Duke Alumni Drive Engagement in a Virtual World

This post is the last in a mini-series highlighting ways planners have continued to strengthen support for Duke and our communities through virtual events. 

Whether Duke Alumni live just a few hours from Durham, around the country or across the globe, regional events are great ways to connect, celebrate and collaborate with Duke friends.  One of the signature regional programs is Duke Alums Engage, inspired by the same values at the core of the DukeEngage undergraduate service-learning program. Duke Alums Engage helps alumni tap into the spirit of knowledge in service to society – to change their world in a uniquely Duke way. 

Like so many programs, Duke Alums Engage evolved after face to face events were suspended in March 2020. Reading and tutorial programs at elementary schools were put on hold, and instead, book drives were organized. Volunteer energy for preparing and serving meals at soup kitchens was channeled into food drives. Community work days at local non-profits became supply drives. These virtual activities focus on providing goods and supplies, rather than cash donations, because as a policy, Duke Alums Engage does not raise money to donate to other non-profits. But by supporting these drives and the many charity partners, Duke Alumni have continued to make a collective, positive impact in their communities. 

Many of the successful drives this past year grew out of existing partnerships and annual events. Duke Baltimore continued their ongoing relationship with My Sister’s Place, the city’s longest serving day shelter for women and children experiencing homelessness and poverty. In September and November 2020 and April 2021, alumni supported shelter food drives with direct donations of prepared casseroles and nonperishables though contactless drop off locations. 

The spirit of the holiday season has traditionally inspired outreach and community engagement, and that has remained true during COVID. Each year, Duke Alums Engage NYC raises money to purchase holiday gifts for the children at the Dunleavy Milbank Center which serves at-risk youth in Harlem.  In Connecticut, P2P (Person to Person) organized a Virtual Holiday Toy Drive. Duke alumni collected funds to buy gift bundles which included a gift card, age-appropriate book, and family board game, and these bundles were distributed to families via a magical drive-thru Winter Wonderland. The Children’s Crisis Treatment Center in Philadelphia has an annual drive for Thanksgiving Food baskets. Thanks to the generosity of the alumni, Duke Philadelphia was able to provide 75 boxes in 2020, more than double the number from the previous year. 

While the pandemic has amplified existing needs and revealed new challenges to communities, there have also been new collaborations and partnerships. With the leadership of alumna Susan Fisher A.B.’76, P’13, who is also the volunteer chair at Project Cicero, DUHLAA NY (Duke University Hispanic Latino Alumni Association) and Duke Alums Engage joined forces in a book drive. Purchasing from an Amazon wish list, alumni were able to help under-resourced public schools in New York City during a particularly challenging year. 

One of the most creative virtual community service events organized this year engaged alumni communities in two states, nearly 1200 miles apart! One evening in late May, the Duke Colorado and Duke Nashville regional groups fielded teams for a virtual “Trivia Showdown.” The collected optional donations went to fund the winning teams’ Duke Alums Engage community projects. The first-place winners, team “Gnashville”, played on behalf of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, and the second-place team “Blue Sky Devils” from Colorado, chose to support the Denver Zoo. 

The impact of Alums Engage can also be felt much closer to home, thanks to the active volunteers with Duke Triangle, and their support of the GPSG (Graduate and Professional Student Government) Community Pantry. This student-led initiative provides basic resources for all Graduate and Professional students at Duke University. Their mission to combat food insecurity among these students and their families helps ensure that the students can focus on their education. Students can access non-perishable foods, baby and child care items, personal hygiene products, school supplies, gently used professional clothing and household items from the Community Pantry free of charge. Because of the visibility generated through the partnership with Duke Triangle, local alumni have donated pantry supplies, local grocery store gift cards and purchases from the Amazon wish list.  In recent months, following strict COVID guidelines, they have added opportunities to volunteer in person. Whether you are an alumnus or not, if you are interested in supporting the GPSG Community Pantry, please visit their website. 

Kudos to the entire regional team at Duke Alumni Engagement and Development, with special thanks to Nicole Silvanic, Erica Berg Gavin and Ann-Louise Aguilar for their contributions to this article. 

Share

Stronger Together: Virtual DIY Fundraising at Duke Children’s

This post is the second in a mini-series highlighting ways planners have continued to strengthen support for Duke and our communities through virtual events. 

Stronger Together was created to provide a fundraising tool for third-party fundraising partners to continue supporting Duke Children’s, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. It evolved beyond a tool into a campaign, and allows patient families and community members to come together around any kind of celebration – birthdays, anniversaries, mini-events, personal stories, and more – to raise critical dollars for Duke Children’s. 

When Stronger Together launched in September 2020, we wanted to showcase an example of a successful virtual fundraiser, and so during National Dog Week, we hosted a virtual dog walk. The fundraising goal was $1,000. By the end of the week, $1,165 had been raised. Since that first experimental event, our partners have created 12 DIY fundraising events using Stronger Together, and raised over $145,000.  

What special resources and skills were needed to produce this virtual fundraiser?  

My team (Amelia Howle, Lindsay Gordon-Faranda and Debbie Taylor) and I built Stronger Together using the Blackbaud TeamRaiser platform. We were familiar with the platform from peer-to-peer fundraising events, but we were adapting the platform for do-it-yourself (DIY) fundraising. We had to learn how to use the platform in a different way, as well as provide support and answer questions from the fundraisers. Because many of our fundraising partners were hesitant about this DIY virtual fundraising platform, we also developed a  and a virtual instructional webinar. 

How did going virtual impact your financial goals for the event?  

Never having done anything like this before, our original goals for this campaign were conservative. When we launched the site in September 2020, the goal was $25,000. Since then, I have increased the goal multiple times. Our current goal is $150,000 and we are less than $5,000 away from reaching that goal.  

During your virtual fundraiser, how did you highlight the impact of donor support? 

With DIY fundraising, the donor connection is directly correlated to the individual who has created the fundraising page. The connection to the cause may be very loose, and as a result, it was critical that we steward these donors very personally. Using a tool called Thank View, Amelia Howle works with each DIY fundraiser to create a personalized acknowledgement email featuring a video in their own voice. For example, one of our patient families hosted a month-long DIY fundraiser in celebration of their daughter’s first birthday. They set a goal of $50,000 and actually raised over $60,000! Amelia asked the family to record a short video to say thank you to their friends and family who gave in support of the fundraiser.  

