We learned a lot in 2020 about virtual meetings. Our Zoom game became strong as we acclimated to a new technology that replaced in-person meetings for most organizations.

In-person meetings and events returned, creating a modified sense of normalcy for a while before the Delta variant of COVID-19 spread throughout Idaho and the country. Consequently, we’re starting to see events being postponed or modified for public health and safety reasons, and organizations could limit in-person events or outside visitors.

Kaylee Wells is the programs coordinator for the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health and our Zoom expert.

That’s why it’s important if you are planning an in-person convening to ALWAYS have a backup plan to go virtual.

The decision to host a meeting in-person or virtual shouldn’t be taken lightly. Above all, it is important to follow the most recent public health guidelines. Additionally, it’s helpful to ask what attendees are comfortable with, or what their company policies are before deciding. Respect their choices, even if they may not align with your preference.

We’ve found that hybrid meetings – a mix of in-person and virtual attendees – are challenging. We highly suggest going all virtual if there are a few folks who can’t meet in person. If you do have to do a hybrid meeting, make sure to engage with the online attendees by asking for their input as it sometimes those who aren’t in the room are hesitant to speak up.

Here are some of the best practices, tips and tricks that help engage virtual meeting attendees:

• Announced scheduled breaks at the start of the meeting so participants know when they’ll have time to step away.

• Use engaging tools such as the chat box, polls, breakout sessions to solicit feedback and encourage collaboration and discussion. Platforms outside of Zoom, such as Mentimeter, can also enhance interactions with attendees.

• Have a meeting co-host or two. Co-hosts should monitor questions/comments in the chat, ensure everyone is muted but the speaker, run breakouts, launch polls, keep track of time and help troubleshoot technical issues.

• End your meeting at least 10 minutes early if possible. Your attendees may have another meeting immediately after yours. This allows them to grab a snack, use the restroom and get a brain break before their next obligation.

Virtual meetings aren’t ideal, but using the suggestions should help your convening be productive.