Celebrate Your Team With a Virtual Holiday Event

Celebrate Your Team With a Virtual Holiday Event

Celebrate Your Team With a Virtual Holiday Event

Reimagining holiday gatherings reinvigorates the spirit of the season.

This is not the year to consider canceling your company’s holiday party. Internal events are crucial for your company culture – not to mention employee morale after such a challenging year. Your teams have worked hard to adapt – it’s important to recognize their efforts. And, whether in-person or virtual, a holiday gathering still offers ways for them to strengthen relationships.

Creativity is key to successful virtual events, and if you scour the internet you’ll find there’s plenty of it. We’ve put together our own tips to keep in mind when planning a virtual party plus some creative ways to bring your employees “together” as we close the book on 2020.

Engagement is Key

We recommend a 1 to 1.5-hour event which can be easily filled with engaging fun and building employee loyalty.

Brainstorm with your team on theme ideas or read our Unusual Themes blog post to find inspiration.

 

You could also send out a survey in advance to get a sense of what kinds of activities your employees might be interested in. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Interactive events, games, or contests make a fun and easy way for people to participate.
    • Hire a bartender or chef to host a mixology class or a cooking class…both if your guest count is large enough.
    • Holiday-themed Charades
    • The classic Ugly Sweater contest
  • It’s always good to laugh. Virtual comedy shows can lighten the mood.
  • Sharing goes a long way. Everyone can join in fostering a team-building atmosphere, and the virtual platform is especially suited for this.
    • Holiday decorations “tours”
    • Cultural traditions “show and tell”
    • Secret Santa
  • Has a certain topic been floating around that employees seem particularly interested in? Breakout sessions with guest speakers show you’ve been paying attention.

Celebrate Accomplishments

Be sure to allot ample time to recognize accomplishments. Some employees or teams may have easily gone above and beyond this year and there are bound to be some new categories to consider as well. If you want to pass out awards (or prizes to contest winners), you can showcase them virtually and ship them after.

Be Prepared

This may be a more relaxed atmosphere than usual, but you’ll still want to be prepared.

  • Surveys are ideal here for getting maximum input from teams or employees.
  • Invitations should be used as a way to provide the obvious critical information, but also ensuring attendees have plenty of advanced notice for whatever activities have been planned so they can be prepared as well.
  • Having a tech guru on hand could be useful – there are always inevitable technical difficulties, so be ready to assist your attendees.
  • Using an online event planning app, like SignUpGenius, makes it easy for employees to reserve their spot if there are multiple events happening simultaneously.

Share Your Celebration With Us

We’d be interested to know how your holiday event turned out. What unusual methods did you use to make it fun and meaningful? Head to one of our social media channels and leave a comment.

 

And Finally…

As we anticipate the return to in-person gatherings, we’ve been considering how that might look and we are working on ways that our team can assist our clients in creating new and meaningful ways to share their time together.  We are always interested to hear how our clients and community are finding innovative ways to solve meeting and event challenges.

Take care and stay engaged.

Returning to Campus…for Business Meetings and Events

Returning to Campus…for Business Meetings and Events

Returning to Campus…for Business Meetings and Events

While we look forward to reopening, there are compelling reasons to keep UD’s Conference Services in mind when planning your 2021 meetings and events.

We’re just going to put it out there: We are out to strengthen our client relations now so that when in-person meetings and events resume, we’ll have a busy schedule.

We’ve noticed that with the obvious increase – and its relative success – of the virtual meeting platform, brick and mortar venues are being forgotten. The idea that the virtual meeting space is here to stay is growing. It is nearly a guarantee that some form of virtual meetings, events, and conferences will remain – even if it is a hybrid scenario.

So we’re here to make the case for conferencing on campus as you plan for the future.