Were there any unexpected benefits you experienced with your virtual fundraisers? 

As more face-to-face events are permitted, our third-party partners will also be able to collect donations online versus the cash and checks we typically receive. By using an online fundraising page, there is also the added benefit of collecting donor contact information, which enables us to engage them beyond the original event.  

In our work, we hear so many great stories from families who have a connection to Duke Children’s and want to help others who are going through the same thing. These prospective donors may not be ready to make a major gift, but they are interested in supporting Duke Children’s in some way. Now, our gift officers can direct them to the Stronger Together website so they can create a fundraiser and share their stories with others. This strategy has become a staple in our engagement plan for this new fiscal year. Virtual DIY fundraising through Stronger Together will definitely continue beyond the “return to normal.” 

Virtually yours, 

Lori Apicella 

Director of Children’s Engagement 

Duke Children’s Development 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Kathy Wright 

Share

STAY AWAY 5K: Virtual Event Scores a Win for the Lemurs 

This post is the first in a mini-series highlighting ways planners have continued to strengthen support for Duke and our communities through virtual events. 

The Stay Away 5K event is a spring fundraiser, friend-raiser, and awareness-building virtual event and promotion for the Duke Lemur Center. It is a race that can be run, walked, hiked, cycled or swum, wherever you are during a weekend timeframe.  Our Stay Away 5K debuted in 2020 as a virtual fundraiser, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to look for new donors and new sources of support.  We had no idea how successful we might be, so financial goals were quite open-ended. Nonetheless, we were optimistic that registrations and donations would take off, and they did!  

What elements did you incorporate in your virtual event to engage attendees? 

A t-shirt design contest was one way we added an element of fun, and brought attention and interest to the event well before registration opened. We invited a few special guests to help us judge the finalists and select the winner. All registrants received a commemorative race t-shirt printed with the winning design, and we encouraged participants to post and share photos of themselves and their families and pets participating in the race. Facebook photo album of StayAway5K 2020 participants 

What special resources and skills were needed to produce your virtual fundraiser? 

We were entirely new to a virtual race, so it was a huge learning curve for all of us. The registration process was customized for the event through collaboration with the Duke Web Gifts team. The t-shirt supply chain logistics were managed by Business Manger Melissa Dean and Student and Volunteer Programs Coordinator Erin Hecht, with support from a fantastic team of volunteers. 

The Lemur Center works hard year-round to build upon its strong following on social media. That solid base of friends and followers was a critical component to our success. We also have staff whose savvy skills with promotions on those platforms were essential. As such, our Director of Communications, Sara Clark, led the planning and framework for this virtual event. 

At the Duke Lemur Center, all of our events – whether virtual or in person – require a true team effort. We take an “all hands on deck” approach, and care deeply about our events being successful in order to build relationships, support, and awareness about our work – that’s our motivation for success! 

What was the most unexpected benefit you experienced with your virtual event? 

Our Stay Away 5K events were so successful that we plan to do one every year, even once face to face events are permitted! With thousands of participants, the 5K brought in just under $75,000 in 2020 and exceeded $75,000 in 2021. We engaged friends and supporters located all over the world, and were connected with new supporters we would not have met otherwise. 

A race draws the attention and support of individuals who have not previously donated, including avid runners and outdoor enthusiasts. Many have said that they plan to participate every year. These new donors fit really well within our existing base of donors who value our connection with Duke University, and who follow and support the work of the Duke Lemur Center: conservation efforts, helping endangered species and scientific research. As an example, one of our new 5K participants recently joined the advisory board of a foundation. She followed up to learn more about our work, so she might pursue funding from that foundation for the Duke Lemur Center. 

In 2021, we chose to hold the event the weekend after Earth Day. With this timing, we can highlight the very important work we do to protect lemurs—Earth’s most endangered group of mammals—as well as our conservation work in Madagascar. This strategy worked so well that we plan to schedule the same weekend every year. 

 

What advice do you have for colleagues planning a virtual fundraiser? 

Virtual event promotions like this one can become a tradition that brings people together and allows you to tell your story. Encourage event participants to sign up for your newsletters and give them opportunities to connect in other ways. The impact of gifts you receive through these promotions can be felt long after the event ends. 

 

Virtually yours, 

Mary Paisley 

Development Officer 

Duke Lemur Center 

Share

#TogetherWeRec

Before March 2020, memberships at Duke Recreation were built around access to gym and pool facilities, equipment rentals, and group activities like fitness classes, IM sports, clubs and outdoor activities. When the pandemic forced Duke Recreation to shut down facilities and in person activities, we immediately began to reinvent ourselves.  We started asking all our staff to rethink activities to utilize a virtual component, but also to imagine new options never considered previously.

Instead of memberships granting physical access to facilities and classes, we created digital memberships offering unlimited access to virtual content. Knowing the success of concepts like Peloton, we were able to tackle virtual fitness classes confidently. Fantasy sports were already popular long before virtual events were part of our vocabulary. So, to satisfy members’ thirst for competition, we launched bracket challenges and weekly pick’ems. But we also tried new ideas, some more successful than others. Team trivia had a strong start in the fall, but less so this spring. Our development officer created a webinar series called RecTalks, discussions with experts in their industries of sport, recreation, physical education and wellness. They are free and open to anyone, and have been really well received! People are tuning in from all over the country, the world in fact, to watch! And that was a whole new game for us! Register here to check out our upcoming RecTalk on May 12.

In recent months we’ve undergone further transformation, as we have started to reopen some facilities and resume services. Much of our full-time staff was reassigned or redeployed, so everyone is working in shifts. Some basketball courts aren’t available, because they have been temporarily converted to classroom spaces. Locker rooms are off limits. Red Mango café is open but only for takeout service. The biggest adjustment for both staff and especially students is that the facilities are by reservation only, made possible by a new software system. Time blocks are shorter than many would like, and only six days a week. And at the same time, we continue to offer virtual classes and activities.

