Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Every time I run a virtual event, I black out and forget all the magical things I was going to do to make it stand out. Thankfully, my brain’s autopilot mode is pretty good, and the events end up being engaging, joyful, and as close to an online party as one can hope for... usually.
I’ve known the solution for a while now. It is to PRINT OUT, on actual paper, an event facilitation checklist, and tape it somewhere on or near my monitor.
I’m on a mission to make everything more fun (like literally everything in life), so please feel free to use this checklist for your own online gatherings! I’m including a duplicate-able Notion template below.
Some other posts that I’m building on in this article are:
And I also want to highlight Bri Leever’s Five Steps to Hosting a Phenomenal Virtual Event.
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Quick note before we begin: This is written for events that are at least 60 minutes long, for which I’ve already communicated the expectation that they’ll be highly interactive. I don’t like blindsiding people and getting them to chat if they’re not ready!
Before the event: set the vibe
I’ll ask participants: "How energetic are you feeling from 1 being super dead to 10 being ready to party?” Put your number in the chat!
During the event: model agreements & behaviors
This one’s often a game-time decision based on how many people show up, how people are feeling, and what their accessibility needs are. I like to get people talking right away so they are more inclined to interact throughout the event. I notice that after doing a breakout, most people return with their cameras on, ready to share their thoughts.
I’ll do this regardless of if we’ve gone into breakouts. I’ll try to get at least 3 participants to share their response/reflection to the icebreaker activity. My favorite one recently has been "draw what matters to you" for a climate imagination event! I also like "what's one good thing that happened to you this week?" in general, regardless of the event topic. I’d like to reinforce what Peter Block says in his book Community: thank people for speaking out in the larger group, since it takes courage to share in that setting.
I talk about turning off notifications, closing other tabs, switching to a more comfortable seat, getting water, stretching, etc. Thanks Carrie for modeling this tip!
After the event: party
This is a magical little thing I learned from Tatiana, who does this in our Build a Community Business course. She stops the recording and says “welcome to the afterparty”, and that’s basically it! No agenda, just an invitation to vibe. I’ve done a couple of these, and the magic has been tangible. Two people who met for the first time on our climate imagination joined the afterparty, learned they lived in the same city, and met up IN REAL LIFE for a drink right after! It’s a trust exercise to let go of control and just let people talk, and I’ll do this for anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes after the event. One tip I’m giving myself: set the time expectation beforehand. If I say the afterparty is 30 minutes, I’m staying on for 30. The reason this is so important is there are awkward pauses without hands-on facilitation, and I’m tempted to cringe and just end the event, but the real magic often happens when I wait it out. For me, it’s fine to go longer, but never shorter. Even if everyone says they’re going to leave, I’ll wait for it to actually happen. Eeeeek!!!! It’s very nerve-wracking for an obnoxious extrovert like me, but alas.
That’s it! Remember to duplicate the checklist if you want it (it doesn’t come with all my commentary; just the steps themselves).