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Our usual calendar of Rebel Meetup’s, run by our awesome hosts, was put on hold at the start of March as much of the world went into lockdown.

With over a 100 meetups a year across 21 cities, not running physical events has been a weird transition for both myself and for the Yena community.

But of course, even when you can’t physically meet-up, early-stage founders still need a safe space to connect with other people in order to learn and grow. Right now, this is more important than ever, as founders face increasing uncertainty in the months ahead.

That’s why we decided to ensure that we could still facilitate this space by running our very first Virtual Rebel Meetup!

We chose to keep the format as similar to our ‘real life’ events as possible with a Fireside Chat (featuring Jessica Black, founder of gender-free cosmetic brand Jecca Blac), Q&A and the opportunity to network at the end, all of which was made possible through Teooh.

There are certain advantages (and challenges!) to running an event in a virtual space and so I thought I’d share some of my experience.

Anyone, anywhere, can get involved

Yena’s core mission is to democratise entrepreneurship and, even though our Rebel Meetups are open to anyone for this very reason, using an actual space automatically creates barriers whether they be physical or socio-economic.

Interacting with the audience during the Fireside Chat

However, using a virtual forum, in many ways, levels the playing field and helps to remove underlying prejudice that can otherwise influence the interactions that take place.

We were excited to be joined by our community members from at least 5 different countries last week, giving attendees the opportunity to connect globally from the safety of their own homes

Choosing the right software

My twittersphere is in a constant debate about the best platform to use for different kinds of events at the moment.

My on-stage interview with Jessica Blackler, featuring some great blue hair

For us it was important that anything we used was accessible, interactive and fun – Just like our meetups.

In the end we decided to go with Teooh, an avatar-based, events platform run by one of our members. Or as I like to call it… Sims for virtual conferencing.

Each person could customise their avatar (blue was a firm favourite for choice of hair colour), talking could be isolated amongst smaller groups (great for networking) and there was even a stage to feature the Fireside Chat (fitted with a clock for time-keeping!). Essentially, it had all the trappings of a physical event, with an added touch of (virtual) fun!

Expect the unexpected

If there’s anything my experience of running and attending events over the past few weeks has taught me, it’s that virtual events are not immune to complications.

Our talk was interrupted by an unexpected, but hilarious, on-stage guest

Whether it’s Zoom-bombing or trolls in the comments, I’ve seen a fair share of unexpected happenings take place and our meetup was no exception…

About 10 minutes into my Fireside Chat with Jessica, we were joined on-stage by our very own (albeit accidental!) stage crasher who took a seat on the panel. All fixed with a quick hit of the mute button, but hilarious, and slightly awkward, nonetheless.

 

Running our first Virtual Rebel Meetup last week was, for me, a beacon of light during a difficult time. I love attending events and pride myself in the value they bring to our community, but it was a relief to find that at least some of their impact can be brought online.

There’s much debate about the value of physical vs virtual events at the moment and I’m not about to go all-in on either side. However, what I will say is that, if you’re finding that that meeting was definitely fine as a video call, the same probably goes for some of the events you attend to.

– Abby x

 

If you have any questions about running your own virtual events then I’d be happy to share more of my experience with you – Just reach out!

And, if you missed out on the first one, you can get signed-up to our next Virtual Rebel Meetup on April 28th here.

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