Tips + Resources for Virtual Gatherings During This Global Pandemic by Elizabeth DiLuzio + Laura Zatlin

Hello and Happy Saturday! This is Elizabeth DiLuzio (AEA365 Curator + Editor and Manager of Evaluation + Strategy at Good Shepherd Services) and Laura Zatlin (Manager of Community-Based Programs at Good Shepherd Services). As Part II of our COVID-19 resource exchange, we want to share a list of tips and resources for virtually gathering people together. As evaluators, we do this in a variety of ways – meetings, workshops, classes – and, with some adaptation, the list below can be catered to all purposes. After we share our list, we will ask you to share your own tips and resources. Let’s dig in.

Before

Create Your Team’s Virtual Meeting Norms. There’s an etiquette to online meetings, and anyone who’s attended a few develops their personal pet peeves. As the host of your virtual gathering, be proactive by turning those pet peeves into group norms. If your meetings are recurring, you might consider creating this list of norms together so that everyone’s virtual meeting needs are cared for. Try to keep your norms to 6 or less.

Rad Resource: You can see an example of some team norms here

Create an Agenda and Share It Prior to the Gathering. If it’s a recurring meeting or workshop, consider asking the group what questions or topics they’d like to address. This will ensure everyone’s goals are met, helping everyone to feel productive and informed.

During

Ask for Volunteers to take on different roles that will help to move things along. Examples of roles include note taker, tech wizard, timekeeper, and Yoda / Guardian.

Do a Quick Check-In / Ice Breaker / Team Builder to start off the meeting. 

Rad Resources:

Consider Creating a Space for Announcements and Celebrations as would be done at an in-person meeting. This intentional space allows for a more human connection. 

Consider Methods of Virtual Engagement. Just about anything you would do in person can be done virtually. Here are some popular platforms: 

  • For agendas, notes, and collaborative documents: Google Drive or Microsoft Office’s OneDrive allow everyone in the meeting to look and collaborate on word documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, and more at the same time.
  • For post-it activities: Free platforms such as Pinup allow you to create and rearrange post-it notes in a virtual group setting 
  • For voting: Poll Everywhere allows you to create polls for people to vote on, questions for people to respond to, and group word clouds, all using a website or text messaging service. 
  • For small group discussions: Zoom has this capability, which you can learn more about here
  • For data walks: Use Zoom’s breakout rooms and your shared document platform to create stations for a virtual gallery walk. This will mimic a traditional walk and allow for discussion among small groups.
  • For brainstorming: Use Zoom’s white board and give all participants the ability to annotate. You will be able to save everything that is annotated. This will mimic the use of “doodle” paper in an in-person meeting.
  • For quick messages during and after the gathering: Slack is a free tool that uses an instant message style platform to communicate and share resources with groups and individuals. It’s free and easy to use.

After 

Do a “Temperature Check” with Those in Attendance, especially if it was a workshop or a recurring meeting. Make yourself open to feedback, both for what worked and areas for improvement.

Send a Follow-up Email with a thank you note to everyone who attended; include the relevant materials from the gathering such as the link to the recording, notes, outputs, etc.
In this new age of social distancing, we’re all becoming pros at online gatherings. So we ask you: what other tips and resources do you find helpful? Share with us in the comments below or in our brand new Evaluators’ Slack Channel, where you can comment, share links, and even upload resources. It’s easy to join and free to use. We’ll see you there!


Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “Tips + Resources for Virtual Gatherings During This Global Pandemic by Elizabeth DiLuzio + Laura Zatlin”

  1. Can you speak more to the data walks using break out rooms? Any other resources on date engagement in virtual settings?

    1. Elizabeth DiLuzio

      Hi Kylie! Good question. The Yoda or Guardian protects the mood of the group. They might call for a break if energy is running low, call out the “elephant in the room”, or suggest the group table a discussion when it feels as if they need to press pause. They call the person Yoda because they are the sage to be conferred with if the group needs advice, or the Guardian because they protect the integrity of the meeting and each participant in it. Hope that makes sense.

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