You get a virtual event, and you get a virtual event, and you get a virtual event!
Community Chat Weekly is a newsletter about building and growing communities, featuring collected tweets, posts and thoughts from various community managers.
💖 Do you know someone who should subscribe to Community Chat Weekly? Subscribe them to CCW here.
Yesterday we hosted our 7th Community Chat virtual hangout, a chance for members to connect face-to-face! The discussion topic of choice was 'virtual community tools,' and we talked about the dizzying array of virtual platforms and tools that have recently become popular, and how to best utilize them. We’ve summarized some of the best insights for you to learn from below, and hopefully apply to your own virtual event strategies!
What are all of the ways that communities are engaging virtually and hosting events?
Live listening to experts. There's hundreds of webinar software out there, but Zoom is always a solid bet. Many companies are also leveraging new social streaming software like Twitch, Youtube Live, or Facebook and Instagram Live for webinar-style presentations.
These are generally 10 folks or fewer where everyone has the chance to participate. Zoom seems to be the most popular tool for this use case, but others have found success with Whereby and Google Hangouts. People are also getting creative and using these tools to host virtual happy hours, cooking sessions, dinners, yoga classes, dance parties, music festivals, karaoke, and more!
This is perhaps the most fringe use case on this list, but virtual reality community isn't new. Second Life has been around for 17 years and hosting virtual events since 2005.
The immensely popular video game Fortnite is probably the closest modern parallel. This past week, a Washington Post article proclaimed that as Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet, Fortnite is likely going to get there first – following the launch of "Party Mode" – a place for virtual avatars to mingle and hangout. No playing games, just simply talking and roaming with friends. Tyler Becker, the Community Manager at Betaworks also made us aware of a super cool new VR app called Teeoh, where your community members can hangout virtually in avatar format.
In all likelihood, not all of thew new community platforms and tools that we discussed above will be around for the long haul. While on the topic of Google's virtual tools like Hangouts and Meet, the subject of the Google Graveyard was brought up. The graveyard is a list hundreds tools and initiatives that the tech giant has sunset due to low adoption or the inability to turn them into a working business model. We'll likely see a similar trend play out soon with virtual community and video software. John, the Founder of Yen and participant in the virtual hangout discussion put it best when he said that "Technology is easy to build, but companies are hard to build."
As the number of virtual community tools continues to rise and folks keep entering the space, the Community Chat Team decided build a resource library to help you discover platforms (or add your own!) See it for yourself!
There has been a lot of chatter recently about attendance versus RSVP rates for virtual events. During our chat we came to a highly scientific, crowdsourced conclusion that the RSVP-to-actual-attendance ratio is generally about 1/3. Plan for this as you prepare your next virtual event. Another good rule to live by for virtual events is "Stay under 10 and over 30," according to CMX's David Spinks.
“When someone invites me to a 30-minute discussion group, you can count on me not coming. I know it’s not going to work. Introductions take about two minutes per person, so with 10 people in a group, you’ll barely finish remembering everyone’s favorite movie before the call is almost over."
"Also very skeptical of a group discussion with more than eight people in the group. 10 is the max I’d recommend. Any higher than that, and there’s just no way everyone will feel like they have an opportunity to contribute" says Spinks.
As an example of putting this principle into practice, we had 9 attendee's at our hour long Community Virtual Hangout this week, and everyone contributed approximately the same amount .and it felt like just the right amount of time. Speaking virtual event contribution, did you know that the Zoom API allows a call host to track the amount of time that each person speaks during a call? (Awesome or creepy?) 😄
Yes, virtual event fatigue is real. And we're not just talking about people getting tired of using the same software every day or every week. There is now scientific and behavioral evidence to suggest that repeated usage of virtual video platforms such as Zoom can cause psychological distress.
A study featured in the New York Times has identified a few key behavioral factors that can leave humans feeling extra stressed or anxious after repeated video chat exposure. To name a few, the initial ceremony involved in starting a physical meeting or gathering (eg. the act of walking into a meeting room) flat-out does not exist in virtual meetings. You get dumped into a conversation with no transition for your mind or body – and Zoom waiting rooms are no replacement!
You also can't look someone in the eyes on video chat – if you're focusing on the webcam then it is impossible to also focus on the screen and face of another participant. Also, when spotty internet connection causes a slight delay or glitch in someone's audio or video when speaking, our brains are allegedly primed to immediately and subconsciously interpret them as being untrustworthy.
So with all of this in mind, what can one do? We've found it helpful to switch up virtual platforms from time to time – for various events that the Community Chat team runs we've been diversifying and cycling between Zoom, Icebreaker, Remo, Houseparty, or even a plain-old phone call 🙂
Oh, and by the way, if anyone is hosting virtual events and wants to make their life a little easier, this week the Community Chat Team launched a free tool. Check it out here. Never send a manual calendar invite again 🤗
New community podcast from Erica Kuhl and Brian Oblinger!
Community isn't a one-trick pony.
Technology ≠ Community
A handful of recommended readings from the past week.
Community Building Invades Academia (3 min read)
Georgia Tech University has announced a new course called the Design of Online Communities. While there exists a seemingly never-ending battle between applied-industry and academia, it is exciting to see the focus on community management gaining new ground and research. Will colleges start offering community-building as a major or field of study? You can check out the syllabus here.
AMAs as a practical community building technique (2 min read)
AMA is short for Ask Me Anything. Bringing a well recognized, experienced, or influential outsider into your community has long been a great way offer value to community members. Community Chat member Rosie Sherry underscores why it's so important, and a few considerations for running them successfully!
Andy Mcllwain, Community Chat member and head of community at GoDaddy get's candid about what it takes to be a successful community manager, and tells all about his writing process. Written communication is obviously one of the most critical skills for a community manager to shine.
Online events aren't easy. This guide will help (1 min read)
Such a quick read it's not even worth us summarizing. Thanks to Alex Hillman, the Founder of the IndyHall community for the quick tips!