Categories
virtual events

How To Form A Successful College Class Reunion Planning Committee [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Are you excited to reconnect with your alma mater and its alumni for an upcoming college class reunion? 

Many colleges and universities are now hosting reunion celebrations online, which means friends and classmates can connect easier than before—providing an unrivaled opportunity to strengthen your alumni network and bolster their relationship with your university. However, while many of the same traditional reunion activities can occur during a virtual reunion, there are a few virtual reunion planning differences to address.

If you’re a part of your university’s online reunion planning committee or just getting started organizing that committee, let’s explore how to structure your virtual college reunion planning team for success. We’ll explain the ideal college reunion planning committee structure, roles and responsibilities for each member, and an ideal timeline to plan your event with ease. 

Partner With Your Alumni Association

Before making any plans for your upcoming college class reunion, contact your university’s alumni association to check if there is already a planning committee in place that you can join. 

Your alumni association should also have resources and guides to help streamline your planning. Work with them to understand any available funds to support the event, attendance of past reunions, ways to fundraise for a class reunion, an ideal timeline for planning your college class reunion, and any other historical information that can inform your planning. 

Even if your alumni association already has a team ready to plan and support the reunion, there is almost always a need for more volunteers to help with the planning. It’s a lot to get done, and it never hurts to have more hands-on-deck to help plan and coordinate events during the reunion. 

Key College Reunion Planning Committee Roles

There are a few central positions you will want to appoint on your virtual college reunion planning committee. These individuals will then partner with a group of volunteers to conduct the day-to-day planning activities for the reunion.

The size of your committee will depend on how many alumni you anticipate will attend your event. Unfortunately, there is no definite way to answer how many people should be on a college reunion planning committee. Still, it is best to have at least 20 people ready to help throughout the planning process.

These are the essential reunion committee positions and associated responsibilities:

Reunion Chair 

The reunion chair oversees all reunion planning and acts as the main point of contact for the alumni association and other planning committee members. This role is responsible for coordinating committee meetings, making all final approvals, and overseeing the planning timeline.

Alumni Support Chair

Your prospective attendees will have a range of questions leading up to and during your event. Appoint one person to oversee and coordinate alumni support services. This person will act as a traffic controller and partner closely with the communications/marketing team to route requests to the finance, technology, or program teams as needed.

Communications/Marketing Chair

The communications or marketing lead oversees a team to coordinate all alumni outreach before and after the event. In addition, this team partners closely with the alumni association to:

  • Source alumni contact information 
  • Create and distribute invitations or save-the-date cards, as well as ongoing event communications through phone, email, or other channels
  • Manage any reunion-related social media channels or online communities. Build information hubs for reunion attendees, including an event website

Finance Chair

This individual is responsible for creating and monitoring the budget for your class reunion. At the end of the reunion, the finance chair will report on all expenses and income, as well as any leftover funds. All other committee chairs must gain purchase approvals from the finance chair, and all volunteers are responsible for helping to meet the finance chair’s fundraising goals.

Giving Chair

A core goal of many college reunions is to help raise funds for the university and garner ongoing support for the university’s mission. Appoint a member of your committee to advance this goal. They will partner with the alumni association to determine the best approach to encourage donations to the university. They will also coordinate all follow-up and thank yous for donors. 

Program Chair

Appoint a person who will oversee the creation and management of your class reunion agenda. This individual will not be solely responsible for organizing the series of activities, but they will be the one to finalize all agenda elements ahead of the reunion. 

Technology Chair

The main difference between a virtual and in-person college class reunion is the technical requirements for hosting each. With a virtual college reunion, it’s essential to designate a tech-savvy individual who can partner with the finance chair to find an event platform that will meet your alumni’s needs. In addition, the technology committee should partner with the communications committee to create FAQs and how-to documents to help alumni navigate the tech elements of your reunion. 

An Ideal Online College Class Reunion Planning Timeline

Your team should start planning your reunion at least one year in advance. The first step is to identify the right people to serve as the committee chairs we described above. Then, meet at least once a month, or more as needed, as an entire planning committee to oversee the next steps and encourage each chair to host separate meetings to coordinate their team’s activities. 