How did going virtual impact your goals?

Our mission at Duke Recreation & Physical Education has always been to provide exceptional and diverse opportunities that promote healthy active lifestyles in a safe, inclusive environment. Going virtual just helped us think differently about safety and environment. The pandemic has really hit the students hard. It became even more critical to keep students active, not only for their physical health, but also for their mental health. More than ever, people recognize the connection between physical and mental health. We surveyed the students and learned that our programs have been critical for helping them feel connected to Duke, regardless of whether they were on campus or elsewhere. By creating and maintaining a sense of community, and providing healthy outlets, we’ve been able to help folks have some sort of normalcy.

How were you able to engage the students and members in the virtual space?

We really had to switch up our strategies here. Print material and word of mouth marketing weren’t going to be effective options in a pandemic. Instead, we completely rebuilt old sections of our website, added new ones. Information was changing so rapidly that staff had to work feverishly behind the scenes to keep up. We also had to leverage social media platforms like never before. Through Instagram and Facebook, people were also able to connect and stay informed.

 

How did you measure your success with virtual programming?

You really do have to think about what defines success. We’ve given ourselves some good grace in this new virtual world of wellness. Numbers do matter on some level, but more so for in person events. With our work during COVID, we’ve come to appreciate that the experience of any participant is essential. Even if it’s just one person that is smiling and having a good time, that program has been successful.

There has been one unexpected benefit we have experienced, as we have carefully transitioned back into facility operations. Pre-COVID, when you greeted a student they might say hi back but always kept going. Now, the students are so hungry for social interaction, they eagerly engage with the staff. Nathan even encourages them with the opening line “I like your shirt!” to see what the students will stop and share.

What has been the most satisfying about your pivot to virtual, and even to this more recent hybrid environment?

It was so motivating to see how our team responded to the total disruption of our industry! They were adventurous, taking risks and being okay with that. (Nathan)

It’s really satisfying to me to think about who we can be for the students after this. We will never be the same, but we will be so much better! (Felicia)

When we think about the future, we imagine how excited everyone is going to be for the climbing wall, Zumba classes, sports clubs and all the things they haven’t had for over a year. It’s going to be madness, but in a really, really good way!

So what life lessons do you want to share from this entire experience?

Don’t be hard on yourself if you have to walk away from something. It’s not failure, because there’s something to be learned, and it might just have been the timing. (Nathan)

Be patient, be nimble, be creative. Get out of your own way, and try something different. You don’t have to stay in that same box you’ve always been in. (Felicia)

I’m with that entirely: be adventurous. Don’t be afraid to jump into something you never imagined before. It might end up being much more than a temporary fix, and you would never have discovered it if you hadn’t tried.  (Nathan)

 

 

Virtually yours,

Felicia Tittle, Ed.D

Executive Director of Recreation & Physical Education

 

 

 

Nathan McKinnis

Managing Director of Recreation Programs

Duke Recreation & Physical Education

 

 

Kathy Wright and Kaitlin Briggs, Editors

Share

Connections and Content: Medical Alumni Weekend Goes Virtual

Medical Alumni Weekend (MAW) is an annual event often held in early November, with the goal of engaging our alumni through educational programming and social activities to strengthen their connectivity to Duke and with their classmates. Educational programs typically include a broad range of interests such as the Dean’s Conversation, departmental Grand Rounds which feature specific topics, and this year, a session on Duke’s response to COVID-19. Social activities include class reunion gatherings and campus tours, and the signature event of the weekend is the Half Century Society Medallion Ceremony. Despite the pandemic, we went forward with a virtual format for Medical Alumni Weekend Schedule 2020.

Not every event offered at an in-person events was suitable for a virtual experience, and so we made some strategic choices to exclude events that would not adapt well. For instance, the donor reception doesn’t have a formal program, it is simply a cocktail party where all of the guests are able to socialize, which would have been challenging to recreate virtually. Likewise, we opted not to hold the awards dinner program this year. If we can find a way to execute it well, we would certainly consider adding it back into the schedule for future virtual gatherings.   

The campus tours we offer during Medical Alumni Weekend are always popular features. The Lemur Center tour always sells out. No matter how old you are, with or without kids, people love going to the Lemur Center! For MAW 2020, we offered virtual tours as on-demand content that everyone could enjoy at their convenience, with no capacity restrictions. Besides medical campus tours, we also worked with the Nasher Museum, Duke Gardens, and the Lemur Center for video content, and we even discovered a virtual Chapel Climb video to add to the selections. 

What elements did you incorporate in your virtual event to engage attendees? 

One of the most interactive events of the weekend was the Medallion Ceremony for the Half-Century Society. Alumni from the Class of 1970 were mailed their medallions ahead of the event. Attendees were welcomed from the Zoom waiting room into the event to the sound of Duke’s alma mater. After remarks from special guests, the inductees all draped their medallions around their necks, at the same time on camera, some with the help of family members.  Next, they were led in the traditional recitation of the Hippocratic Oath, followed by remarks about the class gift, ending with time for informal conversation. To conclude the event, attendees were treated to a view of their class composite photo from fifty years ago, and a uniquely memorable Zoom-style class photo was taken. 

Other class reunion parties utilized the Zoom Meeting format, with larger classes also using breakout rooms. These Zoom sessions were ninety minutes, and some even ran long! While our alumni couldn’t be together in person, they really did enjoy this virtual alternative. Based on this success, we chose to add a few breakout sessions during Medical Families Day on March 20, to encourage more interaction. 

How did you measure the success of your virtual event? 

Our ROI is hard to navigate fully for an in-person event, much less for a virtual format.  Fundraising is always a big part of reunions, and while 2020 was below previous gatherings, the final numbers exceeded our expectations. For MAW 2020, we measured success by registration numbers, event attendance, and whether registrants had attended previous reunions. Many attendees, who had schedule or travel conflicts in prior years, attended their first reunion in 2020. It was exciting to reengage these alumni, including some who had not been back to campus in forty years! 

