My curly-haired, spunky granddaughter, Ava turned 7 this week. I expected to have fun celebrating her with our family and her friends. What I didn’t anticipate is how much she and her mom, Lindsey would teach me about how to run an outstanding virtual meeting! Let me explain how the party unfolded and the practical lessons we all can take to our virtual events.
Mom Lindsey told us to wear our costumes and that the theme would be “Zombies.” For any of you who have somehow missed this film, it is a very popular musical about a zombie (Zed) and a cheerleader (Addison) who work to embrace their differences.
We logged on to Zoom, and one by one the costumed 6 and 7-year-olds joined in from their bedrooms, kitchens, and back porches.
They all seemed very familiar with how to work Zoom. After all, this is their schoolhouse these days.
Five Success Factors
So what did this mother-daughter team do to ensure this was THE party of the year in their neighborhood?! They took 5 intentional steps: 1) Prepare, 2) Demonstrate, 3) Meet people where they are, 4) Recognize everyone, and 5) Connect
Lindsey and Ava sketched out the game plan ahead of time. They choose a balance of activities and even prepared icebreaker questions to ask guests as they arrived.
“Hi, tell us your name and how you know Ava? The guests came from different schools and neighborhoods, so this immediately made everyone feel welcome.
Lindsey and Ava found a recipe for Zombie brain brownies (no cooking required) and the pair dropped off the ingredients at everyone’s homes the day before. This created anticipation and it ensured that everyone had what they needed and were ready to hit the ground running.
How often do you send materials and questions for team members to consider before your virtual meeting? Do you prepare an agenda? Do you consider the flow of the session and assign people to take certain roles?
The mother-daughter duo demonstrated how to make the Zombie Brownie (complete with icing for brains) and a special apple treat and everyone then ate and chatted. We all sang Happy Birthday to Ava of course.
How can you SHOW rather than TELL an idea to your team? Can you use the virtual whiteboard? How about asking participants to sketch out their idea, process, or model and screen share it with the team?
3. Meet people where they are:
The next activity was a YouTube Video of an artist teaching us how to sketch Addison, the cheerleader. Ava stopped the video at points to see if any of her friends needed extra time to catch up as the artist gave instructions. One or two children did need more time and Ava calmly assured them that the video link would be sent to them afterward so they would be able to watch and practice after the party.
The drawing activity was a lovely quiet respite for everyone as we sketched in silence. And at the end of this part of the program, we all proudly held up our drawings and were complimented by everyone. Drawings from Bill and I are above:)
What are you doing in your virtual meeting to honor quiet time? How are you keeping pace with where people are and making adjustments where necessary?
4. Recognize everyone:
Everyone was noticed and included. Lindsey gently reached out to quieter participants, commenting on their costumes and their drawings. Ava suggested to one girl whose audio didn’t work that she should put her comments in the chat. When she asked another who her favorite character was the girl replied that she hadn’t seen the movie. Ava quickly pivoted, pointed to a list of names, and asked the girl what her favorite name was from the list. She found a way to include her friend by changing the question she asked. The girl quickly responded.
Do you observe the group to see who hasn’t participated? Are you reaching out to them with open-ended questions and recognition? Are you taking chances to break your groups up into smaller ones so that people are more open to sharing and contributing?
Towards the end of the party, Ava invited her friends to stay around afterward so they could visit. Those who were able to happily chatted and it was a great chance to bond and hang with no agenda.
Do you build in this informal time before or after the actual virtual meeting? Do you offer relaxed non-structured opportunities for people to connect?
Ava’s 7-year old party didn’t resemble a “typical” one. There weren’t presents, a cake we all enjoyed or even in-person singing. But challenging times breed creative solutions.
The real takeaways from this incredibly fun and meaningful birthday party were based on proven meeting practices. They work regardless of the age of the party guests.
I wonder if Ava is free next Tuesday to run my next virtual meeting!?