Ideally, follow this timeline when planning a virtual reunion:

12 months before event: 

  • Identify all committee chairs and align on responsibilities.
  • Partner with your alumni association to source contact information for all prospective attendees. 
  • Conduct a pre-reunion survey to understand what your attendees want out of your event. This survey can also invite alumni to volunteer to help your planning committee. Field this survey for at least one month, and then use it to inform your next steps.

11 months before event: 

  • Set a general budget for the reunion based on your anticipated attendee count, which you will gauge in your pre-reunion survey. 
  • Divide existing volunteers into appropriate committees.
  • Begin planning your agenda elements and inviting speakers.
  • If there is an in-person component of your reunion, begin sourcing group hotel rates or other travel logistics.
  • Confirm reunion date.

Ten months before event: 

  • Begin exploring event technology vendors.
  • Finalize fundraising plan.
  • Send initial save-the-date postcards or emails.
  • Publish reunion website to serve as a hub for prospective attendees.

Six months before event: 

  • Open registration for alumni. 
  • Coordinate a bi-weekly communications cadence to remind alumni of the reunion and promote your registration. Include social media posts, emails, and other communications channels to reach as many alumni as possible.
  • Post a preliminary reunion agenda to drum up excitement.

Four months before event:

  • Start collecting any memorabilia for the reunion, including photos for the slideshow.
  • Plan and purchase alumni gifts or swag bag items.

One month before the event:

  • Release full reunion agenda.
  • Research and develop remembrance ceremony materials. 
  • Finalize all planning elements.
  • Receive any final presentation or other agenda item files for your reunion. 

One month after the event: 

  • Share a photo slideshow, talk recordings, and other relevant files with attendees.
  • Debrief as a planning committee on post-reunion statistics, including how many people attended and how much money was raised for the university. 
  • Draft a document that collects the lessons learned and outcomes from the reunion to act as a resource for the next reunion’s planning committee.
  • Send all donors a thank-you card.

Sustain Your College Class Community Between Reunions

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting a virtual college reunion, and we encourage you to structure your planning committee and timeline in a way that can best support any range of fun activities or ideas that your team has in mind. 

Once your reunion is finished and everyone has received their thank-you notes and said their goodbyes, it can be easy to slip back into your “normal” life for another five years until your next reunion. If possible, have a subset of your reunion planning team keep in touch to plan additional events between your reunions to keep the excitement high. 
Learn more about how Social hour can help you host a memorable virtual alumni event.

Categories
virtual events

How To Create An Exciting Virtual College Reunion Schedule of Events [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

If you’re planning a virtual college class reunion, it’s common to face a few initial questions: 

  • How can you adapt an in-person class reunion for an online audience? 
  • What does a typical virtual college reunion agenda look like? 
  • What activities take place during an online class reunion?

Drawing from examples from leading universities with the most robust alumni networks in the U.S., we’ve gathered the essential virtual college reunion activities and additional fun ideas to help you create a complete experience that will truly impress your alumni. 

Essential Elements of a Virtual College Reunion Agenda

Your virtual college reunion schedule should include a variety of activities throughout the day and into the night to appeal to the range of alumni reunion goals and expectations. 

Some alumni will want a family-friendly experience and the opportunity to show their children or loved ones their alma mater. Others will want high-energy, adult-oriented activities focused on reliving the excitement of college, and reconnecting with the people who made those years special. 

The best way to understand your alumni expectations and maximize your potential attendee satisfaction is to survey them ahead of the reunion to understand what sort of activities they are or are not interested in. We share a few essential pre-reunion survey questions in this overview of planning a virtual reunion.

Generally, though, there are a few core elements of college reunions that your planning committee should at least consider adding to your reunion agenda during the mornings and afternoons:

  • Welcome Address: Start your virtual class reunion with a welcome address from a member of your planning committee or a notable member of your university leadership. This is an opportunity to greet attendees, explain what they can expect during your reunion, and ultimately set the tone for the rest of the event.
  • Alumni Spotlight Conversations: Feature notable alumni or group alumni based on current role or industry to discuss their work and their views on how their world of work is changing. This can help your attendees connect with other alumni who now work in similar fields, offering invaluable professional networking opportunities. 
  • College Leadership and Faculty Remarks: Host speeches, panel discussions, or informal fireside chats with key leadership members from the university, including the president, vice president, dean, or your student body leaders. These can involve inspirational or thought-provoking discussions (in the style of a TED Talk), an examination of current world events or trends, or a speech that celebrates the class and its accomplishments. 
  • Current Student Remarks: Spotlight current students and their stories to help alumni understand how the university is creating opportunities for its students to thrive, and how they can help those efforts. 
  • Identity and Faith-Based Discussions: Provide open networking spaces or coordinate a discussion of topics related to gender, race, identity, or religion (as appropriate).
  • Remembrance Ceremony: Honor the deceased members of your collegiate community with a special program. Consider including a photo slideshow and offer dedicated rooms for alumni to openly grieve those that they have lost. 

