Hosting a Virtual Meeting

Hosting virtual meetings can be tricky. You need to overcome the typical teleconference slump (we find this video particularly funny and poignant). We like to keep participants moving and engaged throughout our meetings. This is possible in a virtual space. We accomplish it by changing the activities throughout the event.

Our virtual events, typically called microlabs, are 60-90 minute, highly interactive, virtual events. Unlike webinars which are focused on disseminating information, the purpose of µLabs is to facilitate stimulating scientific discussions in smaller and more intimate virtual breakout groups. Here is some knowledge we have accumulated hosting virtual events.

  • Platforms:
  • What to look for in a hosting platform:
    • Breakout rooms, we always suggest small group discussions and it might be even more important in a virtual space.
    • Camera functions, it is always nice to see who you are talking to. We recommend that every participant use a virtual link that has a camera.
  • Maximize all the functions of the platform you choose.
    • Keep your meetings engaging by using the tools at your service. Polling, breakout rooms, chat functions, recording. All of these functions are there, play around and explore them all.
    • Starting out, you may want to co-host your meeting. One person can focus on content and the other on running all of the fun tools.
  • Many platforms allow you to record your meetings. We think this is a great idea.
    • In addition to capturing the main session, we like to use google docs to capture people’s thinking, particularly in breakout sessions.
    • We have quite a lot of experience with the platform and have found it useful for storing the videos, links to google docs, etc, in one place that participants can easily navigate to before, during and after an event.
    • We are also developing a new platform (beta testing now, send me an email if you would like to check it out) that will allow you to capture brainstorming sessions, vote and leave comments and use other face-to-face tools in a virtual space.
    • Even simply using the chat feature to collect Q&A throughout the event has been helpful in capturing participant thinking throughout the event.
  • We have found generally 60-90 minutes is the right amount of time for a virtual event. Having no one speaker talk for more than 20 minutes allows people to fully engage in the meeting.

We have successfully run microlabs on everything from provocation of new research thinking to co-written policy documents. If you keep the agenda simple, get people talking to one another, and capture output, these virtual events can be highly productive and culture changing at your institution.