How to Move Your Event to a Virtual Space | NDTC

Should we cancel our event or go virtual? That is the question that organizations around the world are struggling with during the age of #socialdistancing.

At NDTC, we’re doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by taking our training to the internet! We recently transitioned a four-day training program for over 100 people to a fully virtual experience.

Here are some tips we have for effectively transitioning your large, in-person events to virtual formats:

Review your vendor contracts and negotiate

While contracts are always made in good faith, these are unprecedented circumstances. Invoke those “force majeure” or “act of God” clauses in your contracts. Work with an attorney to evaluate if this is built into your contracts and what money you may get back.

If you can’t get back 100% of what you’ve paid, negotiate! We’ve negotiated with airlines to provide credits back to our organization that aren’t tied to a specific person, with photographers to credit a nonrefundable deposit toward a future event, and with hotels to allow us to rebook beyond the standard time frame they were offering.

The show must go on, but the schedule needs to change

If you are working with an agenda that was designed for an in-person audience, review your agenda with a discerning eye.

There is a limit to how much time and attention you can expect from a trainee sitting in front of a computer. Here are some things to consider:

  1. What needs to be adjusted for an online format?
  2. What can be shortened?
  3. What should be cut because it doesn’t translate well?
  4. Where can you add in screen breaks?

Then consider the time allotment per day. For our recent Staff Academy Virtual Training (SAVT), we hosted four days of virtual live training with each day getting progressively shorter. The schedule prioritized gaining buy-in on day one and respecting the limits of our bodies and attention as the days went on.

Training in a virtual environment is different than in person

Prepare your trainers to adjust to a virtual environment. Review changes to your curriculum and discuss how trainers can approach the virtual environment differently. Make sure you relay the importance of staying on time to protect critical screen breaks!

Check out our guide for more tips on effective practices for virtual training.

Virtual = still interactive

Just because you are virtual does not mean you cannot keep it interesting! Prioritize using virtual platforms that will still allow participants to engage in the training.

Small breakout groups are critical for community learning. Consider how your staffing of small groups may need to change since your facilitators can’t easily float from table to table to observe participant conversations and workshop time.

Update your norms and community agreements to be sure everyone explicitly understands how to actively participate and your expectations around using video.

Lead participants in stretches to combat the negative impacts of lengthy screen times on their minds and bodies.

We all learn differently

Consider how you will engage participants that all learn in different ways:

  1. Can you share PDF materials and copies of slides in advance?
  2. Does your technology allow you to provide subtitles?
  3. Can you incorporate more multimedia learning tools?
  4. Can you mix up participation directives between quick group discussions via chat boxes, using interactive polls, or unmuting individuals to speak?

Building community is critical!

The current pandemic has caused us all to feel isolated from our communities and our collective work. Now is your chance to think creatively and create additional social spaces to allow participants to build their networks and create personal connections. During SAVT, we hosted virtual social spaces during meal breaks. Our participants self-organized happy hours just like we would see happen during in-person events (and they’ve even continued them as a weekly gathering space)!

It’s time to prepare for your virtual event

While we never expected to be here, this moment is calling upon us all to meet the needs of our trainees in new, virtual ways. With the right approach, you can deliver a stellar training experience!

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Allyson Raines

Allyson joined NDTC in 2019 after eight years with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In her most recent role as a Regional Campaign Director, she transformed the PPAF electoral model to drastically expand the role of grassroots members by deeply training and coaching operatives to cultivate leaders in every aspect of campaigns. She believes that organizing and electoral campaigns are transformational experiences and focuses her work on developing staff who center that approach. Allyson has managed electoral campaigns on a county and statewide level in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio. She started her career as a professional organizer in Detroit, MI with the Harriet Tubman Center for Community Organizing. Allyson holds a BA in Sociology focused on Gender and Sexuality and Civic Engagement from the University of Michigan. She lives in Chicago with her family Michael, Emmett, and Elliot and their loving pup Reggie.