Creating a personal experience in a virtual environment
Being able to personally connect with our customers and fellow team members is essential for any business. Before Covid-19, our sales teams were traveling several times a month visiting customers, attending trade shows, and working side-by-side with internal teams. So much has changed in a few short months. I thought I’d share a few tips on staying connected and engaged during our stay at home and social distancing measures. It’s amazing the ingenuity and creativity taking place.
For most of us, day-to-day communications remain unchanged. We are still on conference calls and sending and receiving emails by the hundreds, but what are people doing to replace the face-to-face interaction of an onsite sales call, trade show event, or team building? We are embracing technology and moving into video and virtual environments. Below are a few tips on connecting virtually.
Virtual Team Building
Virtual team building isn’t new, but it is for those of us who are used to being in a corporate office environment. There are lots of resources online and companies who have been perfecting virtual team building for years. So why is virtual team building important? Loneliness is probably the biggest downside to remote work. Making time to form social bonds and build trust not only combats loneliness and disengagement, but helps teams be more creative, communicative and productive.
Here are a few fun examples:
Tiny Campfire (tinycampfire.com) runs virtual campfires for remote teams. The experience includes haunted ghost stories, icebreakers, competitions and even a real S’mores making experience. Before the event, Tiny Campfire sends each person a tiny campfire kit with materials like s’more ingredients, a tea-light candle, and wood matches.
I can see Tree Top utilizing the same type of ingenuity to create a virtual fruit experience presentation or hands-on development workshop.
Anyone can play trivia, but why not play Office/Company Trivia to kick off your next meeting? Collect fun, obscure trivia like, ‘What does the poster say in the cafeteria?’ and ‘How many Johns can you name in IT?’ and ‘What was the topic of the CEOs last blog post?’ This is not about memorizing the mission statement. It’s meant just to be fun and it could be a great activity for a quarantined team who haven’t been together in months.
Show and Tell
A great icebreaker is a show and tell like we did in Kindergarten! Everybody has a minute to show something to the group and share what it means to them. Could be their pet, a photo, art/hobby project, something silly on their desk etc.
While there are several conferencing platforms in use that have the capability to meet virtually through devices with a webcam and microphone, they do all have slight differences and a bit of a learning curve. Here are a few tips for a successful virtual meeting.
- Take the time to learn how to use the platform your meeting is being held on
- Test your webcam and microphone before the meeting to ensure your audio and video are working
- Check the lighting in your room. If possible, have a light source facing you and another off to the side
- Check your surroundings and tidy up! Some platforms offer fill in backgrounds
- If you are the host, make sure everyone knows why they are on the call and what they are responsible for during the meeting. Also, if possible, send the meeting agenda to participants before the meeting, giving them a chance to review and prepare with their comments and questions
- Do intros for all on the conference
- Record the meeting. Many platforms will transcribe the audio from the recording, which can be valuable content for any project summary
- Be aware of the time
While a Zoom or GoToMeeting call is not a perfect solution, they really work well for bringing small groups together and they allow us to see who we are meeting with and that helps create more of a connection than a simple text, email or regular phone call.
Webinars are another widely adopted platform for virtual communication. Many industry leaders and publications are offering webinars, live and recorded, and data is showing that participation and viewing has increased in the last few months, most attributing this to our changing work environments. While a webinar is not exactly the same as a video conference, live webinars do offer chat, polls, and survey features to help engage participants.
If you are wanting to hold a webinar for your sales teams, employees, prospects or current customers, planning is the key to success. Again, research and understand the platform you are using to create your webinar and understand your topic and who your audience is. Here are a few tips for a successful webinar.
I recently attended an ANA webinar titled "How to Create Engaging Virtual Events During Social Distancing and Beyond". Below are some of the suggestions highlighted during this event.
- Define your goals, what is the purpose of hosting a webinar
- Pick a topic that will resonate with your audience
- Pick the location where recording will take place and then set-up and test all of the required equipment; your cameras, microphones, lights and your internet. If you are having guest speakers from other locations, have them do the same
- Send out invites to your webinar through email and social media, and then post on your website and blog to generate interest
- Generate the webinar content to be engaging and on topic. Opt for short videos and interesting slides with graphics. Polls and surveys can also help engage participants. Don’t use slides as a teleprompter and avoid slides with bullet points, instead, talk about the topics and provide an overview slide at the end of a section, capturing focus points. Also, try having handouts for participants to download
- Think about how your voice sounds and add inflection if necessary, be energetic, but don’t rush when speaking
- Include some ice-breakers questions.
- Do a practice run, testing the software and controls
- Record the webinar so it can be shared on your website and social platforms
- Follow up with attendees and ask for feedback
Webinars work well for bringing larger groups together to learn about and discuss a chosen topic but they can require more technical knowledge, equipment and preparation. I think the webinar will continue to evolve with further adoption and as more engaging technology enters the playing field.
Virtual Trade Shows and Events
These have been around for a while but, because trade shows are very sensory engaging experiences, they have not translated well into virtual environments. However, in our current state, this pivot to virtual is again being tested. A few shows have recently announced virtual versions, while most food industry trade shows and events have simply canceled or moved their events to later in the year. The biggest of the shows going virtual is the National IFT, being held July 12th, and it will be interesting to see how well it is attended and received. Another show is the Food Entrepreneur™ Expo interactive online tasting event, where participants will receive a box of product samples to taste while listening to stories about the products. A few companies are doing Virtual Expo Visits right on their websites, stating that since a show they usually exhibit at has been canceled or postponed, they would like to send them their latest samples and then e-meet with customers through Zoom to chat, pretty creative and probably won’t break the bank.
As Tree Top develops our virtual tools, if you’ve seen or had a great virtual experience, we’d love to hear about it. Contact us via phone at 509-698-1435 or email CustomerService2@treetop.com
We really are all in this together and the more we can learn from each other, the better off we’ll be.