 

A Certain Feeling

Here is a simple reason that is quite underrated because it can not be quantified: Have you ever noticed there is a certain feeling you get when you step back onto an academic campus? You’re youthful vibrancy bubbles up while the wisdom that comes with years of experience provides commanding confidence. You can actually feel your journey from college student to professional in a single moment. It’s a good feeling. And, it’s one worth experiencing. After all, you worked hard to get to this point. This feeling alone could invigorate guests and result in a more productive meeting.

 

Academic Credibility on Top of a One-Of-A-Kind Experience

It’s an obvious fact that a university campus lends credibility to any meeting or event. From its academic prestige to visionary research, a university location instantly evokes a satisfying feeling of being associated with a hub of knowledge.

Conferencing on campus can be a unique experience. Access to a plethora of resources is practically unlimited for our clients, including sports fields, theaters, bookstores, libraries, labs, classrooms, auditoriums, and dining halls – even our own full-service hotel a few steps away from the Clayton Conference Center. Walking the footpaths, meeting on the green, hosting an activity on a sports field – these are experiences unique to campus, and readily available. With these resources and more, your meeting or event can rise to a higher caliber.

 

Community Support

Supporting UD contributes to the overall health of the community it serves. While we are respectful of our neighboring businesses, we are also directly connected to them. Our ability to bring business to our campus reaches beyond our academic walls. Our clients take advantage of nearby attractions, restaurants, and recreation – spreading the economic benefits of hosting your meeting or event here.

 

A Safe, Hybrid Scenario

In the meantime, connect with our Conference Services team. Between our Virtual Meeting Coordination Services (read more about them here) and our hotel—which is open for overnight stays and dining—we can assist you in your strategy to continue business in a safe, hybrid scenario. This could be the future for a while, and we’re ready – with the tech needed to broadcast events and our own Courtyard by Marriott hotel providing dining and clean, private guestrooms.

We want to be here for you now and in the future and we hope you feel the same way.

Move Meetings Forward with Virtual Meeting Coordination Services

Move Meetings Forward with Virtual Meeting Coordination Services

Move Meetings Forward with Virtual Meeting Coordination Services

They’re valuable. They’re essential. Time to level up your meetings.

I think it’s safe to say that, by now, nearly everyone has experienced a virtual meeting. And many businesses will attend, for the first time, one of their industry’s conferences in a virtual environment. These past few months have been a real test for the virtual meeting platform – with kinks still being worked out.

Still, as we continue to move towards reopening, we expect that initially most, if not all, meetings will be conducted virtually as opposed to live. We have taken the critical steps needed to assure that we will be able to accommodate any client request in this regard. 

 

Multiple Platforms Supported

UD has its own license for Zoom Meetings and Webinars. This gives us the ability to offer you more flexibility in scheduling your event. If you prefer another platform such as Webex, BlueJeans, Facebook Live or other, we are prepared to support those as well.

 

Designing and Managing Your Event

We can assist you in designing your meeting or webinar through content development, social networking, live Q&A sessions, an audience response system, real-time chats, post-session surveys, and more. We can help you determine which format works best with your objectives. With our Zoom package, we can offer features like polling, panel discussions, creating breakout rooms for smaller group discussions, use of annotations, and creation of private branded FB pages where attendees can engage in a specific topic or offer “one-on-one” private meetings. We will also offer the ability for practice sessions prior to the meeting date to assure you are comfortable with the format and flow of the meeting.

 

Live Streaming and Participant Engagement Covered

Our technology-driven solutions help you build engagement. We offer live streaming if your objective is to present information in a more formal manner – where one or a few team members can present their camera image on live video, as well as any visuals they choose to use, i.e. PowerPoint, video playback, etc. This will allow hundreds of people to watch this one-way communication from any internet browser on any type of device. Interaction, such as questions or feedback, can be accommodated through a separate chat option.

 

Quick Responsiveness

Just like in the non-virtual meeting world, there can be sudden twists and turns – and our technical crew will be with you every step of the way. In every scenario, regardless of the platform, we are prepared to react quickly if circumstances dictate a change in the meeting format – like taking a live event partially or fully online or vice versa. While we focus on making sure your virtual event runs smoothly, you can focus on your attendees.

