Updated: May 1st
Virtual Gatherings Playbook — How to Organize and Host a Web-Based TaskHuman Community Event
Thank you for showing initiative and wanting to bring the TaskHuman coach community closer together!
We know organizing a community event can be quite stressful, as there are typically many moving parts and things to consider. So, we’ve put together a guide with the hopes of helping you get started and stay on top of everything; and ensuring your online event ends up being a total success.
If possible, we encourage you to get some help from other coaches, perhaps even form a team, and split tasks and responsibilities for easier event planning. Also, to make sure everything goes smoothly and without hurry, you should start your preparations on time — at least a few months before.
1. Figure out the basics
First things first — you should think about what type of event you want to host. Do you want it to be casual or structured? Are you going to discuss a piece of content or have a free-flowing conversation? It can also be something else — for instance, an exchange of your experiences on what’s made you successful as a TaskHuman coach.
It also might be a good idea to ask the interested coaches which type of event they’d prefer, as that will increase their chances of showing up.
In addition, we suggest you start small. If this is your first time organizing an event, it might be a good idea to test the waters by hosting a small, intimate virtual event first and then transition to a larger one. That way, your events are much more likely to be successful.
1.a. Select a theme/topic
To find a topic to discuss, we suggest you browse through news, blogs, and social media to get ideas. For instance, perhaps you’ve come across a new study that reveals the effectiveness of certain coaching practices or highlights an important issue — anything that has to do with wellness will work.
If you’ve attended one of our Coach Connects, you probably already have an idea of what type of topics coaches find interesting. If not, we strongly encourage you to sign up for one and see for yourself.
Make a list of potential topics, then narrow it down to a few choices. You can even ask attendees to give suggestions and vote on their favorite topics via email before the event.
The topic you choose should be interesting and relevant to TaskHuman coaches. However, while it should be thought-provoking and intriguing, the topic mustn’t be provocative and divisive. In other words, we advise you to avoid centering your discussion around topics such as:
- social issues
- your own personal opinions
We’re not saying these issues aren’t important, but we found that an objective approach seems to make our events better. On the other hand, sensitive topics tend to elicit an emotional response from people, get in the way of objectivity, and cause disruption in the otherwise friendly atmosphere. Remember, the goal is for our coaches to unite, learn and improve together, and have some fun along the way, so make sure the topic echoes that.
If you happen to get stuck choosing the topic, feel free to contact us and ask us for suggestions. We are constantly identifying new wellness topic ideas and we’d love to share them with you if needed.
1.b. Come up with an event name
Next, you should name your event. Opt for a short and powerful name that will be easy to remember. It should be unique and interesting enough to incite curiosity, but still clearly reflect what the event will be about or what will be discussed.
*Examples of recent TaskHuman event names: Hedonic Treadmill, Financial Intimacy, Emotional Hygiene
1.c. Start forming the guest list
In order to make further plans for the event, you’ll need to know how many attendees it’ll have. While you won’t be able to predict the guest count with 100% accuracy, you should still try your best to find out who’s coming beforehand.
For example, you can first send out emails to everyone in the region or time zone to see who’d be interested in such an event. Then, a month prior to the event, invite them to confirm their attendance, so you’ll have a clearer picture of the number of participants.
2. Set a date and time
First of all, you should give yourself and your attendees time to thoroughly plan out everything, so don’t choose a date that’s too close/soon. Here are some other important factors to consider when deciding on your community event date:
2.a. Time zones
You’ll need to decide whether you want your online event to be regional (example: Southeast Asia) or directed toward the local coach community. Because of the time difference, choosing a time for a regional online event will surely be much trickier than for local events.
Of course, you won’t be able to please every person, regardless of the type of event. Still, you should at least try to consider everybody and make it work.
2.b. Other important dates and events
Check the local calendars to learn about any upcoming state or religious holidays, public events, and other happenings. Your event can’t overlap with any of them. In addition, you should take into account when locals are typically going on vacation (in most cases, that’s during summer).
