Category AVI-SPL

5 Keys to a Successful Virtual Event

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, collaborating, and leading from home. Our Together We Can series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

While the COVID-19 pandemic response has sent everyone home to work, companies are also seeing their in-person employee and customer events canceled or indefinitely postponed. However, there is an alternative that can keep communication and revenue flowing in these uncertain times. Turn your all-hands meetings and customer seminars and gatherings into virtual events.

Virtual events let you stay in touch with employees through live-streaming Town Halls, and host customer seminars to showcase strategies and solutions. Before you get started, though, consider these five keys to a successful virtual event.

1. Make your virtual event interactive

Start by building choosing your presenters and building your agenda. Try to select a host who is comfortable using online tools and can engage a virtual audience. For example, someone with experience leading webinars is a desirable choice for your virtual events. If your team hasn’t presented online in the past, just allow time for practice so they can get comfortable with the technology and engaging the audience online.

Since your attendees will be remote, it’s essential to work interactive elements into your virtual event agenda to encourage participation. You’ll also discourage participants from attending in listen-only mode while multitasking. Some ideas include:

  • Allow attendees to ask or submit questions on the materials
  • Take polls about activities related to the presentation
    • The presenter can ask the question and ask attendees to respond in the chatbox
  • Include an open Q&A Session
  • Share downloadable content via the chat window
  • Add a mix of material such as a live speaker with slides, and recorded video

For smaller events, include a live Q&A session where you can turn the audience’s mics on. For larger meetings, ask participants to submit written questions in the chat or Q&A boxes. Allow the presenter to focus on presenting while another team member monitors the chat and Q&A window and passes questions on to the host. Add a few minutes at the beginning of the session for the host or event coordinator to review the question procedure with attendees.

End your session by thanking everyone for attending and reviewing how you will follow up with the audience. 

2. Encourage virtual event or Town Hall attendance

Once you have your virtual event plan, it’s time to invite guests to register and attend your event. Your plan can include sending out regular communications, ensuring invites have your contact information, and offering incentives to attendees.

Schedule a regular cadence of invitation and reminders emails

While everyone has good intentions to attend your event, they may forget or lose motivation when other issues consume their day. It’s helpful to build an email invite and reminder schedule to encourage people to attend your virtual event. It may look something like this:

  • Invite 1: four weeks prior
  • Invite 2: one week prior
  • Invite last chance: one week prior
  • Confirmation email with session instructions: ongoing upon registration
  • Reminder to attend 1: one week prior
  • Reminder to attend 2: one day prior

Include contact information

Potential attendees may have questions about your event content or technical issues with the online registration. Include a contact email and phone number in all your email communications. Assign a team member to answer calls and check emails to respond to questions quickly. Be prepared to take phone registrations if need.

Office incentives to participate

If your budget allows, consider offering an incentive to attend the event. Use items that are easy to deliver electronically after the event. Some ideas include:

  • e-gift cards for coffee or online shop
  • Long-form, value-added content such as an eBook or White Paper

3. Choose your virtual event solution

For complex sessions, such as an all-hands virtual Town Hall live stream, you may want to enlist the help of a video production partner such as VideoLink. Your partner can manage the production and quickly resolve any technical issues.

You can host smaller events on your preferred meeting platform like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, or Zoom. Be sure to activate all privacy features for your meeting, such as requiring a meeting password and restricting who can share content on the screen. Also, check your app subscription to ensure you can host the expected number of attendees and record the event. Upgrade your platform if needed.

4. Hold a dress rehearsal

It’s helpful to do a complete run-through of the presentation before your live virtual event. Have all presenters and staff ensure all technical elements are working. A dress rehearsal will help you:

  • Show the host and presenters know how to log on, take control of the session, and share content and video
  • Learn how to mute and unmute all attendees to avoid noise
  • Test everyone’s mics, cameras, speakers, and Internet connections
  • Time each part of the session to see if you need to streamline your content, and ensure you allow time for audience Q&A

5. Follow up after the online seminar or live stream

As with any event, it’s essential to follow up with attendees after the session to keep the conversation flowing. Town Hall virtual events can include a survey or an email with the recording. Customer event follow-up can be managed by marketing or by sending qualified leads to your sales team.

