by Shannon Hale, MHA
Programmatic Advisor, Clinical Workforce Solutions

I attended my first virtual happy hour a few weeks ago and it was, surprisingly, much more fun than I expected. Even though I only sipped on tea, just being able to see and interact with friends and colleagues was such a welcome event – even if it was through a computer camera!

From late night TV shows to schooling for our children, everything is going virtual these days. We get invitations to meetings, presentations (and even happy hours!) – all being held online. More important now than ever, virtual events help keep us connected in a rather convenient format. However, we all know that distractions are everywhere during virtual events. Plus, many people struggle with engaging participants in this style of event, whether because it’s an unfamiliar format or there’s pressure to make it as (or even more) beneficial as face-to-face events.

After a few less-than-perfect experiences of my own, I’ve found that the following tips can help make virtual events more engaging for participants:

  1. Include speaker bios or live video to introduce speakers. People like to know who they are talking to and, in the absence of face-to-face interactions, providing this information helps the speaker feel more “real” to the participants.
  1. Engage participants with tools and dialogue. Polls, chats, annotating and breakout rooms are standard on many platforms. Distractions can be numerous, and participants may be tempted to multitask.
  1. Consider breaking events up over a period of days. Ask yourself if the material can be split over more than one day. This will offer participants time to digest what was presented and discussed in the first part as well as eliminate the need for them to sit in front of their monitors all day.
  1. Survey your participants to see what they need or is important to them at the time. Recently, the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program, an evidence-based program that focuses on leadership, patient outcomes and the professional role of the new graduated nurse, did just that. In an effort to decrease turnover, members were surveyed to better understand what areas were important to them and what information they needed. After receiving the results, the team quickly started delivering on those needs, adding more breaks during virtual seminars and looking at various formats to deliver content (think podcasts or short videos). The members appreciate the different formats and they are something we look to grow even more.
  1. Be empathetic and offer networking opportunities. Remote learning may be new or challenging to some and networking, an important part of live meetings, can easily be lost in the virtual world. Tell participants you are creating a contact list and ask if they would like to share their information for networking after the event.
  1. Offer your presentations in various formats. In addition to the widely known web-based meetings or seminars, consider alternative platforms that may help you in getting your message out, but in a different way. These might include formats such as podcasts and shorter, “snackable insight” videos. By offering your events via podcast, for example, participants can not only listen to your event, they can also do something good for themselves at the same time (like walking or yoga!).

Any of the above tips can be tried individually or in a combination that works best for you and your participants’ needs. Don’t be afraid to try different methods and see what produces the best results. While virtual offerings may be nothing new for many, to some they represent a change from the usual routine. To see what virtual programs Vizient offers, check out these recent webinars and podcasts.

About the author. In his role at Vizient, Shannon Hale is a programmatic advisor with the clinical workforce solutions team. Joining Vizient in 2017, Hale has partnered with both acute care and ambulatory members to improve quality and efficiency in today’s value-based care world. Prior to joining Vizient, he served as director for the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was responsible for overall system quality, laboratory operations, a live-answer call center, and a nursing project management team.