 

UD Conference Services will continue to be a resource for you. Whether you’re organizing or viewing a virtual meeting online (Zoom, Webex, BlueJeans, Facebook Live, or other), having a Webinar, or live streaming or webcasting your Town Hall or event, our team can help you from conception to post event debrief.

Unusual Themes for Virtual Meetings. #9: Invite a Goat.

Unusual Themes for Virtual Meetings. #9: Invite a Goat.

Unusual Themes for Virtual Meetings. #9: Invite a Goat.

Ban boredom. Slay tune-out. Themes add life to meetings.

Aside from technical issues, the biggest problem with virtual meetings is engagement. This challenge existed even before social distancing guidelines were implemented.  Moving to virtual communication increases that challenge because it decreases the benefits received from being physically together.

There are many tried and true ways to keep attendees engaged during a virtual meeting – taking polls, chat boxes, virtual whiteboards, assigning roles, sending the agenda before the meeting – but even these have become commonplace. We’re talking about taking virtual meetings to the next level. We’re talking about adding life to your next virtual meeting. We’re talking about Themes. Oh yeah…we’re going there. We asked ourselves: Is it possible to make a virtual meeting productive AND enjoyable? We answered ourselves. Why not try?

 

Why Themes?

Themes can help you enhance your meeting outcomes because they can be:

  • Positive and fun – Lighten the mood and help people enjoy themselves. They may even look forward to the next meeting.
  • Participatory – Keeps everyone on their toes because everyone participates equally, instead of tuning out.
  • Open – People loosen up and say what they really think.
  • Creative – Pushes the thinking beyond the usual and into new territory.
  • Disruptive – By regularly interrupting the flow of the meeting, you’ll keep people’s minds focused, which makes for a more fun and relaxed experience.

 

Try Something Different

There is certainly no shortage of ideas you can google about how to make your virtual meetings more engaging. But, we’re focusing on original ideas that just might take you, and your group, out of your comfort zones while offering some memorable moments.

1. Swap Jobs
Having members of your team swap roles isn’t an original idea. However, each member taking on the role of their colleague can net some interesting results and ideas. It offers an opportunity to get other perspectives that might otherwise never surface because it’s “not my job.” You can level it up by each member taking turns facilitating the meeting.

2. Cast of Characters
Does participating in a virtual meeting, with lots of people, remind you of the Brady Bunch opening segment? Well, what if you selected (or voted on) a show or a movie and everyone had to act out a character from what you chose at the next meeting. Yoda anyone?

3. Alternate Universe 
Get weird. Face it, it’s a weird time.

  • Burning Man Meets Coachella. This theme idea, by Brian Worley of B. Worley Productions, allows for a carefree, relaxed vibe: “…With these two events getting so much coverage these days through social media and just how creative they are in terms of visuals, it can really be a fun event.” Translating this idea to video conferencing shouldn’t be too challenging – try rummaging through your stuff (or better yet, your kids’ stuff) to put together something unusual.
  • Superheroes. Ok, not everyone will have a Wonder Woman or Ironman costume laying around, but maybe participants can create their own superhero with its own superpowers. The ability to see the future would be a good one to have right now.

4. Dress Up or Dress Down
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. But you could stretch it a bit with ideas like:

  • Pajama Party. Let’s face it, sweats and a T-shirt aren’t that far from it anyway. If you have a gang that feels comfortable doing this…just do it!
  • Get Cultured. Pick a culture to explore – like Mexico’s Day of the Dead – and see how creative you can get with that Halloween makeup that’s laying around. Just be respectful.