Provide email templates with any slides and content that the host shared during the event. Offer attendees the option to subscribe to your e-newsletter program and send content relevant to the event presentations. If your virtual event promoted a solution, consider adding an incentive to purchase in your follow-up communications.

Follow these ideas to hosting successful virtual events that help you connect with remote staff and drive customer revenue. If you need assistance with a company Town Hall or another virtual event, the AVI-SPL team is ready to help. Contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office to get started today.

Don’t forget to check our Together We Can web page for updated work-from-home resources.

Keep Students Engaged in Online Learning and Manage Technical Glitches

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can online learning series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

Whether your staff taught the occasional virtual class or had no experience, everyone just got a crash course in delivering a full-time online learning schedule thanks to COVID-19. Keeping college students engaged in online learning is an essential part of delivering quality education.

Below I’ve outlined ways to keep students engaged during online classes. Pass on these ideas to your educators to encourage their students to fully participate in virtual sessions. I also included tips on how to overcome some technical difficulties during live online sessions.

Outline your virtual class in short sections

Break up your online class into different sections or chapters. Presenting the class in short “chunks” can help you deliver an energetic class and retain students’ attention. Create a virtual class outline that can be turned into a short agenda to share with your students.

In your outline, include problem-based learning tasks. Communicate to your students that the solution to the problem lies in the course material that you will present online. This can motivate students to give their full attention throughout the online class to learn the solution.

Use different media formats

Mix different media formats in your virtual class to change the pace and keep students engaged. Share a video of you talking and add a recorded video. In between, share slides or other documents on the screen. Follow the tips in our Online Learning Best Practices for Educators blog when recording or sharing live video.

Design your online class for audio-only and mobile experiences

In a perfect world, your digital class will be delivered perfectly. But glitches happen. Taking proactive steps can help you overcome technical difficulties. While video is more engaging than audio alone, don’t rely on it. At times you may not be able to send video, or class participants may not see the video due to bandwidth or device issues. Note that having a student leave the virtual class and then log back on may correct audio or visual issues for them.

In case video is not available during your class, design your material so that students can absorb the information by hearing the audio portion only. Keep talking when visuals are on the screen. If all is well with sending the video, be sure to record it so students who had any issues can watch a replay later.

Also, consider that students may be using a mobile phone or tablet to attend class. Small screens can make information hard to read. Use large type and break up information on a few slides, instead of cramming everything on to one slide or page. View your materials on a mobile phone before adding them to your virtual class presentation. You’ll avoid a situation where students cannot easily see your video content.

Record a back-up session before live classes

Hopefully, you won’t experience your classroom technology going down completely. If you do, be prepared with a recorded session of your class. That way, you can have students watch the recorded session and keep the class schedule you designed. You can use Google Drive or Microsoft Stream to share links to recorded classes if needed.

Keep Online Learning Accessible

Don’t forget to keep accessibility for visual and hearing impaired students in mind when preparing course documents and tools. Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft PowerPoint include tools to verify accessibility. Add captions to your videos if possible. YouTube and many LMSs include an auto-caption feature. Double-check that your captions are correct before sharing a video.

Ensure students know how to use the system

Once you prepare your online class, ensure participants know how to log on to the Learning Management System (LMS) or video conferencing platform you will use. Send an instructional email a few days before class. Most systems will include a link to help participants test their devices before the session. This will allow time for students to address any technical issues.  

To further encourage your students’ success, share our online learning best learning for students with your class. You can also share a beginner tutorial video like this one from Zoom:

Share a clear virtual class agenda

Once you have an outline, start the class by briefly reviewing your agenda. You can share a PowerPoint slide or Word document and talk through it.

Sending the agenda and supporting class materials prior to the online session will help overcome any technical issues with video too. Students can refer to their materials if they can’t see the video during class. Also, include in your email how students can contact you with comments and questions during live and recorded online learning sessions.

Check in regularly during live digital classes

For small classes, pause occasionally and ask if anyone has questions. When presenting to large classes, turning on everyone’s mics may not be feasible. Ask students to utilize the chat or Q&A features in the LMS or video meeting platform. It’s helpful to have an assistant or student volunteer moderate this for you.

Maintain engagement between virtual classes

Since you can’t connect with students in person, include ways to keep them engaged between the virtual classes in your lesson plan. Consider these steps to keep students connected with you and each other during the online course.