2.c. Attendee availability and preferences
You can also ask your potential attendees when they’ll be available via email. Ask them to vote on the date, time, and whether they’d prefer the event to be on a weekday or during the weekend, just as an example. Keep track of the votes and opt for the time and date that works for most coaches. You can also use a tool like Doodle or Calendly to find a date and time that work best for most people.
If you get stuck or you’re short on time — we can also share with you times and days of the week that we’ve found to be successful, so feel free to contact us about that as well.
3. Choose the platform
We are working toward finding and integrating a new, more optimal video conferencing solution for events, but for now, Zoom is the best bet- since many people are familiar with Zoom already. Prior to the event, please contact us and we’ll give you the host login instructions.
4. Curate the program
To keep your attendees engaged and the conversation going, you should have a program planned out and stick to it. It can be more or less structured, depending on what type of event you’re organizing. Whatever you decide on, you need someone to act as the host and lead others through the program.
To create the schedule, you can use Google Sheets/Microsoft Excel or any other app you feel comfortable using. We’ve found that Sheets is the most optimal and the simplest solution. It connects the file to your Google account and allows you to edit it from any device in real time. Moreover, you don’t have to juggle multiple file versions — you can add other people to the document and they will always have the latest info. Sheets also lets you make comments, create multiple tabs, add equations and formulas for easier budgeting, tables, graphs, and so on.
Here’s what you should do to prepare the program:
4.a. Find speakers to support the discussion
In addition to the host, you might want to consider having another speaker to move the conversation forward. A speaker can be either a coach or a guest — anyone who’s knowledgeable on the topic you’ve chosen, basically. You can also find a speaker first and center the topic around their area of expertise. Whatever works for your case.
If you don’t know where to start looking for speakers, we suggest you ask the coaches if any of them would like to participate and feel comfortable guiding the discussion on the topic.
Furthermore, you can ask the coaches you know to refer you to someone, be it a coach or not. Finally, you can ask around on social media for recommendations. Whomever you choose, make sure to talk to them before the event to ensure they are a good fit.
And what makes a speaker a good fit in this particular case?
Aside from being well-informed on the subject, a good speaker should:
- … be fluent in English and eloquent. Obviously, the speaker needs to be someone who understands and speaks English almost perfectly, and can convey their thoughts to others clearly. If you’re hosting a regional/local online event the speaker must be fluent in the local language.
- … be passionate about sharing their knowledge. We need someone who’s motivated and wants to give their 100% to ensure the discussion is informative and interesting for everybody.
- … be friendly and engage with the listeners. The speaker must not turn the discussion into a one-sided lecture. They need to encourage all listeners to participate and respect everyone’s opinion, no matter how different it may be from their own.
4.b. Prepare questions and subtopics
To guide the meeting efficiently and not have to think of things to say on the spot, you should make a list of relevant questions and subtopics beforehand. Then, apply them where and when appropriate.
In addition, we suggest you learn a thing or two about each coach that’s attending the event (this also might depend on how large of a group it is). That way, you’ll be able to include them in the conversation more easily, ask more valuable questions, and with greater confidence. For instance, if a certain topic comes up and you know it’s one of the coaches’ specialties, you can invite them to put in their two cents.
To ensure the program runs according to plan on the day of the event, practice what you’re going to say beforehand, ideally with the speakers themselves. Make sure you don’t forget any names or other crucial information. If you’re leading the discussion yourself, or guiding portions of the event, feel free to review our Group Facilitation Playbook.
5. Invite attendees/coaches
Which coaches you’ll invite and how you’ll do so will depend on the size of your event and its purpose. Is the goal to be casual and intimate with the other coaches or oriented toward attracting new coaches? Think about what you are trying to achieve with your specific event.
All in all, email is the most optimal way to communicate, as it’s professional and used by everyone. If your event is more of a small get-together, with no more than 20 guests, there’s really no need to use anything else.
