Yes, even virtual participants in association meetings have expectations. Today I participated in an association's virtual Town Hall Forum. Much better than flying to DC for those 3 hours.
A few thoughts:
1. Big thank you for virtual option. Thank you to every organization that provides a virtual attendance option. There just aren't enough hours in a day or in life to participate in so many meetings. I absolutely loved having a virtual option, because it's a meeting I absolutely would have needed to attend in person otherwise. The meeting info was important, as was hearing the debate.
2. Big thank you for the learning opportunity. Every time I participate as a virtual attendee it helps me to know what to do when my own association may offer a virtual participation option.
A few lessons:
1. Notify virtual attendees when technical problem - and be sure the people at your phone number know the status. The email said the link would be activated at 9. It didn't work. Expected an email acknowledging the problem - never came. Tried to email - no immediate response. Tried to call - the receptionist said many calls but no idea what was wrong, and there was no one to transfer the call to. If you're the organizer of anything with a virtual attendance option, have a plan for how you're going to notify your large virtual audience if something goes wrong with the technology (e.g., email addresses of those who signed up, text, Twitter, etc.) At a minimum, be sure whoever answers the phone at your organization knows the status if something is going wrong with the technology.
2. Use a Twitter hashtag and announce it. If you're going to first base with virtual programs anyway, may as well try for a home run. Expect that your virtual audience has experience even if you don't.
3. If you're voting in person, have an option for virtual audience vote too. There were many substantive decisions made but the only ones voting were the ones in the room. Even if you need to separately tabulate and report the live votes from the virtual votes, would be important to have some sort of voting option for virtual attendees. I wanted to participate, not just attend.
4. Have someone in charge of the what's displayed on the screen - and update. About an hour into the forum, the moderator wisely noted that it might be better to have the updates included on the screen - for both those in the room and the virtual attendees - rather than just his "face in high-def." He wisely even took a 5-minute break so the status of decisions could be put on the screen. Someone should know how to do that in real-time so a break isn't needed. But at least it happened.
5. Consider the hold music. During the break there were lyrics/music about "turn me on." And it wasn't about technology. I ended up muting the hold music, which meant I couldn't easily tell when the program resumed. Does there have to be music? Virtual attendees are probably multi-tasking back at our desks and don't need new noise.
6. When you turn on the microphones, tell the panelists. There's always someone who doesn't realize that their microphone is active again - and hundreds of us are listening to personal conversations. Whoever is handling the virtual portion needs to have some kind of agreement with the panelists about the microphone situation.
7. Explain what's going to happen with all the questions submitted, but not answered. Virtual attendees were encouraged to ask questions but clearly not all can be covered during a program that has specific time schedules. Someone should explain what, if anything, would happen with questions asked by virtual attendees that didn't make the cut for the program itself. Would the answers be posted? Will they get a personal email? If it's nothing, then I guess that's the answer - and say that. But hopefully the answer isn't there's no response.
8. If possible, give us more of an idea of what we're missing. This may be under the category of attendee expecting too much, but I would have liked more visuals about what I was missing by not going there. If it's not possible to scan the room to show how many are there, maybe taking pictures before the webinar and having those scroll before the webinar starts and during the break (e.g., from dinner the night before, Capitol Steps, Newt at breakfast, networking pictures, etc.) to show what else was missed.
Again, I'm really grateful virtual participation options are being more widely used and improved!