Hold regularly- scheduled virtual office hours

Allow students to drop-in to your virtual office during designated hours. Send out a recurring meeting link for the times when you’re available to chat with students. For large classes, have students ask for appointments by email, or use a tool like Calendly.

Use social media to build a student community

Social distancing prohibits students from meeting in person. To help your class participants connect with each other and boost engagement, create a private Facebook Group, or another discussion forum.  Classmates can interact with each other online after class at their convenience. Ask a teaching assistant to moderate the group and provide feedback to you about common questions or learning roadblocks.

Ideas to get students engaged in digital forums:

  • Ask specific questions on discussion boards to facilitate student responses
  • Post recorded videos with FAQs or follow-up info based on student questions
  • Present problems that can be solved by reading course materials, or students’ virtual class notes

Gamify your online class

Add a gaming element to your virtual class that can encourage ongoing student engagement. Consider a scavenger hunt based on pictures or answers to questions that you add to your video or slides for students to find. Have online class participants include answers in their assignments to earn points for extra credit. Delete points for missed or late assignments too.

For classes delivered through an LMS, check if the system can award badges as students complete each class or assignment. You can create some friendly competition to get the most badges in a certain period. Likewise, set up automated LMS email notifications when classes and assignments are not completed on time.

Post assignments that boost engagement after class

Consider how you can maintain engagement when creating virtual class assignments. Ideas to consider include:

  • Have students complete video or phone interviews with professionals or each other.
  • Share recorded “mini-class” audio or video files with assignment details. Assign groups and have students collaborate online and record their answers.
  • Ask students to search for video resources to share on the course topic from YouTube or other universities.

AVI-SPL is here to help

I hope your educators find these ideas to keep students engaged in online classes useful. Have other ideas to share? Post them in the comments. If you need assistance with your online learning platforms, contact us or call your local AVI-SPL office.

For more online learning information, check out AVI-SPL’s Together We Can online learning page for weekly updates.

Leverage Video Meetings to Lead Your Team Remotely Through Disruption

For organizations of all types — schools, businesses, government agencies — and millions around the world, the COVID-19 outbreak has seriously disrupted the way we work. Even if your company or institution had already embraced video collaboration among team members, you may not have used it to the extent you have to now. 

AVI-SPL wants to help by giving you the guidance you need to stay connected with each other and be as productive as you can during this difficult time.

That’s why we’ve launched our Together We Can initiative, in which we share tips, advice, and resources for reinforcing our connections, building new communities, and maintaining business continuity. This blog is the hub for much of that content, and the most recent resources are at the top of this list:

Bookmark the Together We Can page so that you will always have the latest tools, tips, and outside-the-box ideas for keeping your teams engaged and productive.

Leaders always juggle a myriad of responsibilities, priorities, and challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified these commitments almost beyond comprehension. Protecting the bottom line. Driving revenue. Security. Maintaining culture. The well-being and safety of employees. Transitioning overnight to remote work models. The list goes on. Thankfully, the modern workplace was ready to embrace full-time remote work.

Use video conferencing to manage disruption and maintain productivity

As the business climate changes on what seems to be a daily basis, leaders at every level face continuous decisions, each as critical as the next. The natural inclination for many is to retreat into the work itself. But this is the exact moment when employees need to see and hear from leaders. And this is the moment when leaders can show up, speak up, and help employees navigate this challenging time.

There is good news amidst all of these challenges. We have video conferencing. While the days of water-cooler chats, in-person town halls, the impromptu office drop-by, and casual lunch meetings are gone for the near future, virtual communication has never been easier, even for businesses that weren’t initially set up for remote work. Leaders can continue to have face time with their teams, whether in large virtual town hall scenarios, all-hands video meetings, or more personal one-to-one touchpoints over Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex, and other applications.

Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more

The cadence and method of communicating and collaborating with employees are important. It needs to be more than a one-and-done task. Establish specific work-from-home routines and distribution platforms for executives. Set expectations for weekly communications from senior leaders and cascade daily communication responsibilities down through your organization and across cross-functional teams. It’s also important to carve out regular one-on-one virtual meeting time with your employees to check in and see how they are doing. Doing that from home has never been easier thanks to simple yet robust meeting and team collaboration tools.

