The current state of the world has prompted businesses and organizations to take preventative measures to “flatten the curve” of the new coronavirus—everyone is encouraged to stay home or work remotely while the pandemic is at hand.
Suffice to say, this is affecting the offline events industry. How can you build communities if everyone is isolated from each other?
Luckily, the internet and new technologies have opened up different channels for people to come together and share ideas without physically being in the same room. Enter: virtual events!
Building virtual communities
Virtual events are interactive gatherings that occur online through video conferencing tools. Conducting events this way has a number of benefits, pandemic or not.
For one thing, it increases your reach. Remote attendees can join from anywhere around the world, whether it’s Hong Kong, Singapore, or Indonesia. Considering how much time, effort, and money it takes to travel from one area to the next, virtual events remove this friction.
Virtual events are also a lot easier and cheaper to organize. There’s no need to book a venue or hire a caterer at your event. All you need is a stable internet connection and a couple of people to help you host the channel.
Lastly, virtual events are also measurable—you can easily track how many people attended, how engaged they were, and how they felt about the event. This is possible through the different tools you used, including video conferencing apps, interactive activity platforms, or polls.
That probably sounds great already, but there’s a catch: virtual events need to be really engaging because leaving a virtual event is as easy as clicking a button.
So how do you make your virtual event more engaging? We’ve got a number of tips for you.
Conduct virtual icebreakers
For new communities that aren’t as well acquainted with each other, it’s a good idea to include an icebreaker in the program, whether it’s at the start, middle, or end. For community members that are separated by miles, this is a good way to facilitate small talk and encourage meaningful connections.
Here are some examples of virtual icebreaker activities:
The deserted island scenario
You can also spice things up by making members play a simple game. The deserted island scenario is an easy example of a fun thinking exercise for small to medium-sized groups.
Imagine your community is on a deserted island with seven objects of your choice, but each person can only choose three. After you’ve given them some time to think, ask each one to share their answers. You’d be surprised with the strategies they come up with!
What’s outside your window?
Since everyone’s calling in from a different spot, it would be a great type of show-and-tell to ask everyone to share their view from a nearby window.
This gives other members a literal peek into that person’s life. Maybe it’s nighttime in that part of the world. Or maybe it’s snow season over there. All these little facts are enlightening and give members a topic for conversation.
You can also get everyone’s brain juices flowing by asking interesting questions that can reveal quirky personal facts you might not get from an initial conversation.
Things like “what do you do for a living” or “what brings you here” simply won’t cut it. If you’re having trouble coming up with some good ones, we’ve got a list right here.
Ask me anything
If you’re hosting this community for the first time, this is a good activity to help everyone get comfortable with you. After all, you’re building a community here! You need your community members to be comfortable with you to get them to trust you.
So host an “ask me anything” session, with no real program necessary—just a good chit-chat and an open-mic environment.
Personal facts guessing game
They say first impressions last, but there’s nothing like a personal facts game to put those initial judgments in their place.
Here’s how it works: get members to send you a personal fact about themselves through chat (a direct message, of course). Once you have all the facts, read them out loud and have the members guess whom the fact belongs to.
Two truths and a lie
“Two truths and a lie” is another hilarious getting-to-know-you game. Each person shares three facts about themselves, where two are truths and one is a lie. Members can get really creative here and try to trick people into choosing the wrong lie just for kicks.
Nobody is like me…
This is a more straightforward sharing session. You can get each person to finish the sentence “Nobody is like me…” to hear about their special quirks. You might have a teammate who can down 5,000 calories in one day! You never know, so it’s a good thing to ask.
Finish the sentence
This is just like “Nobody is like me…” except you have the freedom to choose the statement. You can say any sentence that the team has to complete, such as “I can’t stop laughing when…” or “When it’s midnight I crave…” The more obscure the sentence, the more interesting answers you’ll get.
Adventurous Angy and Zippy Zack
Remembering names is a tricky thing. When introducing people, Adventurous Angy and Zippy Zack could be just the thing.
In the game, everyone has to state their name and add an adjective that starts with the same first letter (e.g. Adventurous Angy). The next person has to repeat the previous person’s name, and add his or hers. The third person has to recite both the first and second person’s name, add his or hers, and so on. The order can be decided by the time people logged into the room.
18 and under
Do you have an interesting childhood story you share at every cocktail party? Well, here’s your chance to share it front and center!
