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socialhour.com Virtual Events

5 Easy But Effective Ways to Drive Engagement During Your Virtual Event

It’s not enough just to check the box on having networking functionality available for your virtual event attendees. To truly deliver on the engaged attendee experience they expect, you have to make sure you prime them for the engagement opportunities you have in store for them.

That means regardless of what specific networking options you choose to offer at your virtual event, you need to over-communicate and promote these engagement opportunities both well in advance of and during the event.

Understand that your attendees will only read a small portion of the pre-event materials you send. This makes it critical to promote all the available networking opportunities whenever possible to increase the likelihood of attendees finding them. Here are five of the most effective—and easy—communications to get your virtual event networking off to a great start.

Highlight Engagement Opportunities on The Event Website

Even when prospective attendees are first exploring your conference, you want to amplify your event’s networking opportunities. We recommend creating a dedicated page to explain how attendees can network, the associated channel(s) they can access, and which hashtag(s) they should follow.

Include Networking Prompts in Pre-event Emails

Include a section in all of your pre-event communications that details how attendees can network with one another. Link to any relevant group pages or sites available to facilitate conversations, and also share which event hashtag attendees should use across platforms.

Promote Virtual Networking Activities in Event Transitions

At the end of sessions and during breaks, display a transition slide that explains what session is next, where attendees need to go, what time, and how they can connect with their peers. This is just as valuable during a virtual event as it is during those held in-person as it helps attendees optimize their time.

Add Networking Hashtags to Event Branding

Digital event platforms have several areas to customize to match your branding. If possible, include the event hashtag in a visible spot on your event platform, and promote any sites or pages that attendees should visit for more information.

Use Social Media as An Attendee Engagement Channel

Promote the event across your social media channels, including reminders of upcoming sessions, where attendees can access critical resources, and highlights from the sessions. You should pre-schedule general promotion tweets and have one or two team members (depending on your event and team size) available during the conference to keep posting content and monitoring for questions. Additionally, provide conference speakers with a few pre-approved posts that they can easily share to promote the event’s various networking opportunities. 

For more ideas on promoting your virtual event’s networking opportunities and other strategies for creating an engaging attendees experience, download our e-Book “How to Host Virtual Networking Sessions People Will Love.”

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socialhour.com Virtual Events

7 Virtual Networking Options to Wow Attendees at Your Next Virtual Event

After you weigh the pros and cons of your various platform options and find the best choice for your needs, you can more thoroughly map out your event engagement opportunities. 

Start by revisiting your platform’s built-in networking components and reviewing which of your team’s existing channels or groups can also support this event’s networking and engagement needs. Consider any of these options as a potential area for networking at your event:

  • Live chat tools alongside a session (part of the platform), where attendees can ask questions to the presenter or engage with each other
  • Dedicated messaging channels on third-party sites/services (Slack, etc.), which can include channels for each conference track
  • Private Facebook (or similar social network) group for event registrants (and be sure to have a moderator ready to strike up a conversation)
  • Open video conference rooms before or after the event for attendees to hang out
  • Hashtags across social media platforms for cohesion and to aggregate conversations
  • Moderated networking rooms led by community veterans where attendees can stop in and talk to each other
  • Round table/”birds of a feather” video chat rooms

Create a Diverse Mix of Virtual Event Networking Options

A successful event strategy will blend the various networking options described above, meaning your team needs adequate support to promote the networking opportunities, monitor the multiple networking areas, staff rooms and act as a host to connect fellow attendees and provide conversation starters when needed. 

Depending on your event type, consider asking customers, partners, and trusted community members if they can support — or even host — these networking rooms. Allow your trusted partners to take ownership of their networking rooms and create unique experiences that can meet attendee needs while also providing a value add to the partner for their help.

For more ideas on making your next digital event the most engaging ever, download “How to Host Virtual Networking Sessions People Will Love,” a new e-Book from the Social hour team. 

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socialhour.com Virtual Events

13 Questions to Ask To Identify the Best Virtual Events Platform

Last April, I attended a virtual conference I’d been looking forward to for a while. Its schedule was packed with interesting topics from relevant industry speakers I couldn’t wait to learn from. But I was even more excited about trading ideas with my peers and having the opportunity for more speaker interaction due to the ease of implementing virtual Q&A and follow-up mechanisms during virtual events.

