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Connecting in a remote environment

3 key learnings from 6 months of virtual experience hosting

2021-01-06

The past few months have seen fewer complaints about blurred lines between work and personal life, social isolation from colleagues or increased distractions at home. Or at least, it feels like it. Could it be that we are slowly settling into this new reality that is remote work? The incredible adaptation faculties of the human species might be at work here. While we hate change, when it’s outside our control, we make it work.

When millions across the globe retreated from offices to bring their work into their homes, the transition was painful and frustrating to say the least. Neither employers nor employees had any time to prepare for the seismic shift. However, as the pandemic dragged on, innovators started proposing solutions to address some of the pain points felt by remote teams. An important issue for corporate teams was keeping colleagues connected. Without the impromptu lunch date or happy hour, they had to find new ways to stay tightly knit while physically apart. This is the challenge that appealed to us most at Cholla and to address it, we’ve been building a platform to help teams stay connected. We’re still far from a perfect solution, but this post aims to highlight 3 of our key learnings that have made social interactions among remote teams significantly more enjoyable.

Zoom fatigue is a misnomer

In the running for buzz word of 2020, we present “Zoom fatigue”. While catchy, it’s a misnomer. Video conferencing platforms are fantastic tools to combat isolation, however most people misuse them. What’s actually tiring is trying to get a word in during a chaotic meeting where 20 people are speaking at the same time. Teams were slow to realize that gathering on Zoom is not the same as around a table. You can’t chat with your neighbors. You must establish different rules to facilitate discussion and avoid chaos. So let’s give Zoom a break and call it “Videoconferencing misuse fatigue” and let’s explore what proper use might look like.

Virtual socials have to be reinvented

The rules of the game for virtual socials are different. Unlike hosting an in-person event, you can’t just throw people in a room with drinks and finger food and expect relationships to blossom. We’ve found that specific things drastically improve the quality of virtual social events.

First: have a host. Having a clear leader to guide discussion and facilitate interactions is key. Great virtual event hosts ask questions to one participant at a time, ask people to answer with a show of hands, and think of creative ways to let the participants interact without causing mayhem. Hosting virtual attendees can feel like giving a monologue, but good virtual hosts make this natural, have great content to fill the void, and make people feel at ease in this sometimes more uncomfortable setting.

Second: limit the number of participants. If your objective is to connect with each other, capping the group size prevents the event from becoming a passive experience. In our experience at Cholla, we’ve found that groups of 5-15 are ideal. At that size, people feel like they are participating instead of spectating. They get called upon, their questions are answered, and they can get to know other participants. We strongly suggest splitting larger groups into smaller ones for maximum interaction.

Booking should be simple and easy

The playbook for hosting virtual socials is starting to materialize, but organizing them can still be painful. From settling on a time with the host to collecting participants’ information, the booking process for these types of events can be lengthy. If there’s anything that people dislike as much as poorly run Zoom meetings, it’s unnecessarily long email threads. Plus, if events require physical components, collecting addresses and organizing deliveries can add to the headache.

At Cholla, we’ve designed a booking process to avoid the administrative hassle associated with planning virtual events. Teams can book directly on the website and have access to our hosts’ availability. We collect the participants information from a simple registration link and we ship materials directly to them when materials are a part of the experience. No more need for address spreadsheets!

At Cholla, we’re constantly learning about virtual experiences and our goal is clear: to empower teams to connect even from home, while avoiding “Videoconferencing misuse fatigue” and providing opportunities for fun and learning in a whole new setting. Check our experiences here.

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