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Insights

The Five Elements of Meaningful Virtual Gatherings

Friday, September 11, 2020
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Many of us have found ourselves faced with the decision to move in-person events to online events for the foreseeable future. The great news is that with intentional planning, these events can create the same connection and impact as their in-person counterparts. The key to success—whether a team meeting, collaborative workshop, or large conference—is to keep your focus on the performer when you’re designing the virtual experience.

Step into their shoes. During each phase of the experience, consider what you want them to:

  • Think (This will be the best conference yet! This will give me the training I need to use this tool.)
  • Feel (Be encouraged, excited, and inspired.)
  • Do (Review pre-meeting materials, watch an informational video, and collaborate with other participants.)

Now, design for an optimal experience. Focus on designing moments that drive toward the mindsets, emotions, and actions you defined above. (Just be sure to keep the whole brain in mind when designing these moments.) This will also help you manage the energy flow, attention, breaks, and space people need to internalize and connect in a way that leaves lasting memories and changes behavior.

Consider the following five Es (Entice, Enter, Engage, Exit, and Extend) to map out moments from the initial invite to sustained momentum afterwards:

1. Entice
Attract participants to the experience through intentional invitations by building anticipation and designing pre-activities that prime them for their time together. It’s an opportunity to consider inclusion techniques and create a schedule that accounts for various time zones. Physical materials mailed in advance or a themed itinerary can begin to create the tone you seek.

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2. Enter
Set the virtual stage. This includes not only considerations for the virtual environment, but also providing context, goals, and objectives ahead of time so you can set the right tone for the gathering. In addition, ensure that trainers and facilitators are well versed in virtual facilitation. A lively virtual lobby, official greeters, and fun polls can help create energy as attendees enter the experience.

3. Engage
Create an experience that energizes and inspires participation by thinking through the design of interactions and the pace of the schedule, which increases engagement. This includes the inclusion of multiple voices and perspectives, surprise elements, and a mix of independent work and group conversations. Consider incorporating gamification, as well as offline activities, into the experience.

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4. Exit
Use the conclusion of the gathering to create memories and momentum. Capture and celebrate shared achievements, and also create clarity on the way forward. A group photo or summary drawing can help capture the energy of the time together.

5. Extend
Commemorate and activate the experience beyond the gathering date. Make the insights from the event actionable and encourage individual accountability into the future. Peer pairings or one-on-one, scheduled check-ins can help reinforce next steps.

By keeping these five elements in mind, you’ll be well on your way to building virtual gatherings that are meaningful, memorable, and lead to results.

About the Author

Gina Bucalo is a principal consultant and change and communications strategist at TiER1 Performance. A University of Dayton alum, she’s no stranger to creating amazing experiences for onboarding, culture development, and change strategies. In addition to helping people do their best work, Gina loves cooking, hosting parties, traveling, and hiking—but more than anything, she values the relationships in her life.

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