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Creating Engaging Online Events

I recently signed up for a series of online lectures. At each event, the speaker went through their slides, and spoke to the room. During the events, I would scrolled through the names of other attendees in the room and started to research their impressive backgrounds. Each of them probably had some interesting insights on presentations given.

"What a shame!," I thought. "I'd love to dig into these points with the people in this room! What a missed opportunity. We could turn this audience into a community by the end of this series."

These types of events, where there's a main host that does most of the talking, has become the norm. And while there's a time and place for an informative lecture, with a bit of preparation and creativity, you can craft another type of event for your attendees, one that is much more interactive and engaging.

3 Tips for the Planning and Pre-Event Stage

1. Start with purpose
Remember to start with the why before the what. Gather input into the event content and activities through a survey, or by hopping on a call with a few potential attendees. One question to ask yourself and potential attendees, "What can we do in this time together that we couldn't possibly do alone?"

2. Consider the location
Where you hold an online event is just as important as where you hold an in-person event. Would you have a happy hour in a conference room? Probably not. Switch up your online event location to meet the vibe of the event! Of course, we suggest Mixaba for social events where you have over 12 people, and you want to focus on building connections between members of the group.

3. Show care for your attendees
If you can show your attendees that you value their time, and that this event won't be like all the others, they'll be more likely to show up (and be ready for an outside-the-box experience).

I've had an event host craft thoughtful biographies of each attendee (made after combing their personal websites and public social media profiles) and sending the document out to the group in advance––a fun way to get to know people before we gathered!
One of my favorite examples of this thoughtful preparation, was when an event organizer sent every attendee a package in the mail. Each package contained a tea light candle, matches, toothpicks, mini marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. Each attendee now had a miniature 'campfire' to roast their own s'mores on during the event. The group then told ghost stories and sang songs together. Read more about this here: Tiny campfires require tiny s'more kits idea by TeamBuilding.

Event Community Magic

Here are some ways to get your community involved in the magic.

Kick off with a grounding moment
Your members may have multiple windows open, or perhaps just showed up from another call or tough task. Create a moment where everyone becomes present. Remind them that this is pretty special – we are sharing this space in time together! Becoming still and mindful, can ensure we're bringing our best selves to the experience.
If you're using Mixaba, you can gather all attendees to the lobby, and ask everyone to open a link a 2-minute mindfulness moment together. Here are a few that work well:

Suggested prompt:
Welcome, all! We'll get started in 2-minutes. While you're waiting, we invite you to take a bit of a break for yourself. Here's a mini breathing exercise that can help reduce stress and increase focus and cognition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vDxcUK9v9k
See you in 2!

Share community values or conversation guidelines
Once everyone is back, sharing a conversation agreement can be helpful for a group of new people gathering. Setting ground rules can help reduce, and hopefully fully avoid, questionable behavior.
Note: Make sure you are doing what you can to make this space safe for all members.

Suggested prompt:
We'd like to lay some simple ground rules for this discussion. If you have any questions about these conversation guidelines free to reach out to the organizer.

  1. Listen to understand, not to respond.
  2. Welcome moments of silence, this allows the group to process before responding.
  3. Speak from your own experience and avoid generalizations.
  4. Work to make sure all voices have the chance to be heard.
  5. Be respectful and open minded.

Share the agenda
Sharing a full agenda can help reduce anxiety, especially if you're asking the group to interact and engage. It's helpful to let the group know how they will be asked to participate. Will they need their video turned on? Will they be put into breakout groups? Are there supporting documents they'll need to have handy?

Interactive moments  
Break up long lectures with polls, activities, or discussion prompts and divide people into groups.
Icebreakers can be done at the beginning of the event, or can make up the entire event! If you're putting your attendees into groups, feel free to use the messaging feature to send prompts to make sure the conversation keeps moving.

Here are a few of our favorite icebreakers:
  • What did you do in the 30 minutes before you came to this event?
  • What’s something about you that people often find surprising?
  • What's something new you learned over the past few weeks?
  • What's the most out-of-character thing you've ever done?
  • If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be and why?
  • If you could instantly become an expert in something, what would it be?
  • What's a boring fact about you?

Ending an event
"Studies show that the beginning, the end and the peak experience is what most people remember," says Priya Parker.
"There are a lot of things you can do to close an experience, from reminding people of what happened, to connecting them one last time, to making them think about how they want to re-enter the world." 

Here are a few ideas for closing out an event:
  • Close the event by asking for volunteers to share who or what inspired them over the past hour.
  • Ask a few attendees to share how they will take what they learned from the group and apply it to their life.
  • Share a surprise resource that has links to the attendees social media accounts, so that the group can connect after the event.
We hope this gives you a few ideas to help make a more engaging and interactive event. Let us know if you try any of these ideas, and how they go for you. Drop us a line