Attendee satisfaction is also a top priority, largely impacted by the ease of registering for and attending the virtual events. CVENT was our registration platform, and Jeremy Houser was instrumental in making the registration process easy. Cvent also worked well for sending session specific email reminders with Zoom links to attendees.  We had no problems with people logging in to their specific events. 

Like many others, our team has been exploring registration and attendance trends. Our registration numbers were great, though we did see the 50% attrition rate that has been common in the virtual landscape.   We anticipated that virtual attendance from one of our older audience groups, the Golden Blue Devils, would be lower than for an in-person event. In fact, their virtual registration was good, but there was still a number of no shows. On the other hand, for some events, like the Dean’s Conversation, the initial virtual registration was actually higher than the in-person event, yet we still saw higher attrition than in-person.  With virtual audiences, there are so many variables outside the scope of a planner’s control. We have learned that timing which works reliably in-person does not necessarily translate to virtual events. We did discover some virtual time slots which yield better attendance than others.   

What else did you learn from planning this virtual event? 

Because most of our attendees are practicing physicians, we scheduled the bulk of our offerings on Saturday: two educational sessions, a signature event, and eight class gatherings. Attendees may have participated in four hours over the course of the day, but our staff had to cover events from 11am through 8:30pm. We intentionally scheduled thirty minute or one-hour gaps between programs on Saturday to provide breaks for attendees but especially for staff. As it turns out, thirty minutes was not enough. Some events ran over, and some of us working back to back events had to improvise and turn host privileges over to other staff if we were to have a short break and start the next event on time. Next year, if we are doing this virtually, we will need to consider these lessons when we make our schedule.    

What advice do you have for colleagues planning a similar event? 

Too often at events we are talking at our audience and not trying to engage them in conversation. Years ago, I remember a day-long board meeting which ended with time for board members to ask questions. One board member replied, “If you want something from us, just ask. We are busy people and listening and being informed is great, but at the end of the day, just let us know the action item.”  I still remember that and try to apply it when it comes to events.   

This challenge is especially true of virtual events. So, take the time to think about what you want to accomplish in a virtual event. If the audience cannot relate to the content from the beginning, they will be disinterested and log off.  Capture their attention right away, so they want to stay on and hear more. If we don’t have action items for the audience, what is their take away? Why are they on the call?  Why should they attend?  These are questions I ask! 

After many months of thoughtful planning and detailed preparation, it was so satisfying for me and my team to see people happy on their Zoom calls and interacting with the program. The success of Medical Alumni Weekend is a credit to the entire team: Brie Russell, Stephanie Lowd, Clark Conner, Stacy Davis, Sarah Nicholson, Crystal Grimshaw, Trina Marko, Susan Thayer. It’s amazing how our team members transitioned to doing virtual events, and how much we’ve all learned from each other!  

 

Virtually yours, 

Brenda Rimmer 

Associate Director, Strategic Events 

Duke Health Development and Alumni Affairs 

 

Kathy Wright, Editor

Share

Creativity in the Time of COVID-19

DukeCreate is a series of free, hands-on arts workshops designed to help Duke students, sta­ff, and faculty of all levels develop a variety of creative skills. This year, we have offered participatory events in disciplines including cooking, dancing, digital media, drawing, print-making, music, textiles, and wellness, among others. DukeCreate will host more than 150 virtual events this academic year.

Prior to COVID, workshops were 2-hour, in-person sessions taught by local Durham artists and Duke graduate students and faculty. Since going virtual beginning in March last year, most workshop offerings have shortened to about 1-hour. We are able to provide materials to local participants for sessions that require them. While sequential workshops that require in-person attendance, e.g. the “Ceramics Academy,” have been put on hold, we have been able to offer a new line of workshops in digital media, such as Photoshop 101 and Introduction to Illustrator.

What were the event goals? How did going virtual impact these goals?

Our goal is to provide a welcoming and comfortable environment that encourages participants to try and explore techniques and concepts within the arts that are perhaps new to them. In doing so, we also strive to highlight the many academic and co-curricular arts opportunities that Duke and Durham have to offer.

This year, I’ve added an emphasis on wellness and self-care in our program planning. An inherent value of DukeCreate is it allows you to do something different, outside of your routine, with other people. For an hour, participants can forget about the stresses of school, work, and other environmental factors as they focus on a creative project together. My hope, especially this academic year, is that by creating together, we can build community and feel closer to each other.

Going virtual has meant that these workshops are now available to a wider population of the Duke Community- alumni, students, and staff away from campus. Because physical space is no longer an issue, we can open up these events to a larger number of people. The convenience of joining from anywhere has also boosted interest and attendance. Last semester, we recorded our highest average attendance.

Why did you choose this format/model over others?    

Our current virtual sessions are offered via Zoom. We chose this format because it is highly interactive, allowing workshop participants to ask instructors questions in real time, show their work, and see other attendees.

We did adjust how we formatted and marketed our workshops. With the pandemic, it was imperative to develop a safe supply pick-up process. At first, I relied heavily on events that required minimal or no materials- dance, yoga, digital media, and basic drawing workshops that could be done virtually without requiring anyone to leave their house. By the start of the fall semester, we were able to begin offering free supplies to a set number of participants for workshops. For example, we provide free kits of brushes, canvases, and paint to the first 50 people that sign up for our “Paint Like” events.  I collect the names in the order that participants sign up via the Zoom registration system and provide pick up instructions a few days prior to the event.  I’ll typically provide two 3-hour windows for pick up from the Rubenstein Arts Center, a day before the event itself and the day of. The entire process for picking up supplies takes under a minute, ensuring that participants are spending as little time within the building as possible.  In addition to the “Paint Like” series, this process has allowed us to do water color portraiture, weaving, collage, sewing (Make Your Own Plushie), and print making events, among others. For those on the supply waitlist or not located in Durham, we publish supplies on the website and make it clear that you can still attend any event if you have the necessary materials.

