on which platform to use.
Keeping chapter connections strong during a time of virtual operation can make for a more seamless transition back to in-person operations. In our next post, we will introduce different formats chapters can use to continue virtual education for members.