To better understand how you can approach each of these agenda elements, check out these virtual class reunion agendas from Cornell, Smith College, and Amherst College.

8 Virtual College Class Reunion Activity Ideas

The above essential elements of a college reunion are just one piece of your schedule. You will also want to layer in fun activities and networking areas that allow your alumni to freely connect with one another throughout the event.

Include these fun college class reunion activities to keep the energy high during your event and break away from more structured talks:

  • Breakout/Open Networking Rooms: Your alumni are excited to reconnect, and a virtual environment is ideal for enabling guests to hop in and out of rooms at their leisure. Select a virtual event platform that allows you to create small group breakout rooms, ideally with a thought-starter prompt. These can include questions like “What Restaurants Do You Miss” or “Favorite College Memory,” or instead use categories like “Sports Fans,” “Greek Life,” “Now Based In [State or Region],” or “[Dorm or Residence Hall].”
  • Campus Tour: What is new on campus? What little-known facts can you share? Pre-record a campus and community tour, or take attendees on a live tour of select locations. This campus tour video from D’Youville or this from Williston Northampton shows how you can approach your tour.
  • Fun Run: Encourage alumni to complete a fun run and submit their time with the alumni association. You can learn more about how to plan a virtual fun run in this walkthrough
  • Game or Trivia Night: Host a variety of online card or board games, or coordinate a trivia night that focuses on the history of your college or fun facts about your graduating year. 
  • Happy Hour Or Wine and Paint: Offer an open happy hour networking time, or add structure by turning it into a “wine and paint” or similar activity. To elevate the experience further, mail your attendees cocktail mixes to try, or a themed paint kit. 
  • Recipe Sharing: Appeal to the bakers and foodies in your alumni network by hosting a recipe sharing or how-to cooking or baking session. Mail supplies or grocery lists to alumni ahead of time so that they can follow along from home. 
  • Talent Performance: Let your class performers take the stage to sing, perform an instrument, or showcase some other talent that they have. These performances can be recorded ahead of time and streamed so that attendees can all watch and engage with each other. 
  • Yoga or Group Exercise: Allow your attendees to take a moment to unwind and recenter themselves in a yoga or similar group exercise class.

Remember to not pack your agenda too full to allow attendees to take part in one or more of these activities. Your reunion guests need ample time to network with each other and gain the full value that they can from your agenda. If you offer too many exciting activities, or don’t have time in the schedule set aside for these opportunities, your alumni will need to make tough choices on what main events to attend, and that could detract from their experience.

How To Delight Your College Online Reunion Attendees

With the core agenda elements set for your class reunion, your planning committee can now focus on the finishing touches that will turn a perfectly acceptable reunion into a truly outstanding experience.

Pre-reunion Engagement Opportunities

Ahead of the event, create branded hashtags to help alumni keep up with the latest information and join conversations about your reunion. Mail your attendees swag bags and other goodies to get them excited for the reunion. These can include class apparel or useful items like USB drives, as well as any items they’ll need for your reunion activities. And create virtual backgrounds for attendees to use during the event, like these alumni background examples from Stanford University or these from Williston Northampton School

Keep the Momentum Going During the Event

During the event, include a playlist that features popular songs from your college years. Or, live stream a band or similar musician that performs covers of those songs. Further this trip down memory lane with a photo slideshow or video montage in an easy self-service area for alumni to revisit memories at their leisure. 

After the Event

Once your event is over, there are a few final ways to provide value to your attendees. First, share a copy of your virtual photo album, campus tour, or other assets that your alumni may want to revisit. Ensure that they are aware of any social media community groups that they can join to continue engaging with one another after the reunion.

