Hosting Our First Virtual Meeting

And tips for how you can do it too!

Our first ever virtual guild meeting was a great success! On Thursday, March 12, we hosted 33 members of our guild via a Zoom meeting in place of our normal in-person guild meeting.

We maintained nearly all the same elements of our regular meeting program including: a quilty question held virtually on Instagram, our regular guild updates and reminders via slide sharing, Challenges and Charity project sharing via social media and simultaneous sharing on camera, and finally, a virtual-meeting-friendly program via presentation and mobile screen sharing.

Before the success of the meeting itself, we had a crisis of timing on our hands. Three days before our March guild meeting, we were notified that our meeting space would be cancelled for at least the next month.

Our president acted fast, asking board members to meet up via Zoom that same evening to brainstorm ideas, test out the platform, and plan our approach. We asked ourselves a few key questions to help ourselves navigate running a virtual meeting. Such as…

Is Zoom the right platform for us?

We decided Zoom was the best platform to use as it has an easy barrier of entry for all skill levels. It was nice to have members who already use the tool take the lead, but learning the tool was simple for everyone. 

One thing to note if using Zoom is that one person (ideally the person leading the meeting) needs to have a registered account to create and share a meeting link. All other participants can access the meeting for free, without an account, but will be prompted to (quickly) download the application for accessing the tool before use.

We assured our members that logging on would be simple and fast when we sent out the meeting link. We also advised them to log in early to test the tool before the meeting started.

Additionally, we wrote up some basic Conference Call Best Practices and made sure to have it shared on the screen when members first hopped on the meeting, to read through before the start of the meeting.

What do we want/need to cut from our normal meeting agenda (if anything)? 

We decided we’d leave all parts of the meeting in with the exception of Show & Tell and figured out ways to make each part successful on this platform.

Our members love the Show & Tell portion, and it was missed at this meeting, so we have already started brainstorming a few ways to incorporate it virtually, including: doing more social media posting ahead of the meeting and/or selecting a handful of members to share projects one by one with a designated time limit to keep the meeting moving. 

All other guild business and updates were easy to carry out with some thought on how to make them a little more visual and engaging.

How do we insert interactivity with members virtually throughout the meeting to keep it engaging and fun?

We pinpointed a few parts of the meeting that lent themselves to social media posting or doing simultaneous group sharing on camera. Here’s where we landed:

  • We posted anything we would normally get individual member live feedback on (like our “Quilty Question”) to our Social Media platforms (Instagram and Facebook) early on the day of the meeting to generate answers to show during the meeting. We encouraged members to post and use a unique hashtag created for this meeting (#svmqgMarchMeeting2020) so we could see all their content in one place.
  • For the parts of the meeting where people would normally stand up and show off things like Charity contributions or Challenge blocks, we stopped sharing the meeting slide deck which then defaulted to a view of all the members on camera at once. Then, we had members hold up their items in front of their cameras so we could all ooh and ahh collectively in the “Gallery View” on Zoom. It was fun to see everyone’s faces and projects, and members felt like they still had a chance to share. 
  • We also chose a program for the evening that fit well in the virtual format. We had been wanting to do a lecture and demonstration on how to use social media platforms, so this seemed like the perfect choice. Our member running the lecture/demo jumped on the Zoom meeting via their phone and shared their phone screen, scrolling through Instagram and Facebook to demo the platforms in real time. Members followed on their own phones and computers live in the meetings, something that would not have happened if the meeting had been in-person.

How do we manage logistics, like who is talking or screen sharing, and what if a member has a question?

It was essential to establish roles for our board members so they could ensure the meeting ran smoothly. This was our biggest worry. A meeting could run away from us quickly if there weren’t ground rules for behavior or people helping moderate interactions.

Our President would run the main part of the meeting as usual using a slide deck of content (we use this for in-person meetings too). 

We elected a Chat moderator but most board members ended up facilitating by answering any questions that popped up and members jumped in to help each other too. The moderator would also help cue the presenter if there was a question specifically for them.

We chose one person who already knew Zoom to be our IT official for the evening and mute all participants at the start of the meeting, assist in recording the meeting, as well as manage the “hand raising” feature if there were questions or reactions to the presentation.

As fallout of our own meeting, we’d advise to make sure and have a backup presenter ready to pick up if the main presenter has technical issues mid-meeting, including having presentation materials pre-loaded on their computer and ready to go.

If you’re a guild considering running a virtual meeting, go for it, it’s not as hard as it looks. Planning was the hardest part in running our meeting and with some of our insights, we hope you can see how easy and fun it is to run your first virtual meeting.

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