On the morning of the event, a few minutes before the opening keynote, I clicked on the link in my registration email to launch the conference and was led to a virtual webinar interface. Confused, I checked my email and saw I’d just received an email from the organizers, encouraging me to connect with my peers…in a private LinkedIn group. 

Why a LinkedIn Group Isn’t Optimal for Networking at Most Virtual Events

It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’d paid for the conference and wanted to get the most out of it. So I clicked on the LinkedIn group’s link in the email, and submitted my request to join the group. An hour into the conference, my request to join the group was approved. The event producers had setup conversation starters for each of the conference sessions as a way for attendees to interact. I watched attendees trickled in throughout the conference, but conversations never really took off.

Suppose this had been an association’s annual conference, with a pre-existing LinkedIn group that attendees were already active within. In that case, this might have been a more effective virtual events platform. But that wasn’t the case.  I mostly got spammed with connection requests from vendors. It was a missed opportunity for all of us.

Questions to Help You Identify the Best Virtual Events Platform

There isn’t a foolproof way to ensure you pick the best platform for your virtual event. But, I’ve outlined a few core questions in this infographic that can help. Ask them of potential vendors to understand how good of a fit a virtual events platform will likely be before you sign the contract.

Turn Your Virtual Event Attendees Into Raving Fans

The above infographic is just a small selection from “How to Host Virtual Networking Sessions People Will Love,” a new e-Book from the Social hour team. Download your copy today to make the most of your next virtual event investment.

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remote work

Data Roundup: Employee Surveys Show Increased Support for Remote Work

The early months of the COVID-19 pandemic were overwhelmingly uncertain for businesses forced to test remote work arrangements. Now, nearly a year into the pandemic, employers are still making significant changes to their remote work arrangements, suggesting that hybrid working models are here to stay.

But how are employees coping with working from home? Is there still enthusiasm for workplace flexibility, or do employees want to return to the office when this is all over? 

We’ve gathered recent data suggesting that workers are increasingly comfortable with—and in favor of—remote work. 

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remote work

Will Remote Work Usher in the Era of the 4-day Workweek?

Nearly a year since its onset, COVID-19 has upended the traditional way of working for most industries. Despite some early hesitation about how the way of work would shift, many companies now embrace permanent work-from-home policies. Employees increasingly hope to continue this workplace flexibility once the pandemic is over. 

The thought of only 41 percent of the U.S. labor force working in a physical office all the time would have seemed ridiculous at the start of 2020. Now, though, companies realize that the productivity benefits of workplace flexibility make these arrangements a competitive essential, not just a perk based on the employer’s trust in their team and goodwill.

As companies continue to explore ways to optimize their business and increase their team productivity, no matter where they are based, does this mean that we will also see the end of the 8-hour a day, 5-day workweek?

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remote work

Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Corporate Office?

In 2017, many companies made headlines for doing away with remote working arrangements, including IBM, Aetna, and Best Buy. While working remotely had previously been seen as a driver of employee satisfaction and better business results, these high-profile flexible work program cancellations caused many companies to question their work from home policies. 

Then came 2020. The business world experienced a significant shift toward remote work because of COVID-19. The data we’ve seen a year into the pandemic reinforces what studies have suggested for the past decade: yes, remote work can boost productivity. 

But does this mean that companies will continue to embrace flexible working arrangements even when offices reopen? 

Tech Companies Signal Hybrid Work Futures

Increasingly, leading companies are introducing policies supporting a hybrid work future, where in-person and remote work opportunities are blended at the company. Some roles will need at least some in-office time to complete critical tasks but otherwise enjoy greater degrees of flexibility than before—and employers are making lasting decisions about their office spaces because of it. 

