Our classes have moved online and our in-person gatherings are now limited. A virtual semester is upon us.

But social distancing doesn’t mean we have to go it alone. We just need to rethink the way we go about building community.

As you consider ways to foster camaraderie, instill a spirit of service, or nurture faith growth among fellow students or colleagues, we suggest you consider these best practices when utilizing one of the universities most versatile virtual tools, Zoom.

Consider your audience.

Before you begin making event plans, stop and honestly assess whether you have a target audience in mind – and whether, in fact, your intended audience will take interest. A good way to gauge audience interest before you promote your event is to identify event ambassadors who can give you honest feedback on your plans and, eventually, help you crowdbuild.

Once details are set, visit the Add An Event page and review some of the options available to you for promoting the event through CUW communication channels.

Determine your best modality.

Currently, all CUW employees have access to Zoom accounts that allow for a Zoom Meeting format. IT’s requests are pending, but expected to be approved, for Zoom Webinar permissions.

  • Zoom Meetings have no time limit and can welcome up to 300 guests. This format is great for hosting interactive sessions where you’ll want to have lots of audience participation or break your session into smaller groups. Zoom’s Breakout Rooms feature allows you to easily assign participants to virtual side sessions and bring them back to the main meeting.
  • Zoom Webinars, meanwhile, can accommodate more guests (up to 1,000) but audience participation/interaction is limited. Think of webinars like an auditorium lecture.

Record your Zoom event.

Consider giving your event legs beyond the live period. The host of the event can push “record” at the start of the meeting (be sure to alert participants that the event is being recorded) and “finish recording” at the conclusion. Once the session is done, the host can choose to upload the recording to the Cloud. Email the link to news@cuw.edu with a link to your event page (the one you receive when you upload your event here: cuw.edu/addevent).

Show up early.

This should go without saying: don’t show up late to your own event. But with a Zoom event it’s especially important to arrive early because you have the added responsibility of orienting your guests to the tool. Make sure you’re confident enough with the platform to show them the ropes. Greet them by name. Encourage them to mute their device. Demonstrate the chat feature. Establish ground rules for your time together. Don’t assume people know the norms for this social space.

Set the tone.

For in-person events, you have a number of tools at your disposal to help establish the mood of your event – décor, hors d’oeuvres, mingling, nonverbal cues. On Zoom, you need to employ some different strategies. Consider having music on as people enter. Kick off the event with an ice breaker to warm people up and invite them to talk right out of the gate. Pick a thematic backdrop. Bottom line, get creative!

Encourage participation.

Zoom offers several features to allow audience members’ unobtrusive participation, such as polling, the chat feature, and reactions. Polls can be set up before the event to allow universal (and anonymous) feedback from those in attendance. By clicking the “Manage participants” tab on the bottom of your screen once a meeting has begun, you allow attendees to raise their hand, give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and so on. Or, the “Reactions” tab allows participants to give a quick thumbs up or clapping sign to show quick agreement.

Give it a test-run.

It’s OK to own technology glitches. They happen to the best of us. But do all that you can to practice your run of show so that you can do your best to troubleshoot on the spot. Nothing kills a party like waiting around while your host figures out how to turn their volume on.

Take steps to ensure basic functions are in your control, such as hardwiring your internet connection, testing the audio before your webinar begins, and hosting the event in a noise-free location.

Share your successes with us!

Keep in touch with the Strategic Communications team! Share a story idea with us or invite us to your event and you might get featured on CUW social, the CUW blog, or even the news! Drop us a line at news@cuw.edu.

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