5. Charades
The ultimate go-to, this theme is ideal for smaller groups where talking over each other won’t be too disruptive. Charades can easily be interspersed throughout the meeting with each person getting a chance to be the mime. It also helps to ensure that each participant contributes to the meeting. You’ll need to choose a charade theme beforehand so attendees can work out their ideas, then keep a time limit on each. Be sure everyone has good bandwidth to avoid lag time – that’s not fun.

6. I Spy
We love this one! Here, you’re really just taking advantage of the fact that it’s human nature to peek at what’s in the background of everyone else’s home office.

7. Storytelling I Spy
Add intrigue with this version adapted to include mystery and the chance to learn more about each participant. To play, each person takes a turn picking an object in their house and telling the story of how they got it, without actually saying what the object is. The rest of the group then has to guess, as quickly as they can, what that object is. Decide how challenging you want it to be: keep it light by selecting common items most people probably have in their home, or let each person pick from any of their prized possessions.

8. Open Mic
Give everyone a heads up: they’ll each have about a minute to take the virtual stage. They can tell jokes, read a poem or a book excerpt, sing a song, play an instrument—anything goes! Start your meeting with these unabashed performances and be sure to allow time in between each for a rush of applause.

 

Try Something Really Different

Brighten up your video conference with a llama. Or how about a goat? Wild ideas like these are starting to emerge and will likely continue as people look for increasingly unusual ways to break up the monotony of virtual meetings.

9. Goat 2 Meeting is our favorite one so far. The Sweet Farm Animal Ambassadors will join your call, do a quick intro of the farm and introduce you to the animals on a virtual tour. It not only makes people smile, but you’ll be contributing to a good cause.

If you’re still looking for more, our post on Gamification dives deeper into a few science-based boredom busters. We think you’ll find it interesting.

 

Connect With Us

We’d be interested to know if you’ve tried any of the themes mentioned above. How did it go? What unusual methods do you use to make virtual meetings fun, creative, and productive? Head to one of our social media channels and leave a comment.

 

And Finally…

As we anticipate the return to in-person gatherings, we’ve been considering how that might look and we are working on ways that our team can assist our clients in creating new and meaningful ways to share their time together.  But until then, we are here and ready to help you coordinate your virtual meetings with ideas and tech support.

Take care and stay engaged.

 

Animal Icon made by Vectors Market; Superhero Icon made by Smashicons from www.flaticon.com.

 

How to Make the Best of Your Virtual Meetings

How to Make the Best of Your Virtual Meetings

How to Make the Best of Your Virtual Meetings

First: How are you? We’ve all been impacted by the virus, and we are all trying to carve new routines…us included. So, now that the initial jolt into a new reality has settled in, we find ourselves returning to what we know best – meetings and conferences.

As you know, virtual meetings are the new normal. And even though, in the past, you may have gotten away with pairing a dress shirt and tie with pajama bottoms and slippers for the quick video chat, nearly all business is being conducted via video conferencing now. Our goal has always been to help our clients’ meetings be as effective and successful as possible – and we’re happy to translate our knowledge and expertise to video conferencing.

In this INC. article, Drew Bowers, a research psychologist in the University of Dayton Research Institute’s Human Factors Group, puts it plainly: “You can’t simply take a presentation you gave in front of a live audience at a conference and throw it up on a video monitor for a virtual audience and expect the same results, because you’re limited, to a degree, in how you can interact with your virtual audience.”

On that note, we highlighted a few more points from that article and added many practical ideas of our own to provide some basic best practices for more effective virtual meetings and conferences.