Regarding instructors, I have found that I have had to do less and less prep with them as the pandemic has gone on. I generally meet with them 30 minutes prior to the event so we can do a tech check and run through the workshop. For dance and other workshops that require music playback, we make sure that the sound levels are appropriate and that the instructor knows how to share their audio through Zoom. Other issues we try to tackle include wearing headphones if a dog is barking in the background, lighting, internet connectivity, and a host of other issues as they emerge.  For larger Zoom workshops that exceed 50 participants, I might disable the public chat so participants can only direct message the meeting hosts as well as other security measures to make sure the sessions are not disrupted. I attend all workshops to offer tech support (spotlighting videos, sharing screens, monitoring the chat, etc.).

What resources, skills, and partners did you use in creating this virtual event?

We’ve put a huge emphasis on partnerships and collaborations since going virtual. This year, DukeCreate has worked closely with the Co-Lab Roots workshop series, DuWell’s “Moments of Mindfulness”, the Kenan Institute for Ethic’s “What Now?” seminar series, as well as departments, student groups, and local and national artists to provide programming that shines a spotlight on the wonderful things that are happening within the arts around Duke and in Durham.

The nature of these partnerships varies.  For example, the director of the Co-Lab Roots Workshop Series and I meet before the start of each semester to identify where art and technology overlap in our planned events and we cross-promote those sessions on our workshop pages. This has the benefit of introducing new constituencies to our events. For programs with other departments, I’ll brainstorm with staff to determine what kind of programs might interest their constituents. I often offer logistical assistance for these events- setting up the Zoom link, sending template emails, finding instructors, gathering supplies, providing budgetary assistance, etc. while the department staff might handle direct communications with students, distribute supplies, and more.  If the collaboration is for an academic class, I work with the professor to determine what they would like the students to get out of the session and find and contract artists who can provide that experience. I find that I often need to set an expectation that these sessions should be hands-on and interactive as opposed to a lecture-style. This ensures that we adhere to the DukeCreate brand, and having those conversations early has been helpful.

Student group partnerships can also vary greatly, from supplying and cross-promotion, to heavy involvement and true collaboration in the formation of an event from start to finish.  Often DukeCreate’s most innovative programs come through working with students to make their vision come to life. One of our workshops during Wellness Day in April (4/12) will be the result of one of these collaborations- “Mindfulness: Tai Chi, Photography and The Present Moment.” A student approached us with the idea and we collaborated with the student after we found an instructor to develop the curriculum according to that vision. We’ll see how it goes!

Speaking of students and partnerships, the success and strength of DukeCreate is thanks in large part to my two Duke student colleagues. Our Graduate Assistant is Julie Platner, 2nd year MFA EDA candidate and our Social Media Manager is sophomore Lauren May.

How did you measure the success of your virtual event?            

In general, a successful event for us is one that aligns with our goals and draws in new participants from a wide range of disciplines across the campus community.  We use Zoom’s registration feature to track who is attending workshops, and collect information including department affiliation, class year, and major. Attendance numbers can vary greatly depending on the event being offered, but by tracking registration attrition and attendance, we can get a broad feel for what times/days/point in the semester workshop offerings might attract the highest numbers and at what point advertising will be most effective. I’ll review the overall and average attendance numbers to broadly track how things are trending during the semester and will request feedback for any new offerings via a participant survey.

Typically, DukeCreate workshops are held M-Th at 6pm.  After class/work but before dinner seems to be a good sweet spot when programming for the entire Duke community.  Within the flow of the academic calendar, there is a noticeable dip in attendance mid-semester as students begin to buckle in with midterms and things heat up for faculty and staff.  Our most successful numbers are generally right at the start of the semester before the academic year begins to take hold.

What was most satisfying about planning and producing this event?     

I’ve loved seeing the program grow this year as well as the good feedback from students and colleagues and new requests from departments and student groups for collaborations. DukeCreate has inherited an interesting niche during this unprecedented semester, and I’m so glad that it’s providing a valuable creative outlet for the Duke community.

What did you learn from planning this virtual event?    

Lots about Zoom and virtual platform technology in general! When I started virtual DukeCreate programming in March last year, I never thought it would become part of our regular programming- just a temporary solution. However, I can’t ignore the accessibility and the opportunity to connect with a wider Duke constituency, and I’ll likely continue programming using a hybrid virtual/in-person model post COVID.

 

Virtually yours,

Kevin Erixson

Director, DukeCreate

Duke Department: Duke Arts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren May -Social Media Manager is a sophomore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julie Platner, Graduate Assistant is , 2nd year MFA EDA candidate

Kaitlin Briggs, Editor

Share

A Year Like No Other: Duke Law Reunions Go Virtual

Originally scheduled for April 2020, Duke Law School Reunions were postponed until the fall We didn’t want 2020 to end without marking the milestone reunions. When it became clear that an in-person event still would not be possible, plans for Virtual Reunions were launchedClass reunion volunteers usually have concurrent expectations to fundraise and to support programming and participation, but the class gift campaign for Reunions 2020 concluded successfully at the end of June. So, we asked all of our volunteers who had spent the last year planning an in-person celebration to extend their service through October, and to help us plan the virtual reunion. 

Aside from fundraising, our reunion goals remained the same: to inform alumni about life at the law school and the university; to build community through meaningful social connections; and to cultivate affinity with Duke Law. To achieve these goals, we offered two different types of programs during Reunions 2020. We offered signature virtual programs, which were open to all, and then each class had their own private Zoom gathering.  

How did you determine your format, schedule and content?   

We wanted to maintain the impact of a celebration or an experience, but also be mindful of limited attention spans and availability. Instead of an intensive three days of virtual programming, we spread it out in smaller segments over the course of one week. We experimented with a variety of time slots, hoping to appeal to different time zones and alumni schedules. 

We knew that content for an in-person reunion couldn’t always just be transplanted into a virtual format. Inspired by our original content, we considered the factors that would have made it successful, and thought critically about adapting it to the virtual space. Some of our signature in-person programs would have been site specific, such as tours of the Lemur Center or Duke Athletics facilities.  Rather than literally try to replicate tours remotely, we developed original content around those venues that gave our alumni special insights and access. While in-person Lemur Center tours always book up quickly, the virtual program had increased capacity, and attendees were given exclusive access to lemur videos prior to the event in addition to the live lecture. “The ACC of Athletics” provided a behind-the-scenes look at the Duke student athlete experience with speakers discussing the topics of Academics, Compliance and Conditioning.  