5.a. Create the email
For starters, your event invitation email has to be:
- short and to-the-point
- polite, but professional
- consistent with the TaskHuman brand (we will provide the assets)
- intriguing and exciting, but not too revealing
Here’s a brief guide to help you write an effective event email, based on its vital elements:
- Subject line. The subject line should contain the event name you’ve previously selected. More importantly, it should be concise, about 60-70 characters/10-15 words max. Any more than that and your subject line won’t be displayed in full in the receiver’s inbox.
- First line(s). First of all, greet the reader and address them by their name. Then, at the very top, in the first few lines, include and highlight the most significant information, i.e. the what, when, where, and who:
- What will the event be about and what will be discussed?
- When will the event be held?
- Where will the event be held? (on which platform)
- Who will be attending or speaking at the event?
- Rest of the body. In the following few paragraphs, provide any other information that potential attendees might find useful. Include an appropriate image to add interest to your email and make it more visually appealing. List some benefits of attending your event and give the reader a good reason to want to take part.
- Call to action. Finally, end the email with a strong call-to-action to encourage readers to sign up and eventually attend your event.
- Sign-off and signature.
*Here are some standout examples to inspire you to write an exceptional event email.
5.b. Send the first email
As we mentioned already, it might be a good idea to ask which of the coaches are interested first, as you’ll need to know the number of attendees to organize the event successfully. Make sure you give them notice at least a few months before, so they can plan their time.
Then, sometime later, you can send another email asking them to confirm their attendance. Furthermore, you can also email potential attendees to ask for help organizing the event, suggestions, and any other information you might need.
5.c. Send a reminder before the event
To ensure nobody forgets about it or misremembers any information, you should send a reminder email a few weeks and a week before the event.
In this email, provide all the information your attendees might need. Otherwise, you’ll need to respond to a bunch of individual emails, which will inevitably take up a lot of your time and effort. So, to avoid that, be thorough and try to cover everything when writing your email.
Aside from the obvious what, when, where, and who, include the duration of the event and program schedule. You can also send them instructions on how to join the meeting in case they aren’t tech-savvy or familiar with Zoom, and even tips on how they can enjoy the event more.
Top the email off with food for thought. Intrigue the potential attendees and give them something to think about before the discussion. That could be either a piece of content or just a question related to the topic.
6. Learn how to start, run, and end a meeting
For one, you should start the gathering on time, ensure it stays on schedule, and end it on time. We must be respectful of each other’s time and do our best to make the meeting run as planned and according to the attendees’ expectations.
Given that you’re opening the meeting, your role as the host is incredibly important. Essentially, you’re breaking the ice and setting the scene for all the others in the room. It might seem intimidating, but as long as you make everybody feel welcome, you can’t go too wrong.
Anyhow, here are some tips to help you be a better host and guide the discussion like a pro:
To open the meeting, introduce yourself in a few sentences or less, and thank everyone for showing up. And if your event is international, acknowledge and specifically thank the coaches that are in different time zones and stayed up late or woke up early to attend the event.
Next, state the purpose of the gathering, highlighting the benefits that come from attending the event — i.e. community building, forming new relationships, exchanging experiences, and creating lifelong memories. Your words should elicit excitement in the listeners by showing them exactly what’s in it for them and why they made a good choice to come to your gathering.
You should also briefly share what you’ll be doing, what you’ll be talking about, and how much time you have for each part.
Another important thing to do when opening a discussion is to establish the main ground rules.
For instance, instead of just interrupting the current speaker, everyone can write their questions in the chat window or select the “raise hand” reaction when they wish to speak. And as the guide, it’s up to you to keep track of who sent what and when to ensure everybody gets their chance to talk. Also, a good way to ensure everybody’s name gets memorized is to ask every person to say their name before speaking.
