Social distancing recommendations and mandates are becoming the norm as confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) grow. To comply, organizations across the globe have canceled large- and small-scale in-person events, conferences and meetings. While some are rescheduling to later dates, many are grappling with planning a virtual event for the first time.

What does it take to pull off a successful virtual event – especially in an era where technological disruptions can impact the overall tone and understanding of a company’s message?  

One common practice for larger meetings where attendee feedback is expected or encouraged is a virtual telephone town hall. First, companies define and invite the desired audience – which could include company employees, neighbors near a new project site or company customers, members or clients. This flexible alternative typically begins with a presentation – that can be easily viewed online – and wraps up with a live Q&A session, which allows speakers to select and prioritize which questions to address.

If you’re considering a telephone town hall for your next meeting, here are four tips to ensure a successful experience for all involved:

  1. Assign roles: Set clear roles and responsibilities for each team member participating, including whether they will be speaking or actively listening and when; which part of the presentation they’ll cover; and which topics each speaker will address during the Q&A. This will help eliminate any awkward pauses and talking over each other.
  2. Select the technology: When selecting the virtual town hall provider, start with a quick call to discuss your meeting goals, desired audience and technology needs. This will ensure the selected provider will meet your expectations. Linhart PR has worked with Tele Town Hall for several successful virtual meetings.
  3. Practice makes perfect: Schedule at least two practice sessions with the presenter group and set time for a dress rehearsal with the virtual meeting provider a few days before the meeting. This will help the team familiarize themselves with the platform and its various features, and hear themselves deliver their portion of the presentation. Speaking pace, inflection and volume, and appropriate pauses, are vital to the user experience. The rehearsal also allows for someone to stand in as a meeting participant and share feedback on the technology, audio quality and content.
  4. Follow-up: Develop and proactively share follow-up materials, like the final presentation with speaker notes, the speaker script or a recap of frequently asked questions from the meeting with all attendees. Also, consider sharing these documents on your company website or intranet, or with those unable to attend. All post-meeting follow-up materials should match the tone and reinforce messages shared during the meeting.

Linhart PR has experience with prepping clients for presentations and in planning and executing successful telephone town hall meetings. For support here, please contact me at kbrown@linhartpr.com. To learn more about how virtual town halls fit into broader community engagement strategy, see our case study here.