Meeting face-to-face may not be an option right now, but hope is not lost in the ways of maintaining social connection. Virtual gatherings are quickly becoming a staple in our new, quarantined world, and we are BIG fans.
Beyond the obvious, instantaneous perks of connecting with one another (sharing a laugh, venting frustrations, learning something new), social connections also have long-term health benefits that can lead to an increased lifespan (read more about that here).
Once again, big fans.
We’ve been quarantined for 3-4 weeks now, so chances are you’ve at least heard about a virtual social gathering, if not been invited to one. Now, it’s your turn to take the lead. So what is an event coordinator’s number 1 piece of advice when it comes to hosting a gathering? To actually HOST THE GATHERING, or, without shouting, to follow through with it.
All too often events are cancelled or postponed because of a lack of preparation or a fear of awkward, uncomfortable interactions. And guests are all too accepting of the cancelation, generally for the same reasons.
There’s a way to overcome these issues and insecurities, and it’s really not that novel: plan ahead. A fully thought-out plan is much harder to cancel than a half-hearted “let’s Facetime sometime next week!” The catch, though, if you consider it a catch, is that planning ahead doesn’t just mean selecting a date, time, and “location.” In order to plan ahead successfully, you also need to:
- Ensure you and your guests aren’t overbooked during the day/time of the event (this gathering should not be an inconvenience or an interruption).
- Select a theme or activity to get your guests excited (e.g. Tea Time – Let’s spill it while we drink it!).
- Express your enthusiasm to individual guests throughout the planning process. Guests are less likely to back out if they feel like their presence, or lack thereof, will be noticed. This isn’t meant to guilt your guests into attending, but rather to let them know you’re looking forward to connecting with them. You will both be rewarded for showing up!
- Familiarize yourself with the platform to fend off technological difficulties.
- Prepare some guided discussion topics to ensure the conversation flows smoothly.
- Be ready to MC the gathering – It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to two of your best friends or ten of your colleagues; BOTH require someone to guide the conversation, especially in a time of “mute yourself until you’d like to speak.” Be ready to “call on” attendees to ask them to share or respond.
- Be ready to end the conversation – Have an idea of how long you expect the conversation to last, and be prepared with an exit strategy. Is it time to make dinner or put the kids to bed? Wrap things up. Your attendees will be relieved that the conversation didn’t linger and become uncomfortable.
- Our best tip? End the gathering on a high note. Many times a host will wait too long to say goodbye and guests will begin to get uneasy. That is not the feeling you want to leave them with! If you’ve been chatting for a while and just finished discussing an engaging topic, now’s your chance – close the call and leave guests with happy memories of a lively conversation.
Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid of a few awkward moments if you and your group aren’t used to virtual gatherings. Everyone will appreciate you taking the first step, reaching out, and seeing it through – so go on and get to planning!
Brianna Alford is the Student Enrichment Coordinator for the College of Education and Human Development. When she’s not devising opportunities for CEHD students to Be Engaged, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and advocating for a proper RSVP.