Five tips for holding engaging (and fun!) virtual conversations

BY JENNY TOTTEN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR, THE HUB

As the temperatures fall and we are all looking at spending more time inside, things are looking a lot different this year, both professionally and personally. With Zoom and other online platform meetings helping us make connections, it is becoming increasingly important that we should have fun, as well as work online. The Hub hosted a Community Conversation to model ways to create a heavily interactive and fun space for attendees to kick back, relax, and have a great evening with like-minded changemakers. Here are some best practices as you design your meetings and social gatherings online this winter!  

1.     Make sure you have a theme, and as hosts, over-exaggerate this.

A theme ties a group of individuals together and makes the experience similar to an in-person social event. Our theme was, of course, the holidays, and we wore ugly sweaters and decorated our backgrounds to show this. We created virtual backgrounds for attendees so that they could participate whether their home was holiday-ready or not. 

2.     Use tools that have already been created.

We borrowed a Family Feud game template to create a fun atmosphere. Templates are available online for many games including but not limited to: Family FeudWho Wants to be a Millionaire, and Jeopardy.  Even setting up a simple trivia game between meeting attendees can be fun. 

3.     Have a fun ice breaker so attendees can get to know one another.  

In our party, we showcased two forms of ice breaker activities. If you have a small group, simply asking a fun question (like “What’s your favorite holiday food?”) as people are introducing themselves can be a memorable way to let attendees get to know one another. With a larger group, we modeled how to give two options, such as preferring an artificial or real tree, and then had each attendee turn their camera on or off for their answer. Pro tip: for even more options, this can also be done with the reactions feature on Zoom.

4.     Make sure activities are inclusive of all participation levels.  

Think of how one might design experiences at a large social gathering–you have a mix of activities for different interaction levels. Make sure the same happens virtually so all of your attendees feel comfortable. For example, we showcased a singing activity where teams were asked to come up with as many holiday themed songs as they could, and then competed by singing those songs on camera. All team members were part of the brainstorming process, but only three had to be singing at any one time. This allowed those that were more introverted or camera shy to participate in a way that worked for them.

5.     Give social time in breakout rooms. 

Unstructured social time is hard to come by in the online world, so giving some space for these connections is encouraged. Much like a mixer, this gives your group opportunities to connect over subjects that may not be directly related to the theme of your meeting. We created and kept break out rooms open at the end of our party so our attendees could have these conversations and make new connections. 

We had so much fun at our Community Conversation and hope that you’ll utilize some of these best practices as you design your online social experiences. If you have questions about creating your own engaging virtual conversation, we’d love to help you through them.

Jenny Totten is The Hub’s Community Development Coordinator. You can reach her at j.totten@wvhub.org.

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