With the current COVID-19 pandemic, many are working from home and annual conferences and monthly and quarterly meetings have been postponed or cancelled. For associations, these meetings and conferences are a major part of what they offer members. This has prompted many to embrace their creativity and take these opportunities online as virtual experiences for their members. One of the challenges, however, is how to arrange a virtual meeting that offers your members the same value as they would get from an in-person event or conference. There are many ways your association can utilize virtual events to deliver value to your members. Below are some ideas for utilizing the Zoom virtual meeting platform for use for everything from group meetings, to continued education presentations, and even annual conferences.
Zoom has grown in popularity and usage due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. This is because it is a platform that allows people to conduct virtual meetings and allows businesses and associations to continue operating. Zoom allows for up to 100 people to be present in a single meeting and with a paid subscription, unlimited meeting length (free version allows up to 40-minute meetings.) Audio and video capabilities, screen share, text chat function, and break-off rooms allow for many different uses of the platform. With a shift to virtual meetings on Zoom, there are some things to be aware of; and we will discuss those as well.
The most popular use of Zoom for associations, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is Zoom group meetings. Zoom allows you to host meetings and invite people to them. These meetings allow for audio and video sharing as well as screen sharing. This is a great way to keep your members informed of policy or membership news or host an informative guest speaker or panel. It is also very useful to hold important meetings with your board members to keep things running as smoothly as possible. Being able to set a password and invite specific people to meetings allows for privacy. You can set a schedule and send out reminders via email of upcoming meetings to ensure meetings are timely and successful.
Webinars and Continued Education
Zoom is also very useful for webinars and continued education opportunities. If your association usually offers courses, classes, or other learning opportunities, these can be done virtually so your members can still take full advantage. Set up much like a Zoom group meeting, you can have a presenter use share screen to show a presentation or have a lecture. The option to allow one person to be on video if desired and mute all attendees, helps prevent distractions and allows a more effective learning experience. Zoom also has the capability to stream live to YouTube and Facebook, so you can reach even more people if you would like to. This way any certifications or credits can still be achieved by your members without any roadblocks to accessibility. Zoom also allows for recording of sessions, so that it may be available later on to members at times convenient to them.
For some associations, a big part of what they offer are networking opportunities. Whether through annual conferences or monthly meetings, networking is a big part of what many associations do. With Zoom, you can allow members to come together; and using the breakaway feature, they can break off into smaller one-on-one meetings and then return to the main group later. Members can also utilize the private chat options to send text chat to other members and exchange information that way. If you have multiple committees within your association, you can set up separate meetings, so people can network with those most beneficial to them.
Zoom Etiquette and Other Tips
When it comes to Zoom meetings, it is very important to conduct yourself like you would during face-to face meetings. There are a few things to consider that will allow you to conduct yourself in a professional manner, and have a successful experience with virtual meetings and networking.
Be aware that your camera and audio are connected until you fully exit the Zoom application. Avoid doing or saying anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see or hear while the Zoom application is running, even if you are not actively in a meeting or think you are muted. Also, dress appropriately, if you would normally dress business or business casual, dress that way on Zoom meetings as well. You may be joining in from home, but you should still carry yourself professionally.
Use discretion when using Zoom backgrounds. These are backgrounds you can download to have displayed behind you during a meeting. Don’t use a flashy or inappropriate background that will cause distraction in a meeting. If you choose to use a background, pick a professional image such as an office backdrop. Also, test out the background before using it in a meeting in case there are any incompatibilities or technical issues.
As we continue to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important members know you are there for them. You must reach out as much as you can. Offering virtual opportunities is a great way to show value and keep your members informed of association activities. With the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, associations must get creative to keep things running and work hard to show value. Zoom group meetings, webinars, and networking events are great ways to offer members quality opportunities while we get through these difficult times.