Simply take turns naming one thing you accomplished when you were a child (by definition, that’s 18 years old and younger). Some of their accomplishments might surprise you.
Conduct virtual community-building activities
If your community members all know each other and there’s no need to break the ice, you can jump straight to conducting virtual community-building activities. These games can strengthen ties between your members even further.
Peek into each other’s homes
Just like showing people what’s outside your window, you can have members share parts of their home with you—sort of like a virtual version of MTV’s Cribs.
It doesn’t need to be the whole home, just a segment is fine. It might help if you add a theme, like your current work scenario or your favourite hangout spot in the house.
Everyone loves movie night! Plus, the shared experience gives your members something to talk about the next time around.
You can purchase and download a movie, then stream it through a video conference call so everyone can watch it together. Make sure to keep the chatbox open so team members can comment and react in real time!
While getting together at an actual coffee shop is out of the question, virtual conversations are also enhanced with caffeine. Have everyone brew their favourite cup of joe, and get members to share their favourite beans and brewing method.
If your members aren’t into coffee, then they can share their favourite drink in the chat as well.
Mealtimes are meant to be shared, but this might not be possible since everyone’s in isolation. The solution: virtual lunch! Host an open-to-everyone virtual lunch every week or so, and get everyone to casually chit-chat over a meal.
Tired of giving tours of what’s in your home at the moment? Maybe you can mix things up a little and share some photos of a memorable experience instead.
Picture sharing is a really easy and fun way to tell stories and learn more about others. Allowing team members to talk about their personal lives gives everyone something to bond over.
Indoor scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are not just reserved for Easter eggs. You can use it as a fun community-building activity as well!
All you need to do is create a list of tasks that members can finish indoors—strike a fun yoga pose in an unlikely space, for example—and have members take pictures of themselves doing it. Once everyone’s done, host a con-call and get everyone to share their experience.
Name that throwback
Local pubs are putting trivia nights on hold, but that doesn’t mean you can’t host your own version. You can get your members together and play a game called Name That Throwback!
All you have to do is make a playlist of old school songs—the theme and decade is all up to you—and have members name the song. Members can “buzz” by typing an “x” on the chat. Whoever typed it first, gets to answer.
Tell us your life story…in six words. That’s what this activity is all about. Inspired by Hemmingway’s famous (and sad) six-word story, For sale: baby shoes, never worn. The six-word memoir game is a fun way to get members to creatively and succinctly express their own stories.
Jimmy Fallon made virtual reality pictionary a thing on his late night show, and it’s certainly hilarious to watch. You probably don’t have any AR/VR technology on you at the moment, but you can definitely recreate this game through simple video conferencing.
Create visual prompts, split your members into teams (you can create separate chat groups too, if you’d like), and have them choose the “artist.” The artist should have some sort of canvas they can show on-screen (it can be digital screen sharing too, if that’s possible) and as he/she draws, members will guess what it is. Just like regular pictionary!
The mechanics for visual charades are exactly the same as pictionary, but instead of guessing a drawing, members need to guess a person’s charade. Not only will this give participants an excuse to come out of their shell and act silly, it will also get members to interact with each other in a fun and engaging way. Arguably, it’s easier than virtual pictionary as there are fewer props involved.
Tips for a successful virtual event
Before you start planning your next virtual event, here are a few tips to make sure that everything goes without a hitch.
First, if you’re working with a team to organize this event, you should assign roles:
- Timekeeper: to ensure the program goes according to schedule
- Tech support: to handle any technical issues
- Conversation assistant: for live streams, to keep track of the chatbox for messages
Second, you should make the most out of online tools. There is a whole range of free tools available online, and some useful paid tools as well. Virtual events are going to be the status quo for a while, so you might want to consider making a small investment.
A paid subscription to a video conferencing tool, for example, will allow you to host video conferences for any number of people for an unlimited amount of time. A poll tool can also help you get feedback from members during a program. And a live interaction platform can help you engage members through these icebreakers and community-building activities.
Toasty is our new tool for online interaction, and it can help groups converse with each other throughout virtual community-building events. How? By making these activities even more fun—that’s the most important thing for community engagement.
If you’re new to virtual events, hopefully, this article helped you out. During times of crisis, everyone has to do their part and be responsible and stay at home. But at the same time, it’s important not to lose touch with humanity—let’s all stay connected!