As more livestreams offer social-media-esque features, such as public chatrooms and “like” or “love” emoji reaction buttons, professional companies are wondering (and not without reason)… what place do these kinds of features have, if any, in the virtual town halls of the corporate world?

A. WHAT ARE THE CHAT AND EMOJI FUNCTIONS?

In short, these two tools bring some common social media functions to an otherwise stagnant video livestream.

LIVE CHAT
Some livestream platforms provide a chatroom where viewers can leave comments or cheer on the broadcast. (Visually, it resembles a text thread.)

The chatroom often kicks off the meeting before the stream even starts–– with many team members typing, “Good morning from sunny California!” or, “John Smith here, can’t wait to get started today!” It’s a great place for peers to banter and bond with one another, even if they can’t be watching the broadcast physically side by side.

If speakers are celebrated with awards or birthday kudos, the chat is a place for viewers to chime in with their two cents. And depending on the platform, users may also be able to upload photos to the chat as well!

EMOJI REACTIONS
Social media users are extremely familiar with reaction buttons. They’re represented by little emojis (cartoons expressing different moods, which are also employed frequently for texting). On Facebook, for example, the chosen five reaction emojis are, “Like,” “Love,” “Care,” “Haha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” and “Angry.”

On some livestream platforms (such as Facebook, to continue using that example), viewers can click on these buttons as often as they want in reaction to whatever was said on the broadcast. In many cases, their click will trigger the appearance of a little emoji bubble that will float from the bottom of the page to the top–– and not just for themselves to see, but for all the other broadcast users as well. Hosts who are monitoring the show’s engagement can see these reactions as well, and use them to gauge the audience’s mood or interests as the show goes on.

B. HOW CAN THESE TOOLS BOOST ENGAGEMENT?

Most virtual town halls can lack connection. Engagement is a key goal of many such live events, and providing colleagues the ability to engage in dialogue with one another during the broadcast has been shown to boost engagement. Seeing the chatter draws both the presenters and the attendees deeper into the meeting, and it continues to build and strengthen the relationships of your employees.

There’s something magical about when a meeting is preparing to start, and then you see your team saying “Hi!” from wherever they are watching. It brings people together and helps to close the distance, in a way.

Equally as eye-catching, emoji reactions do their job really well–– pumping emotions into the event as it rolls on. In all honesty, we weren’t originally certain that corporate professionals would show any interest in an emoji button… but boy, were we wrong! It’s incredible how excited livestream viewers get when they discover these reaction tools, and they seem to generate palpable, contagious emotions for everyone involved (ourselves included)!

C. WHY DO SOME COMPANIES FEAR THESE FEATURES?

Apprehension over these new features isn’t just about fear of change, or fear of new tech. Many companies are hesitant to give their employees this interactive capability, because of the potential for negative outcomes or feedback.

On the surface level, this makes sense. Internet chatrooms have an understandable reputation for being places where people feel emboldened to anonymously declare cruel things they would never dare to utter in person… and if you’re a presenter who keeps seeing thumbs-down or angry emojis popping up during their presentation, that’s got to feel awful!

Companies fear that chatrooms and emoji reactions could open a door for negativity and employee dissatisfaction. How can you guarantee that your team members will be kind and professional if you give them this kind of interactive freedom during your virtual town hall?

D. HOW CAN COMPANIES MITIGATE THESE CONCERNS?

1. TRUST YOUR PEOPLE AND THEIR PROFESSIONALISM.

Your teams know this is a work function. They know that they’re still in somewhat of a corporate environment. If you can trust your employees to send polite emails or text messages… if you already let them use other company chatrooms like Slack for their day-to-day work… if you would trust them not to “boo” excessively if you were having this meeting together in person… then it’s worth a try to give them a chat function during your livestream event. If they prove themselves far more toxic and unprofessional than expected, then by all means you can take away that privilege in the future.

2. THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO GET HONEST, REAL-TIME FEEDBACK.

If a company constantly wonders what its employees are thinking, but never provides them with a space to provide feedback or commentary of any kind, then they’re really shooting themselves in the foot.

Gifting your employees with a chatroom or emoji feature may be an act of trust on your side–– but believe it or not, their application of that feature is going to be an act of trust on their side as well.

If your workplace hasn’t shown itself to be welcoming or conducive to feedback, that’s an issue that goes beyond livestream chatrooms. If you want to keep improving your workplace, you need to be able to receive some (hopefully gentle) criticism without retaliating and making your team suffer from the backlash.

And as we’ve already mentioned, it’s less likely than you think that your employees will be severely rude during the broadcast… especially if they’re concerned that the platform could be tracking their identity and comments. It’s more likely that, if you offer the chatroom option to collect feedback, then your audience will take the time to frame their suggestions in a professional manner.

If you want to keep improving your business practices (and future virtual town hall events) then you will need feedback to help nail down some measurable next steps.

3. DON’T WORRY: AS THE HOST, YOU CAN MONITOR AND CONTROL ALL OF THESE TOOLS!

Could a chatroom or a swarm of emojis be an anonymous smokescreen for disgruntled or immature staff? Overall it’s unlikely, but we admit it’s not impossible. Fortunately, your events team can mitigate this by assigning a moderator who can monitor and oversee the chatroom.

Some livestream platforms allow admin users to mute or even remove problematic attendees if their conduct continues to remain unprofessional. And in many cases, the broadcast hosts can also pick and choose to limit which emoji reactions are available, and which ones are not (such as keeping all the positive buttons, and omitting any negative ones).

From there, you can always check out the post-show analytics (see the section on ROI below) to figure out who any troublemakers were, and take disciplinary action on your own.

Employing a moderator is honestly a pretty good practice to employ anyway–– there are always one or two people with technical difficulties, because they forgot to unmute their computer or their wifi connection is fuzzy. A moderator can help address their concerns and answer their questions while the rest of the viewers enjoy the show.

E. HOW CAN THESE TOOLS ACTUALLY HELP TO PROVE OUT AND MEASURE ROI?

As the digital age continues to expand, more and more organizations are thinking forward and seeking to make “data-driven” decisions. Depending on the livestream platform that you choose to employ, your virtual town hall can provide you with exactly that: actionable data.

In addition to Q&A features that collect any questions submitted by your employees, a chatroom’s records can provide deeper insights into common focus items. Emoji reactions, if they also were tracked and mapped out, can help you gauge which parts of your presentations were successful, and where more clarity might be needed.

Analytics have helped many companies uncover insightful “hidden gems” during their live events–– such as the massive rise in engagement that comes from playing compelling story-based videos during the broadcast, or the hot topics that they didn’t originally realize their employees were dying to discuss.

All of these revelations are helping corporations to rethink how they communicate with their employees… and none of it might have come to life if they hadn’t taken a chance with these expanded livestream platform features.

F. GOT MORE QUESTIONS?

Here Are Some of the Top Questions We Get Asked About Virtual Events:

If you’d rather not wait for us to release our next blog article answering each of these questions in turn, feel free to reach out to us at optimumproductions.com/contact-us and we can help you plan the virtual event that’s right for your company!

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