Originally published Meetings Today
Is it really July? I finally got out for a haircut. Apartment door to elevator to garage to car (my spouse drove—I don’t drive [despite what someone once said, yes, you can be successful and not drive!]—six blocks to haircut where every precaution was taken. It felt great and I was terrified being out.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases soar in many U.S. states; meetings and conventions continue to be postponed or to move to a virtual platform; and sports, theater, and most other events are on hold.
Moving From Physical to Virtual
We don’t yet have the terminology for all to use for what we had referred to as “face to face” (or f2f) meetings that I now call “physical” meetings. We are face to face virtually on many platforms. What’s your preferred nomenclature?
Reading and listening to what others say and ask about moving their conferences to virtual formats from purely physical (vs. hybrid) meetings, what I hear are issues not considered until they had to be:
- What will draw a virtual audience?
- Will the virtual audience be the same that would have attended the physical meeting?
- Will more people who might not have been able to afford to attend now be able to engage virtually? People from countries where travel is restricted? Those who finances might not allow them to otherwise attend? And are we designing for inclusive meetings?
I have some questions, too:
- Is this an opportunity to create platforms that include more people with disabilities who couldn’t as easily participate physically because of barriers? (See June’s Friday With Joan for more.)
- How long can people tolerate sitting in front of any screen? (Given how many virtual meetings in which we’re all participating, the question weighs heavily as my tush tires from being seated at my computer!)
- Can or should we charge a registration fee? What is reasonable for participant and organization?
- Do we need to make money, or at least not lose money, with the cost to present a virtual event?
- What are the ‘anchor’ elements of our meeting? Exhibits? Education? Awards?
- For associations, governance? “State of the industry/company” CEO/president addresses?
- In what new ways might we present the key elements to ensure recognition and participation?
Designing for Virtual Delivery
I think constantly about all those issues and what it means for the content, and design and delivery, of content for speakers/presenters/trainers/facilitators. If and when physical meetings go forward while COVID-19 is still active, will those who deliver content—whether hired professional speakers or presenters or our internal subject matter experts (SMEs)—be willing to travel and be with others? And if not, how will they present virtually?
For physical meetings, what precautions such as stage, lectern, microphone and other “touch” surfaces will we need to sanitize, and how thoroughly and how often after/between use?
If we would usually “pass a mic” for interaction, what must we do to ensure the safety of all who touch after someone else? (Immense gratitude to the participant in a session at the Cascadia Conference in March—the last time I traveled—who made me aware of this. It was an “I-can’t-believe-I’d-not-thought-of-it” moment. If you see this or know someone who knows who it was, please contact me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com.)
In what way can we create virtual interaction such as the serendipitous interaction individuals are used to and desire at physical meetings?
Who among our usual speakers—or for many, our already-planned-program speakers—can be as or more effective virtually?
In what ways must we train and coach our content experts to engage virtually?
A Few Tips
Here are some key tips to consider:
- Train speakers to present virtually.
- Show speakers how to use cameras and even the how to use lighting, microphones; how to lean forward to present that most important point. (Keith Knight, Gentleman Cartoonist, did that so well in this presentation “Red, White, Black and Blue” on racial literacy using his drawings to ensure that the points were illustrated.)
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. It does not take the spontaneity away from the actual presentation. It ensures that everyone is cued to present.
- Ensure moderators are available to interrupt to ask questions from the chat or from the Q&A. And like at a physical meeting, make the sessions interactive by having the moderator ask pertinent questions when they are asked to a specific point.
- Provide platforms and encourage interaction among registrants before the virtual conference begins. Build community to provide comfort so that commenting in the chat is natural.
- Set specific goals and objectives for each area of the virtual conference just as you would a physical one.
- Consider the size of sessions and the platform used—the more people, the potential for less engagement.
Don’t do what a colleague said to me: “Plop and drop” your physical conference into a virtual event. The dynamics and need to present differently will either engage or damage the outcomes and potentially your organization’s reputation. Moreover, if and when we are able to meet physically again, you want to show that your conferences take all needs into account.
Personal point of privilege: HAPPY 92nd BIRTHDAY (July 8) to you, Howard Feiertag! If you want to shout out to him on some area of social media do, albeit belatedly since we are publishing a week later than usual. He has taught more of us directly and thus more of all of us through the teaching of some for so long. He is the backbone of understanding and integrating good sales and marketing techniques for our industry. When I learned negotiating skills from him at MPI Institute in 1981, the lasting value of his techniques in teaching, his infectious laugh and warmth continue to be part of my life and professionalism. May you live many more good and healthy years, dear mensch!
U.S.-eligible voters: Register or check your registration. Many U.S. states and territories have “cleaned” their voter registration rolls. Check, too, to see if in fact you are registered and where you should vote.
Remember that because of COVID-19, some US states and territories are not opening as many polling places for primaries or the November election.
Vote! There are ballot issues and people running for office who will impact what we do in this industry. On Twitter at @meetingstoday, we post links to issues that impact our industry. Voting is a precious right fought for by many. It is a responsibility of us all. If your city or county or state has a ballot initiative tied to taxes or other issues impacting meetings, tourism and travel, please alert us by tweeting and tagging @meetingstoday or me, @joaneisenstodt, or email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com
The views expressed here are those of the author or those interviewed and may not express the views of our publisher. If you would like to make comments anonymously to this blog for posting or simply to send to the author, please write to FridaywithJoan@aol.com. State if you would like your comment posted here without attribution. Your confidentiality is promised.
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