What elements did you incorporate in your virtual event to engage attendees?  

Each class had the freedom to customize their virtual class parties, with classmate and faculty speakers, or special activities. One member of the Class of 2010 had been a popular fitness instructor during law school, and for their class party, she led a virtual workout, followed by happy hour.  Most class events ended up being relatively traditional Zoom meetingswith the greatest variables being length and size of breakoutsSome community building happened organically, like during the Class of 1990 party. One alum proudly described his personal wellness success with Peloton, and soon, attendees began sharing their own Peloton handles and making plans to work out together. 

Even though alumni expectations were somewhat lower going into Reunions this fall, they were surprised at how fun it was to visit with classmates on Zoom. They may have missed coming back to campus, but they were able to connect in ways that were much more meaningful than expected. Rather than wait for a milestone year, the Class of 1963 joined in on Virtual Reunion. Fifty-seven years out of law school, they too pivoted to virtual and were the one class that had 100% attendance! 

What resources, skills, and partners did you use in creating this virtual event?  

Our reunion planning team is a cross-functional team that includes event planners, volunteer managers and fundraisers.  I am grateful to be part of such a great team and to have had the chance to work with Kate Buchanan A.B.’92, Geoff Krouse A.B.’93, J.D.’97, Kenzie Brendle, Conner Cook, Chelsea Vohwinkel, Suzanne MacKinnon, Kelly Marcolini, Kate Shivar and Lauren Rice A.B.’00 throughout this process. It was a total team effort to plan and execute nineteen events and create a meaningful virtual experience for our alumni.  In addition to the reunion planning team, the entire Law School Alumni & Development Office staff helped out during the week. Several faculty members also volunteered their time to participate in reunion events. We also worked closely with colleagues in the Dean’s Office and the Law School’s Communications, Events, and Media Services departments. 

For Reunions 2020, we redesigned our reunions web pages so they would be tailored to the virtual experienceWe also created an email campaign that included a combination of emails from the Alumni and Development Office and emails directly from reunion volunteers. This peer-to-peer outreach was critical in cultivating class enthusiasm and participation. 

For a virtual reunion especially, the marketing strategy actually turned out to be a two-step campaign: the initial email campaign to publicize events and drive registration, as well as a social media and email campaign the week of reunions to encourage people to actually attend live, instead of just waiting for a recording afterward. Even the branding was customized for the virtual setting, because clearly, our existing reunion logo with the tagline “it was a very good year” was NOT going to work in 2020! 

One of the most amazing resources I used was the run of show template, which Madeline Drewry shared in her Virtually Yours blog on the DAA Sendoff Parties. With that foundation, we built out our own run of show, and it was a lifesaver! Also particularly helpful was Madeline’s advice to establish standardized roles for event support. We have a pretty solid staffing plan for face to face reunions which we use each year, but the virtual format required a brand-new approach. Now we have a virtual reunion staffing plan which puts us in a strong position for Reunions 2021. 

How did you measure the success of your virtual event?  

Our peer institutions that went ahead with virtual reunions last spring had higher than expected participation. However, we predicted that by the fall, some of the excitement about virtual events would have worn off, and people would be missing in-person experiences. In fact, we ended up with almost exactly the same number of registrants for the virtual reunion as we had for the same cohort when they attended in person five years ago. Here is my reassurance to colleagues planning a virtual reunion for the first time: don’t panic when you open registration four weeks out and the numbers just trickle in! Our registration surge came later, in the last two weeks before the reunion.  

The attrition rate for in person reunions is very low, given that once people register they also commit to travel plans and expenses. Knowing attrition for virtual events can be as high as 50%, we mitigated that with our communications strategy during Reunion week. We were quite pleased that the overall attrition was kept to 30%. 

We also evaluated the number of events attended per person. We set a goal of two per person based on the class party and one signature eventwe yielded 1.9 for reunion volunteers and 1.8 for non-volunteer attendees. Considering our three largest regions for Law Alumni are on the East Coast, it made sense that the session times convenient to the Eastern Time zone were well attended. Our best virtual window seems to be 1PM-2PM ET. 

We sent a follow up survey to all reunion alumni, with some special questions for first time attendees and non-attendees. It wasn’t surprising to learn that the virtual format removed the obstacles of expense and time involved with travel. A little more surprising was the enthusiasm for future virtual gatherings, even once we return to face to face events. A class happy hour one month prior to a reunion on campus would give even those who can’t travel a chance to reconnect with their classmates.  

What did you learn from planning this virtual event? How will that inform your next virtual event challenge?  

Drivers of successful face to face events may not always have the same impact in virtual events. For instance, we have traditionally paired our Board of Visitors and Law Alumni Association Board meetings with Reunions to maximize participation in both. However, in the virtual format, that logic does not apply, and it really adds a lot of pressure to produce two big virtual programs back to back. Another example is speaker delivery and content. What often makes speakers so dynamic in person is their ability to involve the audience and play off that energy. In the virtual format, most of that gets stripped away, and the content has a much greater impact on a program’s success.  

Plans are well underway for Reunions 2021, and we are using many of the lessons and data from our first experience to make this one even more successful.  We have shortened the reunions schedule to three days instead of six. Our communications team has used data from the fall marketing efforts to inform this year’s strategy. Since they were especially effective, more of the communications will come from classmates, and we’re adding a print postcard to the rollout campaign. Since we now have a solid framework for virtual events, this spring we’ll be able to focus more energy on some special touches, going a little farther than virtual backgrounds and digital memory boards, to enhance the reunion experience. 

While the entire process of Reunions 2020 was an ongoing learning experience, I’m really glad to have that foundation as we go into our second round of virtual reunions this spring. Most of all, I’m energized by the confidence of knowing that virtual reunions can be successful, and that we have the tools and the team to make it even better than before. 

