Public buildings are closed, restaurants are takeout only, events are being cancelled left and right. As we all struggle to find our way thru this crazy time of Covid-19, although it is vitally important to practice social distancing, it’s equally important that we stay connected with our fellow humans.
From sharing information to re-thinking plans, from emotional support to how to keep the kids entertained, during this incredibly stressful time, we could all use a little help from our friends. Of course we can always talk on the phone, but seeing each other’s faces is way better!
From virtual meetings with co-workers, to online networking events, we have pulled together some ideas and tools to help you stay connected. Have a favorite virtual meeting tool that we forgot to mention? Share it on our facebook page!
Working from home, aka your ‘remote office’
Especially if you are new to working at home, it can be an adjustment. Not the least of which is feeling lonely, isolated and ‘out of the loop’. These free tools can get you connected and interacting with both co-workers and friends in no time. Don’t forget, no matter which platform you choose, everyone will need an account in order to login and participate.
Try a free Zoom account. In order to use the free version, you’ll need to keep your meetings to less than 40 minutes, but let’s face it, meetings are more productive with a time limit, right? Zoom is super easy to setup and install. It basically installs itself once you grant permission.
Once you have setup your Zoom account, simply create a meeting and send the meeting link to your attendees. When an attendee clicks on the link, they will be prompted to install Zoom (create a user name & password if they are new to Zoom) and be automatically logged in to the meeting.
Virtual meeting tips from Zoom:
- Working from home
- Best practices for hosting a Zoom event
- How to hide your messy room for a Zoom video meeting
Try Google hangout. It’s free to use with Gmail, and almost everyone has at least one Gmail account…don’t they? Once you start a hangout, you can invite anyone who is logged into their Gmail account. Invitees will be notified by both email and popup.
Skype is free for anyone using Microsoft and can be used for video calls, chat, and screen sharing as well. Once you have downloaded the Skype app to your desktop, create an account and you are ready to reach out to all of your Skype friends.
Need to move your event online?
Tips for hosting virtual events:
Membership organizations typically hold their events in person. These are of course great for everything from strengthening existing relationships, expanding networks to lead generation. Obviously there will always be a need for in-person meetings.
Although it may seem challenging at present to continue to provide your members with these valuable interactions, here are some inexpensive ideas to help your members continue to connect with and support each other during these tumultuous times.
Not sure how to get started? Here are 4 low-cost, medium-effort ideas for hosting virtual events.
Hosting digital events
Webinar Workshop – Invite one or more members to teach a workshop on their business expertise. Assign someone from your association to host. The host will be in charge of setting up the meeting on your virtual meeting platform of choice, inviting all members to attend and scanning the chat feature for incoming questions during the meeting.
The presenters will create and present the information and answer questions at the end of the meeting. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for Q&A!
Panel Discussion – Invite 2-3 members working in the same industry, or who are all familiar with the same topic, to participate in a question and answer session. Note: It’s usually a good idea to have some questions prepared ahead of time, in case you need a warm up to get the discussion started.
Be sure to assign a host from your organization to manage setup and field questions as they come in. Also, make a point to invite folks in your community who are not members yet. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the value of membership in your organization.
Grow your Online Community – Try out a new social channel like Facebook, LinkedIn or Slack. If your audience is there, this is a great time to reach out. Host an online conversation related to member inquiries, answer frequently asked questions, share behind the scenes info or member feedback on the benefits of joining your organization. Be sure to promote the event ahead of time, inviting both your members and non-members is a good strategy here as well.
Host a Video Short Contest – Challenge your members to create a one-minute informational video about their business. Encourage them to think of this as spontaneous and fun promo vs. a formal marketing piece. Send them some example videos to get them thinking. Create a YouTube channel, upload all submissions to the channel, open voting to both your members and the public.
Award a physically large prize, like a huge blue ribbon, a cupcake tower or an oversize check made out to their charity of choice. Take several photos of the member with their prize and share it all over your social media channels.
In order for any event to be successful, in-person or online, you need to get the word out. Here are 5 online promo ideas to help you get started:
Engage your members – The more you involve your members in your events, the more they will help promote your events, whether this is formal promotion or casual mention, does it matter? Enthusiastic, engaged members are a great way to create momentum around your event.
Cross-promotion – Return the favor! Offer your members the opportunity to post events on your site’s community event calendar. This gives member events more visibility and will bring additional traffic to your site. Double win!
Use event discovery sites – Sites like Eventbrite, Facebook Events and Meetup already have tons of visitors every month. Creating a free listing for your event to one of these sites will broaden your reach and may even expand your target audience.
Empower your speakers – Presenters and sponsors of your event have their own audience that are just waiting to be introduced to your organization. Make sure to empower speakers and partners with a quick blurb to share on social and images they can use to promote your event to their own followers.
Target your email newsletter – Group your email list into categories: people who have purchased tickets in the past vs. those who haven’t, or members vs. potential members within your target audience. Then create an email campaign that includes language designed to resonate with each group.
Perfect for Merchant Associations, Professional Associations, Chambers of Commerce,
Business Networking groups, Visitor Bureaus, Community Arts Councils and more.