Finally, ensure that you conduct a post-event survey that can help inform future class reunions. Ask about each attendee’s overall satisfaction with the event, their favorite sessions or activities, and any ways that the experience can be improved.

Make Your Online College Reunion an Event to Remember

By hosting a mix of essential in-person college reunion activities and fun, online-friendly activities and networking venues, your alumni are more likely to have a fulfilling reunion experience.

Are you looking for a virtual event platform that can provide your attendees with a number of large and small group activity options? Learn more about how Social hour has hosted alumni events for some of the nation’s top universities.

Categories
virtual events

How to Plan Hybrid Events That Engage Your Attendees and Make Them Come Back for More

A global pandemic doesn’t have many upsides for event planners and marketers. What we do have is a year of lessons learned. When every type of event imaginable was suddenly shifted online, we learned some truths about the “old” way of hosting events. The result is a changed expectation from event-goers as venues reopen their doors for online and in-person events. 

While 2020’s online event transitions were not always smooth, with many far from perfect, what we learned was that having the opportunity to attend virtually made many events accessible in ways that in-person-only events could never be. Ultimately, we have learned that there is no going back. The future of events is the hybrid event — a seamless blend of in-person and virtual experiences to create greater value for both groups. 

You might think that planning a hybrid event simply means planning your event as usual and then bolting on the online component. Alas, the best way is the complete opposite. There are many considerations you need to make when planning.   

What we learned from moving events online

To understand how to build the best hybrid event strategy, we need to look at some of the challenges. The pandemic arrived, and lockdowns went into effect around the world. Events of every type were suddenly either postponed indefinitely or moved online. And it wasn’t just event organizers for large-scale events suddenly having to learn a new approach. 

For companies and business groups, after companies had sent everyone home, the operations team scrambled to work through digital transformation projects they’d expected to have significantly more time to execute against. It was now critical to figure out how to handle company meetings and conferences on top of day-to-day collaboration. Investment in business collaboration tools boomed, but it also exposed their limitations and feature gaps. Workers began suffering video conference burnout. Corporate event planners knew they needed a new strategy to keep their audience engaged in the face of “Zoom fatigue.”

Performers, events staff, and venues all faced unique challenges. Bars, clubs, and concert halls closed. Streamed performances began to pop up across platforms — from solo artists broadcasting via Facebook Live to DJs streaming live sets via Twitch (traditionally seen as a video game streaming service).

At first, all these experiences were jarring as they represented the huge hole that cancellations and closures had left in our lives (and social calendars). Over time, as we all adapted, some silver linings emerged. It was fun to dance in our living rooms. Events we may not have been able to attend physically were easy to tune in to. Workers and family members alike were relieved of expensive travel to attend meetings or celebrations. 

Will it blend? Bringing together your online and in-person event experiences.

We’ve looked deeply now at the challenges and lessons learned from the pandemic. The big takeaway is that while it was hard at first, new technologies have emerged to bridge the gaps. People have adapted to having the choice to attend virtually, and the future of event planning must include this element. 

But, successful hybrid event planning means far more than just creating an in-person event and bolting on a virtual component. You must be “virtual-first” in your planning and then build your in-person experience around that. There are several questions you must consider as you are planning that will guide your approach. 

For meetings, seminars, panels, and the like, think about interactions between the audience and the presenter(s). This is a common pain point, especially for the speakers themselves.

Some questions you must consider are:

  1. How will attendees of each type interact with the presenter(s)?
  2. Will audience members of each type be able to interact with each other?
  3. How will virtual attendees be represented in the physical event space?

More intimate events like weddings and receptions pose additional challenges to ensure that virtual attendees aren’t stuck as observers in the proverbial corner. This requires rethinking not only what technology we use but how we use it. 

Let’s take a high-level walk-through of the hybrid event planning process.

Step 1: Plan your hybrid event’s online approach

First, you need to understand the event’s objectives and fully commit to it as a hybrid experience. This means unifying the online and in-person experiences to create equally great value for both types of participants. Let’s plan an example event: an industry trade show. First, we need to identify all the elements that we wish to include in our event:

  1. Keynote speech
  2. Individual speaker presentations with Q&A
  3. Panel discussions with interactive audience
  4. Trade show floor
  5. Prepared lunch
  6. Networking social hour

To properly build out this hybrid event, we must start by looking at the virtual elements for each piece. How will our virtual attendees experience each one?