 

Virtually yours, 

Caitlin Shaw 

Director of Alumni Engagement 

Duke Law School 

 

Kathy Wright, Editor

Share

Finding Light in Darkness: Jewish Life at Duke Celebrates Hanukkah Virtually

In December, Jewish Life at Duke invited the Duke community to attend a series of eight virtual candle lightings, every night of Hanukkah. Our goal was to provide a way for students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, and friends to connect and celebrate Hanukkah with their fellow Blue Devils. In a typical year, the Jewish Student Union celebrates Hanukkah with a party known as “Latkapalooza”, complete with food, music, games, a sweater contest, a photo booth, and more. This year, moving our Hanukkah celebrations to a virtual format provided the unique opportunity to include those who aren’t typically on campus.

Each night featured a special Duke guest who shared a reflection around the theme of Hanukkah. We were thrilled to welcome Jon Scheyer, Duke Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach; young alumni Rachel Berlowe Binder ’19, Kenny Green ’20, Sam Honig ’18, and Raquel Levy ’18; Provost Sally Kornbluth; Professor Dan Ariely; Vice President and Vice Provost Mary Pat McMahon; President Price; and the Jewish Student Union who hosted a virtual edition of Latkapalooza.

Each candle lighting event took place from 6:00pm-6:15pm; the short duration made it easy for attendees to commit to logging on to Zoom. We utilized the spotlight feature on Zoom to highlight three screens: our host Rabbi Elana Friedman, Duke University Campus Rabbi and Jewish Chaplain, our special guest, and a screen we called the “JLD Menorah Cam” which displayed a close-up of Rabbi Elana’s chanukiyah (Hanukkah menorah). Many of the guests shared their own menorahs, but there was no expectation for our non-Jewish guests to bring or light their own menorahs. One guest, however, turned out to have Jewish relatives who shared their family menorah with her for that evening, which was a lovely and heartwarming moment.

Following the ritual candle lighting and Hanukkah blessings, Rabbi Elana invited each guest to share some words of reflection around the Hanukkah theme of miracles and finding light in the darkness. She then asked our guests some fun this-or-that questions about their preferences. Latkes (potato pancakes) or sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts)? For latke toppings: applesauce or sour cream? Guests also were encouraged to describe a memorable gift they’ve given or received. Professor Dan Ariely shared some fascinating insights on gift giving from a behavioral economics perspective.

The Latkapalooza evening was geared more toward the student population. This was a student-hosted, student-led event and they designed fun Hanukkah-themed Zoom backgrounds.  In addition to the traditional candle lighting, they played music and hosted a virtual sweater contest and dreidel games.

Recordings can be viewed here.

What advice do you have for colleagues planning a similar event?         

Invest in custom and consistent branding: We designed a suite of marketing collateral using Canva to share across multiple communications channels. We created a short, easy-to-remember link through TinyURL that linked to the Zoom meeting ID, so it was easy for attendees to remember and connect without needing to access a calendar invitation or emailed link. We know from our work with students that a required RSVP is sometimes a barrier to entry, and for this first-time virtual event, we prioritized ease of access. Given the high turnout we had, were we to do this again, we would reconsider a more formal Zoom registration process.

Publicize widely: We utilized multiple channels including the Duke Events Calendar, Duke Today, Working@Duke, social media, email newsletters, social media, and our website. We also encouraged our colleagues in Alumni Affairs and Duke Development to share with their constituents.

Expect the inevitable: Always be sure to have a backup plan for tech issues. One night, we had internet connectivity issues, and another staff member was able to take over while the other scrambled to get back online. I think those minutes always feel longer to the organizers than they do to the participants! So, we try hard to remember that and not get down over a few tech or audio issues.

What did you learn from planning this virtual event?

Over the eight nights of Hanukkah, we were joined by over 300 alumni, parents, students, faculty, and staff from across the country. Alumni and parents who wouldn’t typically be on campus during Hanukkah were so pleased to be able to attend this Duke celebration virtually.  We have learned that there is a great desire among our community to engage with special Duke guests and experience what Jewish Life is like for today’s Duke students.

We had a great time partnering with administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni who served as our special guests and we are inspired to continue these collaborations. We would love to continue to provide some version of virtual engagement even once we return to face-to-face gatherings.

In addition to our eight special guests, we are so grateful to all involved whose work and enthusiasm made these events so successful:

Rabbi Elana Friedman; Joyce Gordon, Director for Jewish Life at Duke; Lena Wegner, Assistant Director for External Relations; Reuven Remez, Israel Fellow; Sydney Albert, Jewish Life at Duke student assistant; Sarah Jacobs, Jewish Student Union president, and the special guests listed above.

Virtually yours,

Aviv Sheetrit

Associate Director, External Relations

Jewish Life at Duke

Mary Pat McMahon, Student Affairs Vice Provost and Vice President       Dan Ariely, Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics 

Kathy Wright, Editor

Share

Retaining a Top Five Ranking with Virtual Interviews

In January, I started as the Anesthesiology residency program coordinator, so for the most part, I have had to learn from home. Right now, our department is in the midst of interview season, and it has been entirely virtual. This year, the AAMC Coalition of Physicians made the recommendation to move recruitment to a virtual platform. As an institution, Duke is doing their part, following the recommendation and conducting all interviews virtually to keep everyone safe.

Even under “normal” circumstances, interview day is a very long day, during which candidates meet with several faculty, and in the traditional, in person format, we would provide them breakfast and lunch. Typically, candidates attend a reception with current faculty and residents the evening before their interview day.

The face to face reception would be a laid-back mix and mingle with dinner. We wanted to replicate this tradition in the virtual format. Faculty members host small group question and answer sessions in breakout rooms. The residents do the same, with each room having a slightly different theme, such as what it’s like to live in Durham, or what they did in the OR today. Of course, the feel of the virtual reception is a little bit different. In Zoom, it’s a more structured setting, and only one person can talk at a time. However, with all the movement between breakouts, candidates get exposure to a high number of faculty and residents, like they would at an in-person reception.

Why did you choose this format?

Duke Anesthesiology is one of the top five programs in the nation, and so this past spring, we began asking our peers about their strategies for the upcoming virtual interview season. All reported plans to host some sort of a virtual reception and to also offer a meal benefit.

