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Hosting Virtual Events

The most important thing during the coronavirus outbreak is staying safe and healthy. Even though we can’t gather in large groups in person, our work to hold our elected officials accountable, build a more inclusive democracy, and be in community with our fellow activists is more important than ever. 

Planning Your Event 

Choose a platform

There are a variety of options out there depending on what you’re looking for.

  •  Conference Calls: If you’re having a quick check in with a few folks in your group, there are free conference call platforms like Free Conference Call and UberConference

  • Video Conferencing: To maintain that community feel of your group -- and particularly for larger events or events with new members -- video conferencing will be best. If you are a Gmail Customer you can use Google Hangouts  for free for up to 250 people. This includes features like chat and screen share. At Indivisible, we use Zoom for most of our large calls. Zoom offers free calls for up to 40 minutes for up to 100 people. If you’re hosting a larger/longer call, reach out to your Indivisible Organizer and we can help set up a meeting for you (if you’re not in touch with your Organizer, go to to get in touch). 

Brainstorm creative event ideas

Get extra creative about the types of events you want to set up. Many things that you could do in person you can creatively adapt to a virtual setting. We’ll have some ideas, but tag @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter with your ideas too so that we can help uplift best practices. 

  • Ice cream social: Everyone brings their favorite ice cream (or other treat) to the event and you can spend some time at the beginning socializing and eating before jumping into the real content of the meeting. 

  • Pet playdate: One great benefit to remote meetings is that pets can join (without causing any allergies or issues at the venue). Take a fun break in the middle of your meeting to have folks introduce their pets. 

  • Cooking together: For a smaller gathering that’s focused on team building, you can all pick a recipe and then cook it “together” - just at your respective homes and see whose recipe turned out best. 

  • Cocktail hour: Start off or end your event with conversation and cocktails/mocktails -- or you can also make it just a social event, building your community is a key part of strengthening your group. 

  • New member social hour: There are a lot of folks who are looking for ways to get engaged in this election -- virtual events are still great opportunities to bring them into your group. You can set up a larger new member orientation followed by some smaller group conversations to get to know one another.

Set your event dates and times

Once you’ve settled on some event ideas, treat a virtual event like you would an in person event! It’s still important to schedule it out in advance and consider what days and times are most accessible for your current members and new members. Pro-tip: Since many folks are spending more time at home, you can host more impromptu gatherings. Are folks getting stir-crazy on the facebook page? Or are you getting anxious texts? Get everyone on a video chat to build community and take action.  

Recruit attendees

It’s just as important to put in the time recruiting folks as it is with an in person event. Set up a Facebook event, email your list, make calls (particularly to new members), ask your members to make calls, reminder folks to invite friends and more. We also now have a feature for virtual events on the Indivisible map, so register your event and we can help with promotion. Don’t forget to also do confirmation calls in advance of the event. A lot of folks are concerned and worried in this moment, so keep in mind that for some this may be a welcome distraction and for others they may not want to/be able to participate right now.

Plan out your call to action

While we often advocate for in person actions, there are also a lot of ways to stay active and make an impact.

  • Join our texting team to text together (but apart): Thousands of activists have already joined our texting team to recruit new activists to Indivisible groups in target states and reach out to voters about key elections. If your group members are already trained, request some texts together and have a virtual texting party. If not, sign up here. 

  • Write letters to the editor: LTEs are a powerful way to get your message out into the community. And the more LTEs that are submitted on a certain topic, the more likely it is that a few of them get published. Share stories, workshop your LTEs and submit them together. Then be sure to check your local paper and uplift your published pieces!

  • Commit to calling your MoCs: We need to hold our members accountable now more than ever. Pop off one by one to call your MoC and report back and/or commit to calling everyday until our communities have the support we need, and set up accountability measures to make sure everyone is following through. 

  • Write letters to voters in key states: We’ve partnered with VoteFWD to send letters to voters asking them to vote in November. You can get started here

Hold your event!

Good news, you don’t have to worry about setting up a room or getting anywhere for these events. However, it is still important to plan out a clear agenda and be very mindful of how you’re making everyone feel included. Here are some tips:   

  • Collect attendee information: Depending on the software you’re using, you may need to jot down everyone who joins the call (but some call systems capture this for you). If you have a large event, consider setting up a google form so that attendees can fill out their contact information. This is also a great opportunity to collect phone numbers so that you can follow up with attendees with a call and/or text.   

  • Icebreakers: Icebreakers are always a great idea, but particularly when you don’t have the opportunity like you do in an in person meeting for small talk before things get started. For a smaller call, you can have everyone go around and answer a question (ie* what’s your favorite icecream, guilty pleasure TV show or check these out). For a larger call, if you have the option to do ‘breakouts’ you can put folks into smaller groups. If that’s not possible, have a few people raise their hands to answer the icebreaker while others answer in the chatbox. 

  • Introduce new members: Make sure new members feel really welcome and know that everyone is enthusiastic for them to be part of the group and to get to know them. Ask them to introduce themselves and maybe share a few fact/why they’re excited to be part of Indivisible (you can give them a heads up before the call so that they’re not put on the spot). 