Keynote Speech

The keynote speech doesn’t include a Q&A, so the audience passively observes, although they may be sharing points that resonate on social media. We want to make sure we deliver an engaging experience for our virtual audience to build the same level of energy and excitement the physical audience experiences. 

Individual Speaker Presentations with Q&A

For these presentations, we must make sure that our virtual audience can interact with the speaker for questions, see all presented materials, and of course, see and hear the speaker. We also want our virtual audience not to feel like they are watching from the sidelines — what are some clever ways to increase engagement and interactivity?

Panel Discussions

Like the speaker presentations, we must fully engage the virtual audience and then identify how to integrate the physical attendee experience. Virtual attendees need equal levels of interaction and representation to the panel — how might the overall format of the panel be shifted to accommodate this?

Trade Show Floor

The true highlight of any trade show is the showroom floor. Here vendors have booths full of swag and potential access to important names. Plus, attendees have the chance to meet and interact with each other. Virtual attendees want to have this immersive experience and ability to network — how will we place them inside the showroom floor?

Prepared Luncheon

A catered luncheon with 2-3 meal options. A casual opportunity to talk, network, and make new connections/friendships. What does a virtual luncheon look like? How might virtual and physical attendees connect? How do you keep it from being a sad desk lunch for those not there in person?

Networking Social Hour

A more free-movement opportunity for networking than the luncheon, this is a happy hour style social event. Similar questions as the luncheon apply here. How will virtual attendees “roam the room” and have helpful chance encounters and conversations?

2. Build out your hybrid event

Now that you’ve considered all the event’s online elements and asked all the pertinent questions, it’s time to build out the rest of your event experience. Let’s look again at each portion of our trade show event and think about what features and technologies will create a valuable and interactive experience for your attendees. You will need to determine your Virtual Event Platform. Prepare to build out a custom app that does far more than just provide a map and schedule — it will need to build in connection, communication, and interactive functions (or choose a VEP that has a mobile-friendly interface). 

  • Individual speaker presentations with Q&A: Broadcast via livestream to virtual attendees with camera views of both speaker and in-person audience. Dedicated moderators work with both audiences to gather questions. Virtual attendees can ask questions/provide comments via audio or submission to a moderator. Additional interactivity comes in the form of audience polls and games via the app. 
  • Keynote Speech: Broadcast via live stream to virtual attendees. The trade show app gives both virtual and in-person attendees a commentary feed projected alongside the stage. 
  • Panel Discussions: Questions are collected through the trade show app ahead of time from all attendees. Moderators feed these questions to the panel, which is live-streamed. Live comment feed is broadcast (similar to the keynote). 
  • Trade Show Floor: Mail swag bags to all virtual attendees. Create a 3D rendering of the trade show floor to allow virtual attendees to see displays and setups. Create virtual sponsored booths for remote attendees to visit and interact with. Use a remote platform that makes swapping contact info easy and fun.
  • Prepared Luncheon: Select your lunch menu based on what is easy to ship prepared to attendees’ homes or that can be delivered through a nationwide delivery app partner. Make sure your menus are the same for both. Use a platform that provides accessible breakout rooms or tables for attendees to chat and connect. 
  • Networking Social Hour: Create lounges and fun spaces for virtual networking. Allow virtual and in-person attendees to connect through a networking “wall” and trade info using the app. Set up game or discussion tables that physical and virtual attendees can join.

3. Market and promote your hybrid event

You’ve built out your event and determined what features and functions you need. Now you need to sell tickets and get word to your audience. You need to engage both virtual and in-person attendees with a value statement — meaning you need to demonstrate equal value no matter how they attend. This includes emphasizing what makes each special and exciting, whether it be the immersive experience or flexibility and accessibility.

When marketing to both groups, keep the focus on integration and interactivity. Highlight how both groups can benefit from networking and connecting with each other. Provide online networking platforms pre-event to get attendees connected and build hype and excitement. And think about how the addition of interactive platforms enhances both experiences. 

The future of events is hybrid

Event coordinators and conference planners are faced with a new event planning landscape, and their event strategy must adapt. Participants have new expectations, and meeting them means investing in a new way of thinking and new technologies to support it. Remember, there is no going back — hybrid events are here to stay. But with the right tools and strategies, you’ll be able to plan and host interactive and engaging events that wow your attendees, no matter how they attend. 

