I’ve done a million in-person meetings. I have no clue about this virtual meeting!

EmployBridge knew they needed a change.

It was fairly easy to determine that the majority of their associates were suffering from Zoom fatigue… and if they needed proof, they didn’t have to go far. The attendance numbers for their digital meetings were dropping every quarter, from an average of 1,000 down to 600.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier to declare a change is needed, than it is to identify what that change should be.

“When I came to [Optimum], I had no real solution with how I needed to get this out,” shared Quiana Pinckney, about helming that journey as the Vice President of Strategic Communications for EmployBridge. “[They] created the solution.”

That solution was a virtual town hall upgrade: designed with their engagement goals in mind.

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1. Keep It Short, or Keep It Varied

With such a large audience to address, and such a wide variety of topics to cover, it would have been tempting to make the first EmployBridge virtual town hall upgrade little more than a transfer of several PowerPoint presentations over to a livestream platform and call it a day. But the company wasn’t just looking for a platform change; they were looking for an engagement boost, and that meant looking for ways to make the meeting content itself more palatable.

Fortunately, Optimum Productions had plenty of ideas on how to do just that. “You don’t have to think about all of these different tools, if you’re not technical, to have a meeting that’s engaging,” Quiana recalls with relief.

Not only were there multiple speakers from multiple departments sharing news with all of the company employees at this meeting–– but there were also pre-recorded videos. Optimum recommended using a variety of mediums to break up the monotony of talking head engagements and provide viewers with some “eye-candy,” as well as tug on their heartstrings (the opening video itself featured touching coverage of struggling workers finally finding new jobs after being laid off due to the pandemic).

“The feedback that I heard was that this meeting was well put-on; better than any other meeting that they had been a part of in person,” Quiana recounted. “And I think that that, to me, that’s huge. That was at the forefront of my mind.”

The livestream was practically an all-day affair, and it was by far a smashing success compared to the company’s previous Zoom and Teams town hall meetings. Still, the company did note that the long hours of screen time still wore on their viewership. The added videos definitely helped, but over time the standard EmployBridge town hall meetings have reduced their average runtime to be just around one hour long. Polls, as well as attendee activity, have shown that viewer engagement tends to decline after that milestone for most average digital events.

2. Good Communication Needs to Be a Two-Way Street

One of the distinctly in-person experiences missing from most virtual events is the ability of the listeners to interact with the presenters. There’s a tangible, incalculable energy given off by the laughter or gasps of a live audience, which bolsters every speaker’s confidence and provides a wave of fresh energy and enjoyment. It also helps the organizers of the event to properly gauge whether or not all their planning for the event was worth the cost (and pressure).

For Quiana, replicating that experience was key: “Every component of an in-person meeting, we had virtually,” she pointed out. “And I think it made people feel more involved.”

In standard Zoom or Teams meetings (where any ‘crowded’ attempts to respond to a speaker can result in excessive noise pollution and more stressful confusion than operable feedback). No wonder they don’t feel up to par with in-person conferences!

However, a virtual town hall upgrade can provide features designed for improved audience interaction. Viewers can respond to prompts in digital chatrooms, taking polls, participating in contests, or reacting to discussions using emojis similar to those found on social media platforms. And best of all, areas like a Q&A feature where they can submit inquiries and hear them addressed in real time will make them feel valued and heard–– just as much as if they were asking those same questions of a speaker in a physical conference room.

3. It’s Cheaper and More Measurable Than In-Person

Those engagement tools on the platform have an additional benefit, too: their data can be downloaded afterwards as a measurable method to evaluate strengths and weaknesses to any virtual town hall upgrade.

“The best thing is the analytics afterwards,” Quiana insists. “That’s your return on investment.” At an in-person conference, a host may be able to glimpse plenty of smiles or overhear a few scattered comments about an event’s success or shortcomings… but with the downloadable report, those numbers are verifiable and much easier to act upon.

And not only that, but the overall cost of the virtual town hall was still a step back from the cost of hosting an in-person event for the entire company. “If you want to put dollar signs on it, it was less expensive than us… flying everybody into one location, A.D, all of the production,” Quiana pointed out.

“Even when we’re back in the office 100%, our company is across the USA… We’re never going to get all of our 5,000 associates in one building,” she insisted. “Especially at the cadence that we’re trying to do it: quarterly.”

And not only are all of these measurable proofs available to marketing team leaders like Quiana… they’re also available to the entire c-suite. As 2022 approached, the new EmployBridge CEO actually made a point to ask Quiana if she’d made sure to put more virtual town halls in the new year’s marketing budget. She assured him that the line item was already booked. “So for us,” she chuckled at the recollection, “There’s no turning back.”

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