Tailor your message for your remote workforce

Executives and senior leaders should share your organization’s strategy for navigating through these changes, as best you can. Emphasize priorities and how you’re going to meet those priorities. Be clear, confident, and realistic. And be real and transparent; employees need to feel like you have things under control.

By reaching out frequently and using video as a way to connect, your leadership and visibility can lead to a more engaged workforce who is better able to handle the new working conditions while also balancing the stressors of the “new norm.” Now is one of the most important leadership moments of your career.

Your team needs to see you. They need to see each other. Video conference calls, emails, and texts are great ways to communicate under normal circumstances. These formats can now supplement virtual communications to reinforce key messages during this time of crisis.

But the sense of togetherness and humanity is vital, and video conferencing with platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Webex make this possible. It’s the closest thing we have to a sense of normalcy – a face-to-face way to collaborate, brainstorm, coordinate, give and receive feedback – and also to smile, laugh, and even commiserate and share frustration. We can get your team set up and running. This resource guide has a library of tips and an online shop of tools essential in the new work from home paradigm,

Lead by example

The more your employees see you adapting to the remote model and utilizing video platforms to meet, communicate, and get work done in different ways, the more likely they are to do the same. Even if you or some of your employees are still in the office, start adopting video technology as your primary meeting platform to increase confidence, usage, and experience. Be sure to use your laptop camera or webcam so your team can see and connect with you during virtual meetings.

How you show up matters – use the right online tools and devices

When everything seems like chaos around you, it’s easy to let appearances slip. But it’s still critical to portray a sense of professionalism and calm and position yourself to look your best. Your team needs to see that sense of normalcy from you. Are you set up to do this? Headsets, proper lighting, professional attire, and limited background noise all help keep video meetings productive.

Make sure your employees are set up for success too – do they have what they need to be effective and efficient from their home office with tools like desktop monitors, noise-canceling microphones, and speakers? This is not just an investment for now, these are all items that can be used when everyone is finally back in the office and able to travel again. We’ve set up this online shop with shortcuts to the best work from home tools.

Humanizing the virtual world

Of course, we’re all living and working under new circumstances, and it’s okay for employees to get a glimpse of your “life behind the curtain.” It makes you more human and relatable. So if the dog barks, there’s a burst of laughter from another room, or your video suddenly crashes, make light of it and move on. In fact, sharing work-from-home “bloopers” can become a great ice breaker when kicking off your meeting.

With visible leaders communicating face-to-face every step of the way, organizations can get through this time, and carry these best practices forward. Together we can. And together we will.  

 

How to Manage Your Remote Teams

For organizations of all types — schools, businesses, government agencies — and millions around the world, the COVID-19 outbreak has seriously disrupted the way we work. Even if your company or institution had already embraced video collaboration among team members, you may not have used it to the extent you have to now. 

AVI-SPL wants to help by giving you the guidance you need to stay connected with each other and be as productive as you can during this difficult time.

That’s why we’ve launched our Together We Can initiative, in which we share tips, advice, and resources for reinforcing our connections, building new communities, and maintaining business continuity. This blog is the hub for much of that content, and the most recent resources are at the top of this list:

I strongly encourage you to bookmark the Together We Can page so that you will always have the latest tools, tips, and outside-the-box ideas for keeping your teams engaged and productive.

How to Manage Remote Teams

With so many of us still working from home full time for at least the next few weeks, we talked to Daniel Rogers, AVI-SPL VP of global channels, for his advice on how he manages remote employees. Here’s what he has to offer to help with your challenges at this time:Daniel Rogers, VP of global channels, AVI-SPL

The ability to collaborate in real time when working remotely allows for a feeling of being connected with your coworkers, partners, and customers. This is vitally important. Remote workers need to feel connected to their company and their coworkers, and tools for instant messaging and video (e.g., Microsoft Teams) are key in helping achieve this.

I personally manage a global team based on three different continents, and the use of video and collaboration services makes me feel aligned and connected with all my team members, as well as with our customers and partners. The ability to share and present content in real time makes for valuable and more meaningful internal and external meetings.

In our team, we operate a mutual open-door policy, where the green light denotes you are available to answer a question or share a thought — as you would when you walk to someone’s desk to speak with them if you were working in the office. I also encourage everyone on the team, no matter their geographic location, to connect with each other as well as myself in order for them to feel that connection and still have those virtual water-cooler conversations.