Learn more about how Socialhour.com can help you create a more engaging hybrid event, or schedule a demo.

Categories
virtual events

How To Plan A Virtual College Class Reunion Event Alumni Will Love

Thanks to the rise in virtual events, college reunions can reconnect countless more passionate alumni and faculty from across the globe. 

Understandably, it may sound tricky to adapt a college reunion for a virtual environment. We’re here to help. Whether you’re planning an all-virtual college reunion or a hybrid mix with in-person and online elements, here’s what to include in your event plans and ideas for making the most of hosting it through a virtual platform.

Use Alumni Surveys To Design Your Best Virtual Class Reunion

Lead your event design by addressing alumni needs and hopes for the event. Your reunion setup will, in part, depend on what anniversary you are celebrating. Generally, a 25th reunion marks a significant shift because attendees are ready to re-explore memories and discuss different topics than current work and life successes.

The most effective way to understand what your alumni want is to directly ask them through a mix of surveys, small group conversations, or 1:1 chats starting as far as seven months before your anticipated reunion date.

Some core questions to ask include:

  • Are you interested in an in-person, hybrid, or all-virtual reunion? [rank your options]
  • What do you hope to gain by attending the reunion?
  • Do you have any specific requests for the event?
  • What is the ideal length of a reunion for you?
    • Half-day
    • Full day
    • Two days
    • Three days
  • Which of the following activity types are you most interested in during a virtual reunion?:
    • Speeches and presentations from staff or faculty
    • Lectures and presentations from alumni
    • Casual open-room networking
    • Coordinated group activities through video
  • Are you interested in helping support the reunion in any of the following ways?
    • I would like to be on the reunion planning committee
    • I would like to speak at the reunion
    • I would like to help during the reunion 
    • I would like to donate items or goods for use during the reunion

Use multiple-choice questions to understand your group’s general needs. Open response options will provide more thorough insight but take longer to review.

What Is the Best Virtual Reunion Platform?

With your survey responses analyzed, it’s time to find a platform that can meet these expectations.

There are a lot of virtual events platforms, but many are built with bare-minimum functions or restrictions that treat you like a child. These platforms will be difficult to tailor for your reunion, and your attendees may skip the event altogether if the interface is too confusing or lackluster. 

At a minimum, consider these five essential areas for your virtual reunion platform:

  • Cost based on attendees and time limit: Ask how much the platform costs based on your anticipated attendee count and the necessary elements—breakout rooms, mainstage speaker, during-event announcements—you need for a complete experience.
  • Networking capabilities: How can attendees connect with each other? What level of customization is available for attendee networking rooms?
  • Support for live-streamed or pre-recorded video: What type of content does the platform support?
  • Live support: Does the vendor provide technical support in case something goes wrong during your event?
  • Security: There is always a risk that an alumnus may attend your event with an ulterior motive, or your reunion could be the target of Zoom bombing. Review any security features of each vendor and assess what level of risk your team is comfortable with. 

These are just the top-level questions to ask. We’ve created this 13-question checklist to help you find an ideal virtual college reunion platform. 

Virtual College Reunion Example Schedule and Activities

With a platform and date set, you can now create your event agenda

Start with the essentials. What are the major, must-have elements during your reunion? Generally, college reunions involve these activities:

  • Speeches or panel discussions from college leadership, including the president, vice president, dean, or class leadership. 
  • Remarks from current students. 
  • Alumni-spotlight conversations. These can be a panel conversation, “fireside chat,” or 1:1 or small group presentations for alumni.
  • Interest-based activities or group discussions. 
  • Remembrance ceremony. 

With your core items in place, blend in these other fun reunion activities that work incredibly well for a virtual college reunion:

  • Fun Run
  • Campus tour
  • Small group breakout rooms
  • Happy hour or wine and paint

It’s a New Age of College Reunions

This blog post provides just a glimpse at what you can accomplish during a virtual college reunion. Survey your alumni and create a schedule that is hyper-focused on their needs. You’re then more likely to host a successful event that rebuilds connections and helps your university continue to prosper.