For smaller groups (7 people or less), another thing you can do in the beginning is ask everyone to give a short introduction — their name, where they’re based, what they coach on TaskHuman, what interested them about the discussion (or TaskHuman in general), etc.. It’s good to engage your listeners from the get-go, as that will empower them and encourage them to participate in the conversation going forward. Moreover, this overture will help everyone get to know each other and facilitate further interactions.
6.b. During the discussion
Speak clearly and slowly so that every attendee can understand you. Advise other attendees to do so, as well, preferably when establishing the ground rules.
Note that not everyone will understand what you say or ask, even if you do so clearly. If that’s the case, you should repeat what you’ve said, rephrase it, and break it down so that people can understand it more easily. The same goes for everybody else.
While we don’t want the meeting to be strictly formal and professional, but rather an open and earnest conversation, you should make sure that it doesn’t drift off topic too much and too frequently. Making sure not to interrupt the speaker or be rude about it, steer the discussion back in the right direction.
Another way in which you as the host can improve the quality of the discussion is by managing who speaks and when. As we mentioned, you should establish ground rules and a speaking system at the beginning of the meeting. Although you should empower attendees to speak their minds, you should still make sure they don’t talk over each other.
Finally, take breaks every hour or so to give attendees the chance to take care of their physiological needs, stretch their legs, snack, etc.
In the end, summarize the most significant points that have been made over the course of the discussion and close the discussion by thanking everyone for participating. In addition, ask whether anyone has any final questions, concerns, or just thoughts they’d like to share with the group.
7. Ensure a good time
Here are some things you can do to make the event more enjoyable and memorable for the attendees:
7.a. Technical check
About a day before the event, and about an hour before, check whether your Zoom has been updated and whether it’s working properly. Also, test your video and audio equipment. That way, if anything does go wrong, you have time to solve the issue without affecting the event schedule.
If possible, it’s good to have a person that can handle the technical side of things and help those who are experiencing problems. Even if you have the knowledge and skills for it, you can’t be the one to do that, as you’ll be busy hosting the event.
Another important aspect of any online meeting is the background. Make sure your background isn’t distracting, preferably something minimal, such as an empty wall. Zoom also lets you add virtual backgrounds, so feel free to try those as well.
Just as an example — you can pay homage to the TaskHuman brand by adding a background that features our logo. As always, contact us and we’ll provide you with assets.
7.b. Encourage interactions
Again, you should learn the basics about each attendee beforehand to easily keep the conversation going and ask relevant questions. Prior to the event officially starting, try introducing as many participants to one another and point out similarities and common interests that they could discuss were they to connect in the future.
Encourage widespread participation to have people speak and engage. Naturally, some attendees will be a bit shy, while others will be chatty. It’s up to you to make everyone feel welcome and heard. We don’t want attendees to be just viewers, but rather active participants.
8. Follow up
It’s always a good idea to follow up on your attendees sometime after the event, when they’ve had a while to reflect on the experience. Here are some ideas to include in your follow-up email:
8.a. Thank your attendees
Express your gratitude in the email, thanking every attendee for making the effort to show up and participate in the event. Here, you can also highlight some anecdotes from the event.
8.b. Ask for feedback
To make sure your next event, or any other future community event, is an improvement to the last one, we must collect the attendees’ honest feedback.
We’ll create and provide you with an online form. Simply attach the link to your follow-up email and ask the attendees to fill it out anonymously.
That way, we’ll know exactly what to focus next on and how to take our community events to the next level.
8.c. Articulate a summary of the discussion or event
Reflect on the outcome of your event or meeting based on your objectives and initial goals. Was there a balance of conversation? Was there space for perspectives to be heard? Did everyone who wanted to speak/contribute have a chance to? How was the topic received?
Based on the reflection above you can start strategizing for the next event based on your learnings and best practices, and share them with others who might host events.
8.d. Encourage coaches to host their own community events
In order to expand and build our coach community further, we encourage as many of these events as possible. And for that to happen, we must inspire and empower other coaches to organize their own events, both virtually and in person. Thus, consider mentioning that in your follow-up email, as well.
