Before you host your next Hoovie screening, learn something new with Lilah Williamson – passionate teen activist and Hoovie superhost!
My name is Lilah and I’m a high school student and climate strike organizer. When COVID isolation began, all of the meetings and events that I used to run in-person had to get moved online.
At first this seemed like an impossible feat, but through many hours spent writing agendas, sending out reminder emails and sitting in zoom rooms, I found that digital events could be just as impactful as live ones, using these 7 tips.
Tip #1: Start and end your event with check-ins and check-outs.
The best way to start any online event is with introductions and a check-in question.
Have attendees introduce themselves using their name, pronouns, and where they are calling in from (ideally acknowledging the Indigenous land they are on), and then have them answer a check-in question.
Check-in questions can be as simple as how you’re doing, or as quirky as “if you had to change all the vending machines in the world to sell one category of things, what would it be and why?” This allows people to connect with other attendees at the event and helps to break the ice.
I also highly suggest ending your event with a check-out question; this could again be something fun, but I recommend a question like, “name an action you’re going to take after attending this event.” This helps people feel more closure than just exiting a Zoom room on their computer, and ideally inspires action.
Tip #2: Ground your attendees in why they’re here.
One of the key components that I incorporate into every event I run online is relatively simple: make the purpose and intention behind the event clear.
I like to start Zoom events (after check-ins) by clearly explaining the purpose and intention behind the gathering and why this specific event is important and happening now. This grounds everyone in why they are in attendance and helps them feel more connected to the content and discussion.
Tip #3: Discuss everything.
If I had to choose one thing that I’ve found is the most important about running successful Zoom events, it’s discussion. People get bored and disengage after 5 minutes of staring at a screen and listening to a speaker. This is a problem at in-person events too, but it is severely amplified at online events.
How can we combat this? Force people to talk.
After every 3-5 minutes of information or talking, ask some sort of discussion question and either let people speak freely, or if no one wants to speak, do a round inviting every attendee to share. It seems mean but trust me, people will be way more engaged in your event and get so much more out of it if they have to actually reflect on what’s being said and share it with others during a discussion.
Tip #4: Breakout rooms, breakout rooms, breakout rooms!
My top tip for running online events has to be breakout rooms. I’m obsessed with them; I use them multiple times per meeting because they are so effective for discussions, brainstorming, bonding – pretty much anything.
Even if you have only 10 people at your event, trust me, use breakout rooms!
Tip #5: Your energy fuels the energy of the group.
When you’re hosting an event, especially online, attendees are going to feed off your energy and engagement! If you’re passionate and energetic about what you’re talking about, your attendees will be too.
So, spend some time beforehand to think about why YOU specifically are hosting this event. Make sure to tell your story to the audience because storytelling is the number one way to connect with others.
Tip #6: Take breaks.
A major flaw in a lot of online events or meetings is that we forget that breaks are needed just as much, if not more, in a Zoom room as in a real room. If your event is going to run for more than an hour, make sure to schedule at least one 5-minute break per hour to let people stretch their legs, refresh their minds, go to the washroom or grab something to eat.
This helps with attention and engagement for longer events and also allows people to be more present in the moment.
Tip #7: Provide direct calls to action.
One of, if not the most important things you can do to organize a truly meaningful online event is to give attendees direct actions they can take related to the event when they leave. These can be small, such as signing a petition or emailing their representative, or bigger actions like joining an organization or campaign.
It honestly doesn’t matter the scale; just make sure that the energy generated at your event goes straight into change making.
Running meaningful events online is challenging, but by using these 7 tips it is very possible!
Thanks to wonderful Hoovie host Lilah Williamson for submitting this insightful long form post about facilitating meaningful conversation in online spaces. Have hosting tips you’d like to share? Contact us!
Lilah Williamson is a high school student and climate strike organizer. At the start of 2019, she helped organize her first climate strike in Vancouver. Since that time, she has organized six more strikes, including a march of more than 150,000 people in September 2019.