You will likely find that your event technology is the biggest hurdle in your planning process. It’s critical to find an option that will allow you to build the experience you need, plus the benefits of security and an intuitive interface.

We’ve built Socialhour to help accelerate your event design and allow you to focus on what really matters—rekindling relationships that will last a lifetime. Contact us for a virtual reunion consultation: https://events.socialhour.com/contact 

Categories
online meetings

10 Games and Icebreaker Activities to Engage Virtual Meeting Attendees

There was significant uncertainty during most of 2020 about how long employees would need to work from home, with many people anxiously awaiting their return to the office. A year into the pandemic with vaccinations on the rise, workers hope to keep these flexible working arrangements, ushering in the era of hybrid work.

As we navigate this transition, companies will increasingly focus on combining the in-person and remote working experiences and improving the remote work employee experience. Notably, loneliness is one of the top three challenges for remote workers, meaning there is an opportunity for companies to connect their teams and build genuine and fulfilling work relationships. 

Online Team-building Games and Activities for Virtual Meetings

There is no single way for companies to effectively address the range of concerns for employees associated with returning to office work. However, an excellent place to start is to assess how your team can build and reinforce a positive culture in both physical and digital environments. 

Consider implementing these simple team-building games and activities at the start of your video conferencing calls to strengthen your team dynamic and lessen feelings of loneliness for your remote workers. Here are ten virtual meeting icebreakers and team activities to consider:

  • 20 Questions: Provide a series of creative questions for guests to get to know each other better. Compile your list in an easy-to-access document that all team leads can access ahead of their meetings. Realistically, 20 questions are too many for any single call, but you can aim to explore at least one or two questions each meeting.
  • Ad-Lib Games: Similar to Mad Libs, you can play any variety of free online ad-lib games, like Mad:)Takes. Simply select your word game theme and have meeting attendees contribute words to fill the story. 
  • Desert Island Scenario: In this game, team members must choose three of seven optional objects for them to use if they were stranded on a deserted island. This is simple to play, and you can share the list of options in your video conference platform’s chat box so everyone can quickly review their options.
  • Desk Show and Tell: Give attendees advanced notice of this activity, and have them point their camera toward their desk to show their workspace. Encourage them to share any funny stories about the items within their reach, or explain why certain items are significant.
  • Hybrid Work Bingo: Provide your team with a new bingo card at your regularly scheduled meeting. During the week, they will fill out that card based on their work activities. At the start of your next meeting, have team members share if they got bingo and encourage them to share a story or two about the items they checked off. 
  • Name, Place, Thing, Animal: Similar to Scattergories, provide attendees with a random letter to then list a famous person’s name, a place, an animal, and a thing that begins with that letter. Allow one minute for people to write their answers, and then have everyone share their responses.
  • Rank It: Provide a list of five random objects and a fictitious scenario, and ask meeting attendees to rank those items in terms of usefulness in the scenario. The goal is to provide a diverse range of options and out-of-the-box scenarios, including objects like “hairdryer,” “overcooked spaghetti,” or “a blue marker that only works half the time,” and scenarios like “ski vacation,” “year-end review of results,” or “space exploration.”
  • Scattergories: At the start of each call, give attendees one letter and five categories in your video conferencing chat window. Give them one minute to come up with a word that starts with that letter and fits within the category, and then have everyone read their answers.
  • Two Truths and a Lie: Ask guests to share two truths about themselves and one lie. Then, have the other attendees vote on which of the three statements is the lie.
  • Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Ask guests to find obscure items in their homes within one minute. You can grab a variety of free lists here.

Whichever game(s) you decide to play, remember that consistency is vital to establish a new pattern for your employees. Encourage all people managers and team leads to start their calls with a five-minute activity and solicit new icebreaker ideas from attendees.

A Hybrid Workforce Needs Modern Video Conferencing  Solutions

Evolving your workplace culture to support a hybrid workforce is an exciting opportunity, and directly ask your team about how you can improve their experience.

Continue to introduce new games and activities during your conference calls to keep ideas fresh and provide new ways for team members to get to know each other.

Even the best efforts to connect a team can fall flat, though, if the right technology isn’t in place. Some video conferencing solutions are clunky, unintuitive, and will crush even the most fun team-building activities. 

Learn how Team.Video and Socialhour.com can support your team’s video conferencing and virtual event  needs.

