Don't assume your virtual gathering shares the same goal as the canceled in-person one. Keep these questions in mind:
Use everyone's environment to fill the lack of context of virtual gatherings.
A room and location often set the context for the group. And virtual gatherings lack the context to set up the room. To solve this, invite people to help co-create the space. To add warmth, have them sit and place their cameras in front of places that have meaning for them.
Regardless of the size of the gathering, know who's in charge.
A good host knows how to use the mute button, can orient her guests to the gathering's purpose, and will connect and protect her guests.
Don't just get straight into the meeting. A consistent opening ritual connects people, establishes who's in the room, and their relevance to the meeting.
Invite people to bring a beverage and open the meeting by asking them to show it to help create a commonly shared moment. Or have guests share a physical object they keep in their workspace and why it matters. You will get insight into your colleagues that reveal what they care about.
We can now share things instantly. Share a relevant article, video, or agenda that orients people to the new purpose of the meeting.
Send a digital gift at the end of the gathering - a screenshot of the meeting or a digital subscription.
The home is also an office, for now. We need moments of home-life to remind the group that everyone has multiple things going on in their lives, like a cat that can't resist saying hello or the toddler who bursts into the 'office.'
People are more likely to remember different moments of an event when they occur in other places.
Even breaking up your virtual meeting sessions by just changing camera angles will help people to recall different parts of the meeting later on.
Keep some time for celebration if that would have been part of your in-person gathering.
Invite people to bring a drink of choice. Screen-share cellphone numbers (with permission). Then allocate part of the hour for one-on-one phone calls, just like it would've happened around a cocktail hour. Make time for toasts and small talk.
These are strange times - acknowledge that, but don't retreat. Be creative and continue to use the opportunities with the digital tools that previous generations did not have.
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