In some cases I could speak to a member of the team every day if the situation or opportunity needs that level of focus: e.g. when working on a major project or RFP. This is not a micro-management process; it is simply utilization of the tools to collaborate and work in real time as you would if you were in a physical office environment.

We have a scheduled weekly team call on video, where all members from around the world join and share their weekly updates on projects, opportunities, etc. It’s also where I share an update from the company/management level. I am confident the team gets a great deal out of these sessions as this is an opportunity to share updates that are relevant to all members.

We also have monthly 1:1 sessions and quarterly business review sessions, all of which are scheduled and planned for the full year ahead.

It is different managing people who work remotely as it takes a certain discipline to work away from an office environment. Everyone must treat it with the same level of discipline and professionalism you would exhibit if you were in the office, where you practice good time management and present a professional appearance and working environment. Maintain the same levels of professional conduct as you would in any meeting. Once you have established routines, standards, and trust, then managing people becomes straightforward. Great productivity and results can be achieved.

Get expert advice on managing your remote teams

AVI-SPL is here to help you find the collaboration tools that will keep your team connected and productive. These efforts are paramount during the coronavirus, but they will be just as important as we get back to our workplaces and incorporate a liberating way of working into our daily routines. As businesses, schools, and government agencies get back into the swing of running at full capacity, you want your organization to have the resources that make that process as efficient and effective as possible.

Our mission is to provide the tools, experience, and support you need to connect teams between the offices and remote locations. Because when your talented individuals work together, you can reach your business outcomes. If you need assistance launching or upgrading your digital workplace collaboration tools, contact us now or find your local AVI-SPL office.

Online Learning Best Practices for Students

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can online learning series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

While teachers are scrambling to get remote classes up and running in the wake of coronavirus, your students are facing work-at-home challenges too. Once your staff is prepared to teach classes online, you can help your students be ready for online learning as well.

Pass on these best practices to teachers to share with their students. Use our social buttons at the end of the article to easily share these distance learning best practices for students via social or email.

Find a quiet place for online classes

Try to find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Ensure you have good lighting and wear headphones to help you focus on the online session.

Share your virtual class schedule

Speaking of quiet areas, work out a schedule with your family or roommates for class time. Young children may be home from school, and many parents are working remotely from the house too. Limit distractions as much as possible by planning your class time with everyone at home.

You may be sharing internet bandwidth as well. Let your housemates know when you need to attend class online. Ask others to limit streaming apps and large downloads while you’re attending class. It’s a tough ask while we’re all working and studying from home — we know!

Test your system

When you’re invited to an online session, the email usually includes a link to test your computer, tablet, or phone to ensure the video conferencing solution will work. Don’t forget to check your device the day before class, so you’ll have time to address any technical issues. It’s helpful to ensure you can log on to sessions using a mobile data connection, in case your Internet service is slow or interrupted.

Also, most video conferencing systems have chat and Q&A options. Ask your class leader ahead of time which option to use to submit questions and comments. Look for more information from your school or watch instructional videos like this one from Zoom.

Also, if you use any online accessibility tools for visual or hearing impairments, test that those work with your online class platform too. Ask your teacher to set up a test session if needed.

Complete assignments and download materials before class

Get familiar with the material and complete any assigned reading so you can follow along during the lesson and ask questions. Let your teacher know if you had any issues accessing materials.

Mute your cell phone during class

Turn off your ringer and vibrate function to avoid the temptation to pick up your mobile phone. Remember to pause all text and app notifications to limit distractions. Better yet, turn your phone off unless you’re using it to attend class.

Mute the mic on your device

Mute your device microphone when not speaking during a video conferencing class. Muting the mic will limit the noise others will hear. Make sure you know how to mute your microphone before class begins.

Remember it’s a real class

Keep in mind this is a real class, and you will be graded. Pay attention to the lectures, and do your assignments. Finally, deadlines are still deadlines. Complete your work on time and respect your fellow students’ and educators’ time during online classes.

Check out these additional Top Tips For Student Success in Online Courses shared by Nova Southeastern University.

The AVI-SPL team is ready to help you

We hope your students put these online learning best practices to effective use. The AVI-SPL team is here to help if you need assistance setting up your distance learning technology. Contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office.