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remote work

Why Virtual Space is More Important in the New World of Hybrid Work


Remote work is certainly not going anywhere soon. But neither is the office.

According to a recent PwC report, only 13% of executives are prepared to let go of their physical office for good. However, just because the office will continue to play a role doesn’t mean that role will be the same. In fact, 87% of executives expect to make changes to their real estate strategy over the next 12 months. Many will consolidate and reduce, while others will open small satellite locations.

What does this mean for facilities management? It’s time to optimize for hybrid work. Here are three strategies to consider:

1. Collect Data and Get Smart with Digital Twins

The digital world bypassed physical office space during the pandemic, but now it’s time to transform office buildings with data. Connected devices are making buildings more intelligent and can attract tenants who now expect more from their offices. For instance, they can offer both facilities managers and employees the ability to track and adjust lighting and temperature in real time.

As these sensors become more sophisticated and connect more of your building’s systems, you can literally begin to piece together a digital copy of your office space, often called a digital twin. This twin encompasses all the dynamic data of your operations, digitally visualizing how people interact with your building. This allows you to optimize and fine-tune your operational strategies. How many people visited the kitchen in the old days? How many now? Even if you don’t have pre-shutdown benchmarks, the data going forward can help you, and your managers, optimize usage and layouts.

Smarter floor plans and more dynamic usage data can create a dialogue with real-time communication and collaboration between buildings, facilities management, individual team managers, and the technology that holds the system together.

2. Redesign Hybrid Offices with Remote Work in Mind

Most of your employees will incorporate at least some degree of remote work into their schedules. In that case, your workspace can stand out dramatically by simply optimizing around a few simple physical design elements that can make a hybrid office more remote-friendly.

For example, many facilities managers are considering how to most efficiently use space when hybrid workers are not in the office. Some of the emerging trends include:

  • Implement a desk ‘hoteling’ strategy, where employees can sign up for a flexible desking pool. This frees up significant space that would otherwise sit unused.
  • Optimize your office’s layout with many small 1-on-1 spaces or call booths. These allow in-person employees to sync with remote employees quickly without distracting other office colleagues. 
  • Increase the number of small, bookable conference rooms. These private spaces are now centrally important to hybrid collaboration, and will likely see a dramatic increase in use.

Think about how to merge physical and virtual spaces to make them work for everyone, and watch your building become a frictionless environment that enables the hybrid work of the future.

3. Virtual Space and Remote Collaboration Shouldn’t Be a Workplace Afterthought

Optimizing for hybrid work doesn’t just flow one way. Just as you optimize the physical for the virtual, you need to offer quality virtual spaces as an extension of your workplace. As hybrid work becomes more popular, facilities managers should now request vetted remote collaboration tools as part of their lease agreements. These remote working packages help potential employees stay connected with their remote teams and help facilities managers succeed.

Consider a meeting platform designed to inspire increased engagement in meetings and empower organizations to measure and improve their hybrid culture’s health. 

Furthermore, we all know that while planned meetings are key, teams interact in critical ways outside the meeting room.  Video tools shouldn’t only facilitate meetings. They need to support natural and unplanned interactions and community as well. Remote collaboration tools must also recreate an office environment when structured meetings are not taking place. Virtual offices allow employees to “sit” in virtual rooms where their colleagues can informally bounce around to sync on topics quickly as necessary. 

Virtual networking platforms can also support small rooms organized around fun topics so employees can engage personally after work in a virtual water cooler. These offerings can be a huge value-add for a company that is on the fence about physical office space.

Hybrid Offices Designed for the New World of Hybrid Work

According to PwC’s report, 75% of executives expect at least half of their employees to be back in the office by July 2021. Only 61% of employees feel the same way. It will be up to building managers to convince them of the benefits of in-person work and safety.

While 55% of employees surveyed said they prefer working remotely at least three days a week, 87% still think the office is essential for key team collaboration and building the most productive relationships. Building managers need to focus their efforts there. The office designs of the past simply will not win skeptical tenets back if they are unchanged. The winners will design smarter, more tenant-friendly offices that integrate remote collaboration and communication, creating a seamless working experience that easily transitions from the physical to the virtual and back again.

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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.”

Categories
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. 

Categories
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.

Categories
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.