There is good news for professionals during these tough times: you don’t have to sacrifice professional engagement to stay socially distant. By harnessing digital tools, you can keep connected – and keep projects and pursuits on schedule.
There are plenty of digital options available. With each virtual medium, though, comes specific elements you’ll need to keep in mind, such as ensuring you have the right software.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined five different virtual venues that we’ve tested and also offered tips and tricks for each one to ensure your virtual engagement experience is successful.
1. Live Presentations
There are multiple platforms that allow you to present live, from Zoom to Go To Meetings to Microsoft Teams.
Decide on the platform that is right for you and your audience, keeping in mind that it’s incredibly important that everyone on your team has access to the software you’ve decided on.
Tips & Tricks
- Simplify material: In a typical presentation, you might use presentation software such as PowerPoint to showcase your information. PowerPoint is a great resource with a lot of advanced capabilities, including animations and the ability to achieve high design.
When transitioning to a virtual setting, though, less is more. Focus on presenting your information clearly and concisely. Animations can slow down your presentation and make your video lag. Keep it simple.
- Set up the environment: Pick out a non-distracting location and consider appearing cohesively as a team by wearing the same shirt color or blurring your background. You can also decide to have the speaker turn on the camera while they are presenting and have the rest of the team go off camera during that time. Have this conversation early on during preparation, so when it comes to the live presentation, everyone is on the same page.
- Have a plan for document management: Develop a plan with your team as to where you’ll save your documents. Having documents in multiple locations could prove to be frustrating and increases the chances of something getting lost or missed. Delegate either one or two people to manage files or dedicate one file location for the project’s documents.
- Practice makes perfect: Practice, practice, practice! Run through the live presentation a few times with your project team. The more you practice, the more you will feel confident presenting live with your team.
2. Pre-Recorded Presentations
Sometimes, even when you practice, you don’t say something exactly as you want to in the moment. Pre-recorded presentations give you the freedom to do multiple takes – ensuring your message gets across and reducing stress on presenters. A great platform to utilize for pre-recorded presentations is PowerPoint.
Tips & Tricks
- Get to know the platform: PowerPoint has robust capabilities. One of those is being able to record yourself while presenting. Get familiar with the capabilities before trying to record yourself. Also know that if it isn’t working for you, you can adjust. It is a pre-recorded presentation after all.
3. Live Q&A
Multiple video conferencing programs have Q&A capabilities, along with other interaction tools, built into their software. Zoom, for example, allows you to chat with participants, collect results through polling features and more. This enhanced interaction can help you field questions and address those in real time.
Tips & Tricks
- Preplan: This is a great opportunity to reach out to get questions in advance of your Q&A session. You will be able to address them during your live session and prepare your answers.
- Practice: Get used to the functionalities of your video conferencing program before the live Q&A takes place. Recruit some of your friends and family to submit questions in real time so you can get comfortable fielding and answering questions.
4. Live Design Charrette
Design charrettes are a key piece of design projects, and they can continue through digital platforms. During these digital sessions there are many points to keep in mind.
Tips & Tricks
- Establish your leads: A virtual design charrette works well with three key leaders; your subject matter expert, a moderator and a software expert.
- User your camera with purpose: Try working with a camera that you can angle over your desk to showcase what you are working on.
- Choose the right exercise for your team: There are several paths your virtual design charrette can take: traditional, digital, augmented and dynamic, are a few to consider for a virtual setting.
There are plenty of other great tips and tricks on how to conduct a design charrettes in a time of social distancing.
5. Public Involvement Meetings
Typically, public involvement and engagement projects are integrated, merging both traditional and digital outreach strategies. During this time, we can lean on digital methods to achieve the project’s public involvement and planning goals.
Some of those digital methods include:
- Websites: Keep all the project information in one, easy to navigate place. Resources like PublicInput.com offer robust capabilities and customizable templates. The ability to capture analytics, such as pageviews, locations of viewers, contacts, and more, in real time is a huge benefit. House project’s information like updates, videos and resources utilizing this digital tactic.
- Social Media: Lean on social media marketing to promote websites and surveys to collect feedback from the community or raise awareness of the project while still practicing social distancing. With paid advertising and geofencing, you can target a specific audience or area.
- Virtual Public Meetings: Utilize virtual and augmented reality to simulate a public meeting. Your audience will feel like they are physically in the meeting space interacting with project managers while in the comfort of their own home.
Although the mediums through which we connect with each other have changed temporarily, the importance of communication has not. Adopt a few of these new strategies, and you won’t miss a beat in your project.