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, brands made significant moves that signal it will become increasingly uncommon for a company’s entire team to work under one roof:

  • Cloud computing trailblazer Salesforce announced in February 2021 that it will offer three ways of working going forward. The company even went as far as to say the 9-to-5 workday is dead, and only a small subset of the Salesforce team will work in the office four to five days per week.
  • Internet staple Google will keep its employees remote until September 2021 and then experiment with a new hybrid work model giving employees the flexibility they desire.
  • Trillion-dollar company Microsoft announced that the majority of its employees can work from home half of their time (or permanently, with manager approval) and that its US offices won’t reopen until early this year at the earliest
  • Tech giant Pinterest paid $89.5 million to terminate its lease with a soon-to-be-built complex near Pinterest’s existing San Francisco HQ
  • Retailer REI announced its plans to sell a newly finished corporate campus in Washington, which was once called “like summer camp for grown-ups.”
  • Nationwide will work out of four main corporate campuses, exiting most of its other buildings and workly entirely remotely in all other areas.
  • Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman expressed uncertainty about the future of work but noted that the bank would need “much less real estate.”
  • Siemens, one of the largest companies in the world, recently announced it would “focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office” in measuring worker performance. 
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team.video

Enhancing Workplace Productivity In The Age of Remote Work

In the past, many companies equated “working from home” with “slacking off from home,” fearing the potential productivity losses their company would face if employees had greater workplace flexibility.

Now, a year into the largest remote work movement the business world has ever seen, these fears have been largely overcome. Productivity in the U.S. rose 4.6% in Q3 of 2020, marking the largest quarterly productivity increase since 2009.

But there’s a catch: not every company is seeing productivity boosts with its mostly remote workforce. One study of 800 employers found:

  • 67% of companies reported similar productivity levels as pre-pandemic days
  • 27% reported an increase in productivity 

So what’s separating those seeing gains in productivity from the rest? It could be in how they define productivity and the tools they’re using to track it. 

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team.video

How To Combat ‘Zoom Fatigue’ For More Fulfilling Video Meetings

The rapid shift to online, remote-based work provided many benefits for employees and employers alike. These flexible working arrangements are here to stay, even once COVID-19 is no longer a concern. 

There is an unintended side effect of this new way of work, though, and it stems from ineffective, badly designed tools and misguided approaches to handling meetings with a remote team: “Zoom fatigue.” But by understanding the cause of this fatigue, you can adjust your approach to online meetings in a way that better engages your team.

What Is Zoom Fatigue And Why Are Video Calls Tiring?

Despite being a convenient replacement for our in-person interactions, video calls require a more significant effort to truly process the conversation (the primary cause of Zoom fatigue).

That’s because a great deal of crucial content is communicated not in what we say, but instead in how we say it, with nonverbal cues like hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Intrinsically, video calls make it difficult to absorb these nonverbal cues. Only so much of any given speaker can be seen, spotty internet connections can distort speech, and grid-style views can easily send an attendee into sensory overload. 

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team.video

When You Can’t Measure It, You Won’t Fix It

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

According to Google Trends data, as much of America’s knowledge workers settled in for the second month of working at home under the COVID-19 work from home mandates, ‘Zoom fatigue’ hit an all-time high. But the truth is, it’s not just being stuck at home and having most of our socializing taking place over video conference calls that are to blame for our dissatisfaction with workplace meetings.

Whether it’s 9 million versions of conference call bingo or 21 million views of a conference call in real life, poorly-run company meetings have long been a source of employee dissatisfaction. A 2017 study published in Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries to gauge how meetings impact their work:

  • 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking
  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together

Many factors contribute to this negative outlook on workplace meetings, but one that has bubbled up significantly over the last few months is meetings are often where the lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace shows up.

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team.video

3 Online Meeting KPIs That Can Uncover a Toxic Workplace Culture

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

With an estimated 42 percent of the U.S. labor force currently working from home full-time, your online meetings have become how you keep your workplace culture alive. Unfortunately, these same virtual meetings may also be contributing to creating a toxic workplace culture that leads to employee disengagement.

The good news is, unlike those in-person meetings held in your company’s cleverly named office conference rooms, your online meetings give you the potential to gather and measure data that can be used to identify and address potentially toxic workplace issues in the making. Here are three questions to ask your team members to weigh in on, and measure through your online meeting platform.