 

Choose the Appropriate Platform for Your Goals

Choosing a virtual meeting platform depends on what you want to achieve in your meetings. WIRED has produced a quick comparison of the most popular, but a rundown of considerations are in order. Things to look for would be:

  • Image quality. Look for HD video and audio.
  • Crowd size. Is your meeting large or small? Some platforms, like Zoom, can accommodate up to 1,000 participants simultaneously.
  • Meeting time. How much time do you need? It’s tempting to try out the Free versions, but be aware – many free versions have time limits (as well as group size limits). You want to avoid getting cut off or the opposite – having to rush through.
  • Collaboration capabilities. Consider features that you might need and also help keep participants engaged, like screen share, team chat, hand raising, file sharing, desktop and application sharing, whiteboarding and annotations.
  • Recording. It could be handy to be able to save meetings to the cloud, along with transcripts that have searchable text.
  • Mobile friendly. Adding more flexibility for your guests is helpful and fairly easy, so why not? Two options to look for here: a mobile app and a dial-in option for audio-only capability.
  • Security. Look for 256-bit TLS encryption to ensure that the meetings you hold, and the files you share within them, are secure.

 

Setting Up Your Space 

By now you’ve probably seen a lot of variations on this topic. Everyone from news anchors to colleagues to family – it’s offered an opportunity to observe what is going on in the background, plus notice the lighting quality and props.

  • Quiet, please. Make sure you are in a quiet setting.
  • Camera position. The best position is seated and close enough to the camera so that other participants get the feeling that you’re engaged and present. Make sure your camera is eye level – too low, too high, or weird angles can be very distracting – and unflattering. If you need to present, use screen sharing and digital whiteboard technology. Trying to present from a distance on a whiteboard simply doesn’t work well.
  • Lighting. Be sure you are well lit. Here are some great suggestions from Lifesize.
  • Be comfortable. Fidgeting can be distracting to other attendees. Make sure your chair is comfortable and you have everything you need close at hand to avoid a lot of movement.
  • Look behind you. Wall decorations should be appropriate and your surroundings clean.
  • Remove clutter. Your viewable space should be clean and neat. Especially your desk.

 

Remember Proper Meeting Etiquette

Keep in mind, you’re still in a meeting and many of the traditional meeting etiquettes still apply. Here are some Dos and Don’ts:

  • Do maintain eye contact. Look into the camera, not at yourself on the screen.
  • Do limit distractions. Turn off your cell phone and avoid checking emails and texts.
  • Don’t interrupt other speakers.
  • Do wear appropriate clothing. Dress as if you’re meeting in person – you never know if you’re going to have to get up. Avoid visually distracting clothing and jewelry – striped shirts and large, shiny, jewelry do not transmit well on camera.

 

Encourage Participant Engagement

One of the perks of virtual meetings is that they lend themselves to a more relaxed atmosphere – so keeping attendees engaged is critical. By interspersing engagement opportunities throughout the meeting, you reduce the temptation for attendees to multi-task or sit back and “tune out.” Consider the following:

  • Icebreakers. Starting your meeting with an “icebreaker” is a great way to ease into the meeting instead of jumping right into tasks. It’s also a great way to add the social element that’s missing during social distancing.
  • Themes. Depending on the time of day, it could be a “morning coffee club” or if it’s in the afternoon, you could start with mindful meditations.
  • Polls & Questions. Taking polls during the meeting offers you the opportunity to get immediate feedback. Asking questions and asking for answers via chat not only engage remote participants but it also keeps the personal connection going. Keep questions specific – asking open-ended questions to a large remote audience can often result in “dead air.”
  • Variety. Try something different – don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For inspiration check out our post on Gamification.

Test Before You Go Live

Don’t get caught looking like you didn’t prepare. Test your microphone before that actual meeting by video conferencing a co-worker or friend. Request their feedback on your background and lighting.

 

And Finally…

There really is no comparison to gathering in person – and we will need (and likely be craving) that kind of interactive networking and idea-sharing when this crisis is past. UD Conference Services is looking forward to that day and will be ready to serve you.

We’ve been taking a new look at our venues and seeing all the ways we are able to meet potential challenges. The large open spaces in the Clayton Conference Center offer incredibly flexible usage scenarios. The expansive grounds around The Virden Center in Lewes offer meetings and events the opportunity to be outdoors taking advantage of a coastal environment and the amazing productivity boost that can bring. But until we meet again, take care and stay connected.