Since 2017, “InfoTrust Week” has been an annual tradition at our company. Each year, our team members from across the globe travel to Cincinnati (where InfoTrust is headquartered) to plan, set goals, get to know one another, and participate in fun activities that spark camaraderie, ideas, and learning.
As April 2020 approached and news around COVID-19 continued to develop, we decided to make the event virtual for this year. Although we were disappointed not to host the event in-person, we knew that we were fully capable of still having a week that could be just as productive and still connect our teams. In this article, we’d like to share how we accomplished this, as well as some lessons learned. This retrospective may not fit all teams, and may not cover everything that could be done under the circumstances, but we do hope it gives other organizations some perspective around what’s possible even in challenging situations.
Consider Addressing the “Elephant in the Room” First
It’s tough to stay focused 4 hours per day during a weeklong virtual conference, especially with pandemic-related news changing hour by hour. It’s even more difficult if, deep down, you’re concerned about being furloughed or layed off. (Not at the fault of your company, necessarily, but simply because your industry as whole is suffering.)
We made a strategic decision to kick off InfoTrust Week by publicly announcing our No-Layoff Pledge; we did this during the first 15 minutes of our first Zoom session, in fact. Instead of waiting for “the right time,” we aimed to address fears of job loss immediately.
Consider the Timing
InfoTrust has offices in Cincinnati, Columbus, Chicago, Barcelona, and Dubai. For us, the best decision was to host our daily meetings from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time. This meant that the earliest risers on our team were those working remotely on the U.S. West Coast, and the Dubai employees were staying online until 7:30 p.m. their time. We appreciate the compromise that these groups of people made, and found this window best-suited our globally-dispersed team.
Consider the Tools
After careful evaluation of different video conferencing platforms—combined with our experience video-chatting with clients—we found Zoom to be the best option for InfoTrust Week. Zoom allowed us to utilize a grid view to see everyone’s faces (albeit not all at one time due to the size of our team); it also allowed us to easily record the sessions for later review. Other tools we considered (and use on a regular basis when working with clients) include Google Meet and GoToMeeting. Also, we enjoyed using Snap Camera for an extra layer of fun!
Consider Keeping the Mood Light
As mentioned above, the InfoTrust Week focus has always been on sparking camaraderie. So, we used these amazing tools to make sure we still focused on fun:
- Kahoot!: We created a Google Form, surveyed the team, and created a game that asked fun questions about the people that worked in the company. This is a tool that is used in the classroom and translated very well to our company Zoom sessions.
- JibJab: By taking different employee headshot photos and putting them into fun JibJab videos, we were able to take little “brain breaks” and laugh as a team.
Consider Regular Breaks
Sitting for long periods watching virtual presentations can often cause attention to… drift. To combat this, we scheduled 15-minute breaks throughout the day. Our moderators also paid attention to body language cues from the audience, with the ability to call a spontaneous break if they felt one was needed. During these breaks we either played a JibJab video, put on some music, or simply chatted with one another about things other than work. We did receive feedback from our post-event survey that we should have had even more breaks, but for shorter periods (like 5 minutes instead of 15); next time will air on the side of caution and allot time for more.
Consider What Topics Are Most Important
With the COVID-19 pandemic comes unfamiliar stresses, uncertainty, and possibly even feelings of helplessness. At InfoTrust, the team has approached this time with this motto:
“We may not be able to control what’s happening, but we can control how we handle it. We can control how we are contributing and how we can help other humans who are also going through this.”
Ultimately, we have launched several campaigns during this time, with the goal of taking the energy we could spend on worrying and investing it in helping others. Visit our COVID-19 resource page to learn more about our SuperHeroes Wear Masks campaign, our No-Layoffs Pledge, and the free resources we are making available to small businesses and furloughed individuals.
During InfoTrust Week we covered usual business topics like annual priorities and goals. However, we made sure to also update the team on the aforementioned campaigns, gave plenty of Q&A opportunities, and addressed any fears head on.
Consider Pre-Recording Some Sessions
Our normal in-person InfoTrust Week would involve 40 hours at the Cincinnati office; for our virtual InfoTrust Week, we cut it down to 9 hours of Zoom meetings. Despite the time cut, we still needed to ensure the team got all the information they would usually gather at the event; to address this, we had several of our company leaders pre-record sessions on specific topics. We then uploaded those videos to Trainual, an online training/e-learning platform that allowed team members to watch the videos at their leisure. After viewing, people were encouraged to bring any questions they had to the live Zoom sessions.
This certainly isn’t a complete list for making a virtual all-company meeting or conference successful, but feedback from our team (via a company-wide survey). Our team will use this feedback to improve on future all-company meetings and InfoTrust Week 2021 (be it in-person or virtual).