Bonus: 6 Tips to Help You Overcome Your Nerves
If this is your first time organizing and hosting an event, you might be a bit stressed out and anxious by the sheer amount of work and responsibilities, especially on the day of the event. Most people would feel the same way in your position.
However, you must not let your nerves get the best of you and prevent you from enjoying the fruits of your labor, i.e. the event you’ve worked so hard to organize. Also, there are a few things you can try doing to combat your anxiety:
1) Practice and prepare
First of all, start on time. Rushing through the organization process will surely make everything much more stressful. Give yourself time to plan and leave some room for errors and setbacks, as they will inevitably happen, not necessarily by your fault.
Secondly, prepare and go over every aspect of the event twice. Make sure you know exactly where you stand with each task. Be aware of everything that can go wrong, have a backup for each scenario, and be ready to make last-minute changes if needed. Practice what you’ll say at the event and do as much research as you can on the topic, venue, attendees, etc.
Through ritualization and practice, you will restore your sense of control and self-confidence. These will give you something to fall back on in case anything goes wrong, and ultimately reduce your anxiety.
2) Accept that perfection is impossible
It’s only natural that you want your event to go well. However, you mustn’t set the expectations too high for yourself, especially if this is your first time hosting an event.
Even if you put in the effort and do everything properly and on time, that doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing. Unprecedented occurrences can still surprise you. Acknowledge that and be aware of it, but direct the energy toward doing your best rather than fretting about the uncontrollable.
Remember, the goal is to have a good time and engage the coaches in our community. Make sure that happens, and don’t worry too much about the rest. And in case anything does go wrong, make the best of it. Learn from your mistakes and use that experience to improve future events.
3) Write everything down
To prevent yourself from being overwhelmed by all the information and accidentally forgetting something important, write everything down.
Be it a notepad or some kind of a mobile app, make sure to use it to jot down ideas as you get them. What’s more, you can create to-do lists, checklists, and set calendar reminders and alarms for easier management of tasks.
4) Rest and eat well
To ensure your body and mind can endure the hustle-and-bustle of organizing an event, you must drink water, eat well, and get a good night’s sleep. When you’re busy, it’s easy to overlook your needs. Be that as it may, your health should always be your number one priority, no matter what.
5) Share your feelings with others
Talking to a friend, loved one, or colleague could also help relieve some of your anxiety. Share with them how you feel, what your fears are, what you’re excited about, and even ask them for similar experiences they’ve had, as well as advice. Doing so will help you not only feel relief but also organize your thoughts and perhaps even look at the situation from a whole new perspective.
Furthermore, if possible, get help from other local coaches and split the work. Obviously, the more people you involve, the less work each person has to take up, and the better.
6) Try some relaxation techniques
What do you typically do to unwind and calm your body and mind? Whatever it may be, treat yourself to it before the event.
Here are some methods that most people find to be effective:
- Exercise and yoga. Physical exercise will not only be beneficial for your health but also give you a boost of endorphins, and thus increase your energy levels and lift your mood. Moreover, it will help you sleep better before the event.
- Warm bath. One of the best ways to relax is to soak in a warm bubble bath for about an hour, trying not to think about what’s ahead or behind you.
- Breathing. When you start feeling nervous, sit down, close your eyes, and do some breathing exercises (such as the 4-7-8 technique). Breathe in deeply, hold your breath, then exhale slowly. The oxygen will help you calm down in no time.
- Meditation and mindfulness. Find a quiet place, sit in a comfy position, close your eyes, and focus solely on your breathing. You can also put on some calming music and visualize being at a place where you feel at peace.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Lay down for about 15 minutes and close your eyes. Then, tense and relax each muscle group, starting with the toes and ending with the head. Tense the muscles for 5 seconds, then relax them for another 30, and repeat.
*Also, why not get some help from your fellow coaches on TaskHuman?