  • Call to action: Keep your group engaged and know that they’re still making an impact by having a clear call to action (see ideas above!). You can tell folks they can do this once the event is over or create that community feeling by staying on the line and working together. 

Follow up

Don’t forget to follow up to thank all your attendees for joining and invite them to your next event. Usually the best way to really connect is through phone calls, so block off some time to call through your attendees (or delegate that to others in your group). These calls are a great opportunity to get to know your group members and collect feedback on the event. You can supplement those calls with a follow up email to everyone who joined as well.  

Types of Events 

Many types of events that are generally held in person can be creatively adapted to happen virtually. Here are some ideas for how to take different types of offline events online. 

Small Group Meetings & Discussions 

Facilitated small group discussions or study groups are easily adapted to virtual formats and are great for building relationships and generating deeper conversations on current issues,  shared interests or big questions. Here are some suggestions about how to plan and facilitate successful small group meetings online.

Plan your topic. A reading or resource - such as an article, podcast, or book excerpt - can be a good way to center your discussion. You may select one or several short resources to get the conversation going, but share with participants in advance so everyone has a chance to read the material before the meeting. Be sure to send readings and resources in a format that everyone can access (i.e., no pay wall) and include links and references to the original source.

Designate a facilitator. The facilitator’s role is to introduce the purpose and goals of the discussion, communicate ground rules, encourage balanced participation and keep the conversation moving in a constructive direction by pausing to review and recap discussion themes during the conversation. The facilitator can also use a set of study questions or open-ended prompts to shape and inform the discussion.

Small is good. The goal is to create an intentional space where all participants feel included and supported in sharing their own ideas, perspectives and responses to a topic. A group of 6-8 people is probably the perfect size, but smaller groups of 4-5 participants are fine. Be sure to confirm attendance before the date of your discussion.

Support your conversation with an inclusive structure. In addition to preparing a topic and discussion guide to center the conversation, provide a structure that encourages participation, promotes respectful interaction and sets your meeting up for success. Some basic structures are:

  • Start on time, end on time. A good, purposeful discussion can happen in 60-90 minutes.

  • Don’t skip introductions. Ask participants to share their name, where they are from, and one thing they want to get out of the discussion. 

  • Group norms/ground rules. Gain agreement on how the group will share the discussion space, for example: “step up, step back;” lean in; active listening; confidentiality; ask for clarification; speak for yourself - not against others.

  • Clear purpose: The purpose of small group discussions is generally not to solve problems, but to hear others views on a topic, acknowledge areas of agreement and disagreement,  and find points of connection.

  • Round robin: If participation is unbalanced, prompt a “round robin” around the group so that all participants can contribute to the discussion. 

  • Closing: Summarize the main themes of the discussion and explain next steps (a next step might be hosting a follow up discussion on a topic that emerged during the meeting).

Follow up: Call or email to thank participants for contributing to the conversation and invite their feedback on the experience. Ask participants if they are interested in joining or leading a small group discussion in the future.

One on One Meetings 

One on one meetings are an important organizing tool and in this moment also an excellent way to build new connections and strengthen existing ones. A one-on-one is an intentional organizing meeting between two people to get to know one another, check in on progress on a project, escalate a volunteer to leadership, and more. While these typically happen in person (maybe even over coffee or lunch), they can still be really effective over a video call where you can see one another and even still indulge in a nice treat or meal “together.”

While not everyone has more time right now, some people do and this could be a great opportunity to catch up on ones on ones. You’ll discover new things about group members and might even be able to build out your leadership team more from some of these conversations. 

Every one-on-one will follow a slightly different flow—they are a conversation after all! But there are four key components for all successful one on ones:  

Intention: There must be a purpose or a goal in setting up a one on one meeting. It could range from,  “I have some extra time on the weekends these days and want to learn more about folks in our group” to “I know you work remotely usually and would love to get ideas from you about how to bring our group together.”  Don’t beat around the bush, be upfront about what your interest is in the meeting. 

Exploration: Most of the one on one is devoted to exploration by asking probing questions to learn the other person’s values, interests, and resources and to also share your own. Example probing questions can be: “what brought you to this work?”, “what are you interested in working on next?”, “you played a big role in this action. How did you feel?” This should go deeper than just talking about Trump or the weather—really dig into what drives someone and what their personal stake in this work is. You should also share about yourself too! 

Alignment/Agitation: Using the shared values you just identified together, it’s important to take a moment to share the large-picture vision. This could be the vision of your group or your vision for this leader’s development. “Earlier, I heard you say that you want to do state legislative work next, the great news is that we have a state legislative committee that I think you would be a great fit for.” 

Commitment or Ask: A successful one-on-one meeting ends with a commitment or an ask. Sometimes the ask is very specific, “can we count on you to join our next meeting” and other times it can be a commitment to meet again. Regardless of what the ask is, the commitment is to continuing the relationship.