April 7, 2020

How to Host a Virtual Meetup

There’s no getting around it, the world has firmly and swiftly moved online.

Things we never thought would change have been transformed right before our eyes. It is a testament to the human spirit just how quickly and effectively we’ve been able to not only adapt, but thrive online.

One of the biggest challenges we’re collectively facing is how to stay socially connected in a time where social distancing is the norm. Staying connected is not only vital to our livelihoods, but also our mental health.

So how does a meetup translate online?

Thankfully, at Vibely we’ve been running virtual meetups alongside IRL meetups for a while now. They can be immensely rewarding when done well. However, there are definitely some dos and don’ts that make running or attending a virtual meetup more successful.

Read on to find out how to host a virtual meetup.

Pick Your Software

It’s important to pick a good communication or conferencing program that’s easy for your guests to understand and access. Some might be joining a virtual meetup for the first time, and the easier you make it, the better. Google Hangouts and Zoom are the two that we would recommend. Neither require downloading any software to use.

Google Hangouts

  • Free
  • Google account required
  • Unlimited time limit
  • 250 attendee limit, but only 25 with video

Zoom

  • Free, but limited to 40 minutes
  • Pro version gets unlimited time
  • 100 attendee limit and you can see up to 49 with video
  • More functionality for things like recording, transcripts and collaboration tools

Vibely members get FREE access to a paid Zoom subscription, which means there’s no limit on the time-length of the virtual meetup and you have more control. Message us to enquire about using Vibely’s free Zoom pro plan.

Plan the Meetup

Just like an in-person meetup, it’s important to properly plan the virtual meetup to avoid any confusion or awkwardness. Make sure the date and time are locked in and communicated clearly, accounting for any tricky time zones!

Create your virtual meetup event in Vibely to make it easy for everyone to RSVP and share with friends. Vibely also lets you communicate with attendees beforehand to build excitement!

Share what you will be doing during the meetup, knowing what to expect causes more turnout. This helps beat the awkward feeling and allows people to visualize an exciting experience.

A great way to start the conversation flow is to have a schedule of activities and/or topics. This is where things like games and discussion questions come in handy. It’s a good idea to start with introductions and an icebreaker to get people loosened up. Check out this fantastic list of icebreaker questions.

Then move into the main topic of the meetup making sure everyone gets a chance to participate. Consider issuing a fun challenge to your attendees- think a plank challenge, a drawing challenge- the options are endless. Check out our list of top challenges for virtual meetups.

Make it enjoyable for everyone

This may be the first time some join a virtual meetup, and as the host it’s your job to facilitate a seamless experience.

We recommend joining the meetup yourself at least 5 minutes before starting time to be on hand to welcome attendees. Once they start trickling in, welcome each person by name as they arrive.

Just like an in-person event, some people are probably shy or nervous about meeting people and making them feel comfortable is important. It might take a little while for everyone to join, so plan for the first 5-10 minutes to be spent waiting on late joiners.

Suggest that everyone turn their video on if they are comfortable, it makes for a more personable experience all around. Depending on how many people have joined, it might be a good idea to mute everyone’s microphone while another person is talking to avoid uncomfortable microphone feedback. There’s nothing worse than an annoying noise that no one knows where it is coming from!

As the host, try to facilitate the conversation flow. If everyone starts talking over each other, try to nominate one person to start- “Let’s hear from Mike”. Same as when no one is talking, ask someone a question by name- “What do you think, Jamie?” to avoid crickets.

You might find that the answers to some of these questions helps you to plan the themes and ideas for your next virtual meetup.

Gather feedback and prepare for next meetup

Remember that the meetup might not come to a natural end, so you might need to thank your guests for joining and wrap up with a few informal questions.

Think about asking guests how they found the virtual meetup. Were they happy with the time and the length of the meeting? What would they add to make it even better next time? Would anyone like to volunteer fun games or discussion topics for the next one?

We recommend having recurring meetups at the same time and date so that it’s locked in people’s minds. If you have multiple meetups, perhaps have themed days that get people excited. For example, workout days, game nights or crafting sessions. The options are only as limited as the time you have available.

Remember to keep the momentum going and communicate with your community between meetups. Create a daily cadence of activity so that everyone feels connected and part of the community. You can even create announcements in Vibely to prompt sharing between your community members.

Remember to take a fun photo- have everyone smile and take a screenshot. This is for you to share in the future and let everyone know how fun your meetup was. Definitely agree collectively whether or not this picture can be posted.

Congrats on your first virtual meetup!

Don’t worry if your first virtual meetup feels a bit strange, this is new for everyone and it will grow and get even better over time. As your meetups become more natural, you can start to experiment with activities and formats. Use your creativity and have fun!

At Vibely, we love helping facilitate successful meetups. Whether online or off, everyone deserves to feel like a part of a community. They want to feel heard and understood, and to feel that social connection that drives us forward. We know that a lot of people are struggling right now, and we believe that by having a strong community- we can get through anything.



Join Vibely today to find a community of new friends and get your quarantine challenge on!

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