How to run an online meet-up

Though we have all become accustomed to life online and are looking forward to meeting in person again, there have been many benefits to running online meet-ups and events. Local groups have become more accessible with more people from across large areas being able to take part and make connections. Members have found it easy to attend meet-ups without taking too much time away from their work. Groups have been able to invite in speakers they might otherwise not have been able to hear from and all sessions have been free to attend.

As restrictions ease and in person events return, the Society of Authors is encouraging local groups to continue running online sessions.

Top tips for Zoom meetings

Have a clear start and end time – 45-60 minutes works well for online sessions.

Host the session with a welcome and short hellos from attendees – ensure new members feel welcome and included during online meet-ups.

Decide on a structure for the session in advance – take the lead by introducing the discussion topic or pose questions such as ‘how did you start writing?’ or ‘what do you know now you wish you’d known when you started out?’ to give the session focus.

Avoid distracting background noise – Encourage attendees to mute themselves when they’re not speaking and use headphones if you’re having audio trouble.

Be clear on timings – ask people to stick to time limits when introducing themselves or feeding back to the whole group to avoid overrunning and allowing everyone the chance to speak in larger groups.

Use the in-meeting chat – share links mentioned during the discussion or ask questions if a group member is giving a talk.

Use breakout rooms to split off into smaller groups – good for smaller group discussions and then feeding back to everyone in the main Zoom room. See this article for help on managing breakout rooms and make sure you have the most up to date version of Zoom installed on your device.

Zoom has video tutorials to show you how to do most things, so it’s worth checking the video tutorials for a quick how-to session.