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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 11, 2020 • Issue 20:05:01


Virtual etiquette

In light the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous organizations have pivoted to virtual events to replace traditional in-person gatherings. This is true not just of businesses, but also of trade associations, faith communities, educational organizations and nonprofits of all kinds.

For many, a learn-as-you-go approach has been imperative. For example, during a timed writing exercise in a Zoom workshop, a dog barked at a delivery arriving at the home of one of the participants. The dog owner was embarrassed, and the instructor realized she needed to tell everyone in advance to mute their audio during writing times.

Six tips

In addition to informing participants when, how and why they need to sometimes mute themselves, here are six things to keep in mind when planning a virtual event.

  1. Determine the true purpose of the event. This will guide your planning, including ideal number of participants, who should attend, who should present, what to emphasize and how long the event should be.
  2. Virtual etiquetteKnow your audience. Find out all you can about your audience. What do they want to gain from the event? What are their immediate, pressing concerns? How technically savvy are they? You can ask questions in advance on the event's website, Facebook page, etc., to obtain much of this information.
  3. Pick your platform. Zoom has gained popularity recently for video conferencing. Other options include GoToMeeting, BlueJeans, Jitsi, House Party, Discord, Microsoft Teams and more. For live streaming, consider Periscope, Facebook Livestream and YouTube, for starters. Each has distinct characteristics that will appeal to some groups more than others.
  4. Schedule wisely. Choose a time that will be convenient for most participants, and create a schedule with variety so people stay tuned in. Plan each segment with precision, but be open to changing course if needed as the event unfolds. Don't fly blind.
  5. Choose your host. Decide whether to hire a professional to host the event or have someone in-house do it. Professionalism applies, even if you're feeling more casual because nobody can see whether you're wearing sweat pants, for example. The host should speak clearly, introduce speakers with confidence, respond appropriately to questions and unexpected occurrences, and remember to look into the camera.
  6. Engage the audience. Have participants say hello when they join if the event is small enough. If not, when you begin, welcome everyone and say how much you appreciate their attending. Ask questions throughout the event, and encourage responses. And schedule in stretch, chair yoga or other gentle movement breaks to get circulation going. Remember, just because people might be relieved that they don't have to travel to a convention center and schlep from room to room doesn't mean they'll want to sit quietly as your presenters drone on.

Also, remember the advice your parents probably pounded home when you were small: practice makes perfect. You can strengthen your presentations skills this way, as well as discover any potential technical difficulties and iron them out in advance. And, if possible, record the event so you can repurpose some of its content later for educational purposes or to make connections on social media. end of article

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