Looking for an incentive to create and run virtual chamber events?
Just scan any of your social media streams right now and you’ll find plenty of people who are really struggling with being alone or–on the other hand–being with the people they are with at home.
A lot of people are bored and the longer this goes on the more restless they will become.
Luckily, chambers are in the people business! We understand the need to connect. And we are perfectly situated to create brilliant resources and enjoyable ways to build relationships while we’re all sequestered at home.
It’s likely by now you’ve hosted some sort a virtual networking event. It’s a natural and easy way to move your networking from in-person to online.
For most of the chambers that I’ve heard from, these events are a success. They’re bringing people together, helping them to build relationships, relieve stress, and help increase sales for some of the businesses that are participating. There are a lot of benefits to virtual meetings for chambers of commerce and their members.
But why stop there? If you’ve been thinking about other virtual events this list may inspire you.
Before you read the list, consider the events you used to host before the pandemic. Are there any besides networking that can easily be moved online? If so, try implementing them. You have a captive audience right now.
On the other hand, if there were events you were thinking about putting into your event rotation but weren’t sure how they would turn out, ask yourself if it’s possible to do them online.
Now more than ever people are seeing openings in their schedule they usually don’t have. There are no school responsibilities, sports, travel opportunities, arts and entertainment, and many other activities that usually take up time.
Your members are at home looking for something to do. Now is an excellent time to roll something out virtually that you could build a following for and later launch into an in-person event.
As our economies open back up, you may find that your ability to run larger or more frequent events are still curtailed even when you follow best practices for in-person events.
17 Virtual Chamber Events to Run During the Pandemic
- Job fair. It’s likely there are some employers in your community that are hiring such as grocery stores. Create a virtual event that introduces people who need work to those who are hiring. You can do this through prerecorded video or on an online meeting.
- Taste of. Many communities host “Taste Of” events. While shelter in place orders have ended these in-person events, you can still host a “Taste Of” with a little preparation. Get a list of food providers who want to take part. Charge attendees a flat fee for participation. Coordinate delivery of food from participating restaurants to participants. Host a zoom meeting of attendees sampling the many delicious foods. Encourage the attendees to visit participating restaurants’ web sites or review sites and leave reviews for the restaurants that they enjoyed.
- Fitness challenges. Contact gym and personal trainer members to record a video of one exercise. Compile these videos into a 30-day challenge and create a Facebook group around these efforts. Encourage gyms and personal trainers to participate in the Facebook group. It’s a good way for them to get more exposure and help the community get healthier.
- Trivia night. Chamber events during this time needn’t be all business and no fun. In fact, you could offer events right now that you probably wouldn’t offer during business as usual. The goal behind your events during the pandemic should be to bring people together and help them have some fun while they get to know one another better. With that in mind, trivia night is an easy event to host and one that you can partake in with the group you’re quarantined with or individually. It’s perfect for a variety of ages and breaks the ice among people who may not know each other well.
- Courses. Since many of us have more time on our hands right now and the economy is challenged, it’s an ideal time to offer courses and virtual lunch and learns. There are many topics you can cover such as marketing basics, website redesign, SEO, social media, personal branding, email list building, and others that people have probably been putting off for a long time. Social media and online marketing are hot commodities these days and your businesses need to be doing them well. Since everyone will be in front of their computer or a screen of some kind, your courses can be designed so that people can work alongside of the instructor. This is particularly effective if you’re teaching basic web design through WordPress or how to market using an email campaign.
- <yourcity>con. Ever heard of ComicCon or DragonCon? Those types of events focus on a theme and unite people who love that theme in a series of conference sessions, fun parties, and networking. You can do the same thing for your city or area by putting together a virtual conference where your members take center stage and teach what they know.
- Announcements. Go live with big chamber announcements. They don’t even need to be big business announcements. They could be personal announcements like a staff opening or a change in a job title. Tease out the announcement ahead of time without telling them what you’re actually announcing.
- Scavenger hunt. Email participants a list of things they need to find when they log in to your virtual meeting. It might be something in their house or around town as in the case of famous landmarks (while maintaining proper social distance, of course). Encourage participants to post their findings on your Facebook page or in your chamber Facebook group, if you have one.
- Business book club. Again, this is the perfect time to work on professional development for a lot of people. It’s also an ideal time to start up a business book club. You can select the business book each month and host a virtual meeting where participants can talk about their impressions and thoughts and how they might implement some of the lessons learned in their own business or career.
- Entrepreneurs support group. There are two directions you can go with this idea. You can create a support group for people who have started their own entrepreneurial undertaking or you can start a group focused around those who would like to do it in the future. It’s possible that with a lot of employees furloughed and businesses shutting down in the future that people may decide to use this time in their life to start their own business or explore an entrepreneurial activity. Recruit someone you know who is a happy and engaging entrepreneur and ask if they might be willing to lead a group that would encourage fellow entrepreneurs.
- Local beer and wine tasting. Invite participants to talk about their favorite locally-produced beverages. If your local beverage companies offer takeout or delivery during this time, you could distribute a list of the drinks that people will talk about on your call so they can order them ahead of time. Invite people to share favorite beverage recipes or food pairings. This is an opportunity for local restaurants and beverage establishments to stay top of mind in your community.
- Get cooking with the chamber. Doesn’t it feel like you’ve made three times as many meals this month as you have in the last six? It’s likely your audience is struggling with fresh ideas and ways to make their families happy too. You could go live every night around dinner time and encourage people to cook along with you. Or go live at the beginning of each week and show how cooking one time can become three meals.
- Escape room puzzle. Create an escape room activity by sending a clue to each of your participants ahead of time. Individually the clues will not make sense but collectively they should be able to solve the mystery or escape the room. While you can’t do it together in the same room, you can get on a virtual meeting call and pretend that you’re all there together.
- Business secrets. This virtual event allows willing businesses to showcase a secret of their success. Contact local business leaders and ask if they’d be willing to participate in sharing what has made them a success. You can leave time for questions and answers at the end.
- Stress relief sessions. In this meeting, you can encourage participants to share their wellness tips, stress relievers, and improved mental health techniques with one another or invite wellness and mental health experts in to talk with your group over a virtual meeting.
- Kids craft. Who said every chamber activity has to be focused on people who are old enough to drive? In fact, coming up with an activity for members’ children can be a great way to help your members get a free moment. Create a simple craft idea that uses basic things you could find around the house and email the supply list to participants. Make the item during the call and encourage people to share the results of the craft created by their child on social media with a special hashtag.
- Business storytelling. Your businesses have great stories to tell. You can create sessions themed around how the business was built, what inspires them, what struggles they faced, their darkest moment, and any other story that would inspire or interest your audience. Think of the way TED talks are hosted and focus on creating a similar experience.
Normally, you want to tie your chamber events into your goals or strategic plan. But during the pandemic and social distancing, creating connections and bringing people together should be at the crux of your events. Many of your community members are starving for interaction.
Most of these virtual events can be accomplished for very little investment but they’ll yield strong interaction among your audience. They can also go a long way to improving morale in your community and helping struggling businesses and their staff forget about their current challenges…even if only for an hour.