Let’s say you’re a program manager for a garden-related organization or business, and you’re used to creating and running live presentations and events. Now that virtual/online events are more necessary and popular, are there different considerations for you and your team? You bet there are! Virtual platforms like Zoom are relatively user-friendly, but if you want your event to flow smoothly and with minimal kinks, we’ve got some tips for you.
Familiarize yourself with Zoom’s features.
Zoom has many features that make online talks easy and stress-free, like Chat (where there’s a wild back and forth chatting among attendees), Q & A (specifically for attendees to ask a question they want the speaker to answer), muting/unmuting (you don’t want to hear everyone’s barking dogs, potato chip-eating, side talking, or worse, bathroom activities), recording your session (if permissible), and more.
Establish a committee for your online talks.
This can include the people who will be running the actual online talk, but can (and probably should) include other people on your team or in your organization. This committee can plan topics in advance, source speakers and communicate with them, tackle the tech, and handle social media and finances.
Schedule at least 3 people to run the Zoom talk.
Hear us on this one — one person cannot run a Zoom talk all by themselves! That is, not if you want it to be seamless and smooth. Identify 3 key people and assign them to a role:
- One to greet attendees and facilitate the speaker getting started (kind of like an MC)
- One to moderate the Q & A and answer questions in Chat
- One to troubleshoot and handle tech issues
Still think you can do it all alone? Consider this scenario: You are introducing your fabulous speaker when you realize a number of attendees are unmuted, the speaker’s presentation won’t load, and 2 people are asking you questions in the Chat. That’s enough to make any program manager’s blood run cold. Don’t do it. You’re welcome.
Offer a regular “Member’s Tech Session.”
Does your organization have regular online talks for its members? Many people aren’t used to attending online talks, so how about helping them learn? Once a month or every other month, host a “Zoom How-To” for members — teach them how to join a Zoom talk/call, how to adjust their microphone/camera settings, how to use the Chat feature, and maybe even how to share their screen. Don’t let members’ discomfort lead to low attendance rates!
Actively moderate the Zoom talk.
Let attendees know from the beginning how and when they can ask questions, what they can expect in your time together, and what to do if they encounter any problem. Email your attendees ahead of time, and then reiterate it at the beginning of the talk.
Practice ahead of time.
We cannot overstate this tip! We’ve personally been involved with many online events/talks, and practicing with the whole team is vital. You want each member of your team to understand how this talk is being run, what their role is, and how you will handle any glitches. One or two practice runs will highlight any issues and give you enough time to iron them out.
Set up a way for team members to communicate privately.
If there’s an issue that needs to be addressed — a team member forgot to turn their camera off during the main presentation, a download link that another team member can’t find, or someone who forgot to do something — don’t address it in Chat for all the attendees to see. Use another platform like Slack (have a dedicated channel for this event), or a group text. Nobody needs to read “Jenny, ADD THE DOWNLOAD LINK!!!” or “Katie, mute yourself!” except for your team.
And while that might seem funny (okay, we admit, the previous examples are), something you really want to avoid is a team member making an offhand remark meant for another team member that could be considered offensive or unprofessional — so decide how you’re going to communicate privately and stick with it.
Have fun and enjoy it!
If you’ve prepared properly, have team members who know their roles, and have practiced adequately, you’ll be fine. But remember, just as with live events, something often can go wrong — don’t sweat it, and don’t lose your cool! There are few situations that can’t be handled with a little common sense and a lot of humor — and it’s okay for your attendees to laugh along with you. These are garden talks, after all, and creating a relaxed, fun, engaging, and professional atmosphere will keep your attendees coming back for more.