Ah, the Zoom quiz.
Sounded like a capital idea once, didn’t it? Until we realised that sitting in a room by ourselves trying to work out the number of tube stations in London, the order of Henry VIII’s wives or Brad Pitt’s real first name didn’t have quite the same effect as crowding round the pub, bottle of cava on the cards for the oh-so-lucky winners.
Why? Because IRL situations can’t just be plonked onto a screen. They’re different mediums that command different approaches. It would be fairly unusual to sit at a table telling 40 colleagues how you turned up to your meeting half-naked, so why do we put ourselves through it on video calls? (And also, why is everyone Zooming without trousers?)
That doesn’t mean virtual events can’t work – they just have to be tailored to the virtual realm. But how do you get it right? Read on for our top tips on taking your online events from pass-me-the-G&T to actually-smiling-with-glee.
1. Keep an eye on numbers
Psychologists say two to four people is the ideal number for a conversation; any more and people start to splinter off. So if you’ve got a big group, avoid awkward tumbleweed moments where one person talks and 39 people watch by implementing breakout rooms capped at a maximum of six.
Toucan is a great platform for this as it lets conversations evolve naturally in smaller groups (and it’s free). Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams all feature breakout rooms, so try rotating people “speed-dating” style, or let attendees see who’s in each room so they can move in and out of their own accord.
We’ve all been that one in 100 sitting there feeling like an idiot. Let’s take a stand. Please.
2. Give people things to do
It’s a fact: watching something on a laptop screen from the bedroom/study/shed you’ve probably been in all day (week/year) is naturally a little different to physically being in a different space where the lights are dazzling, the drinks are flowing and the music’s pumping.
You can’t rely on overloading the senses as in-person experiences do, so you need to engage people by giving them something to do.
It might be charades, it might be role-play (no, not that kind), or it might be a virtual challenge; with our flagship game, Agent Venture, we give everyone a different job to do so they’re involved throughout. However you do it, the aim should be to transport attendees away from their screen and into another world – without needing the fancy lights and the funky décor.
3. Choose activities designed for virtual
That leads onto the next point – opt for activities that were made for the virtual world. If IRL gatherings just translated straight into video life, we wouldn’t have a job. Games like Among Us, Jackbox and Horsepaste work because they were built with online entertainment in mind; the same goes for video games.
When lockdown struck, at The Adventure Is Real we created online missions from scratch, producing scripts, artificial emails and virtual roles to fit Zoom life, with a live actor to guide guests through it. There are plenty of options out there, so it’s a case of finding what works best for your event.
4. Minimise prep time for attendees
No offence, but – most people are busy. Even when we were on lockdown, if we weren’t painting by numbers or doing puzzles (just us?), we were probably watching Tiger King or Normal People or Bridgerton or Emily in Paris (not sorry).
People don’t want to have to spend lots of time prepping beforehand, so keep it to a minimum and, where possible, avoid making attendees download apps, install programs or read through reams of instructions. The aim is for people to log in and go – in the same way you’d turn up to an event and press play only when you get there.
5. Use multiple platforms
Last but by no means least, diversify your comms. It might not be quite the same as having a face-to-face conversation, but the likes of Slack, Basecamp and WhatsApp can be an excellent way of getting people socialising beyond just video calls – and it doesn’t have to be dull, with separate smaller channels and groups to cater to different interests.
Tour operator Museum Hack has a Slack channel dedicated solely to pet-lovers, for example, while remote company Toptal has social channels like #book-club and #dad-jokes (we’re tempted to join).
So take inspiration from them to up your Slack game and get people feeling like they’re part of a community – all without requiring the office water cooler to huddle round and gossip beside (so 2019).
Got all that? To summarise our top tips:
- Keep numbers down: Use breakout rooms to split guests into smaller groups, ideally capped at six.
- Give people things to do: Keep attendees involved throughout to make up for the lack of physical atmosphere they’d get with an in-person event.
- Choose games designed for the virtual realm: Research the right product to help guests properly immerse themselves in the experience.
- Minimise preparation time: Avoid asking attendees to download apps or read through reams of instructions beforehand.
- Diversify your platforms: Get teams interacting in different ways – Slack channels, WhatsApp groups and other platforms can be a great way of doing this.
Keen to hear more? Click here to get in touch with one of our experts and find out how else you can optimise virtual events to get more engagement.
By Chris Stylianou