To maintain our competitive status as a top tier residency program and attract the brightest and best residents and researchers in the field, it became clear that including a meal benefit was a vital necessity. I started looking into meal delivery service platforms, discovered the ability to setup a corporate account with Grubhub and immediately proposed the idea to our department. The implementation of the virtual meal benefit required a heavy dose of administrative teamwork, and the abundance of overwhelmingly positive feedback from candidates affirms a return on our investment. We are confident that our virtual recruitment efforts will result in another excellent match.

What resources and partners did you use in creating these virtual receptions?

Ethical standards do not allow us to provide gift cards to doctors, nor can we provide them to candidates. A corporate account with Grubhub allows planners to bulk upload guest names and email addresses and use event permissions to limit the dates and times for redemption. For each event you can specify a meal budget, and while there is a small administrative charge to planners (9% if paying by credit card), there are no event minimums.

For the virtual reception, I setup an event with the allotted budget, redeemable between 11am and 11pm, to account for different time zones. I also setup a “lunch” event for the interview day. The purchase of alcohol has been excluded in these group permissions.

After the guest list is uploaded, each candidate receives a welcome email from Grubhub, announcing the meal benefit, and prompting them to create a password for their account. We also incorporate meal benefit details in our pre-interview communications to the candidates, using a template provided by Grubhub.

What did you learn from planning these virtual events?

We have received extremely positive feedback about the virtual experience from the candidates, as well as the faculty and the residents. Sure, we’ve lost some of the personal interaction we are used to, but I think we have added our own touch to the experience. The candidates are still able to get a good sense of all that the Duke Anesthesiology Residency Program has to offer, and helps them to make an informed decision about their future.

I also think the Grubhub function has been well-received by the candidates. For one thing, they are Millennial age range, and ordering online is how they do most of life anyway. There is a really broad selection of restaurants to choose from, so guests can pretty much get anything they might want.

I should mention that we actually found our guests prefer to enjoy their Grubhub meals before or after the virtual receptions. It’s just too difficult to eat while you are on Zoom!

What advice do you have for colleagues planning a similar event?

If you would like to learn more about setting up a Grubhub sub-account for your department, you should contact Chip Richards, Enterprise Sales Executive, Grubhub Corporate Accounts. His email is crichards1@Grubhub.com, and his cell phone is 678-360-4622.

After Chip walks you through the minimal paperwork, it only takes two days for his team to do the back-end work to get your department setup. You will also be connected with a client success manager who will do an introductory training, help create your first event, and be an ongoing resource. As a planner, I find the Grubhub corporate account really user friendly, and really well designed for hosting virtual meal benefits. But like us, they are learning more every day about how to improve, and they are open to client feedback. For instance, I have suggested that they add filtering options to the account address book.

What is your next virtual event challenge?

Our interview days are challenging enough! Our virtual interview day consists of two different meeting sessions, which overlap slightly, and it takes multiple computers and multiple people to make it work! We’ve got it down now, and we only have two rounds left this season.

We do celebrate Match Day, when all candidates nationwide learn which program they have been matched with. This past March, it happened to be the same day we all started working remotely! So that was our very first attempt at a virtual event, and our skills were pretty rudimentary. Nearly a year later, we know so much more about the virtual space, and we have some new ideas for how we might take Match Day 2021 to the next level!

Virtually yours,

Hannah Nicksic

Residency Program Coordinator, Anesthesiology

Duke School of Medicine

 

Kathy Wright, Editor

Share

Across the Board: Lessons & Successes from Virtual Board Meetings

The board meeting is a regular milestone of the event season for many planners at Duke. For some, fall board meetings were the second round of virtual meetings since this spring, when the pandemic forced us to pivot quickly. So, for this special edition of Virtually Yours, rather than feature one planner, we are highlighting nearly a dozen planners from across campus, who shared their experiences with virtual board meetings.

Because everyone defaulted to using Zoom for their virtual board meetings, the next big change to navigate was the meeting schedule. A few boards opted for virtual schedules that were not significantly shorter than their face to face events, however, these were the exception. Several planners hosted board meetings in a single abbreviated session, ranging from two to four hours. A few others were successful with the formula of multiple, shorter sessions, either on consecutive days, or spread out over the course of a few weeks or months. Regardless of the schedule, the board members’ needs and feedback were top considerations:

  • We did get feedback that four hours, even with breaks and lunch, is a long time to be on a Zoom call. On the other hand, we also heard from board members that breaking up the meeting over the course of one or two days was also problematic… It’s a delicate balance. Duke Alumni Association

Was board member participation impacted by going virtual? For the most part, the virtual meeting format resulted in similar and even greater participation from board members:

  • Since they did not have to travel to campus, trustee attendance has actually been better. Plus, due to the pandemic, the trustees’ schedules are not quite as busy as normal: we’re not competing with travel for business and other big events. Board of Trustees
  • The majority of our members are practicing physicians, and the virtual setting allowed them to attend from their office and come and go if needed. Medical Alumni Council
  • It was also much easier to schedule administrator participation, and we could more easily involve our scholarship students in between classes. Women’s Impact Network

And while there are distinct advantages to the virtual format, it hasn’t been ideal for everyone:

  • Our Nursing Alumni Council is also comprised of Emeritus members and I have seen a decline in their participation. School of Nursing
  • It’s harder to engage the non-alumni parents in the virtual format. Parents Committee
  • “Unengaged” board members still didn’t join the virtual meetings. Annual Fund Advisory Board

Just as with face to face board meetings, virtual meeting agendas rely heavily on live reports and presentations from speakers. Nonetheless, planners are adapting their delivery of content to the new environment, format and schedules:         

  • We have limited the amount of information sent in advance to our board. We have replaced long reports with bullet pointed information and links so they can read more if they like. Nasher Museum of Art
  • We make sure that PowerPoint presentations are dynamic, and include video elements with music and great visuals. Duke Libraries
  • We were very intentional about helping board members feel connected to campus, since they are unable to visit in person. During one meeting break, I shared Duke themed digital jigsaw puzzles created with Jigsaw Planet. On Day 2, we kicked off our meeting at 5PM with the Facebook livestream of the Duke Chapel Carillon. Young Alumni Development Council

To make the most of the compressed schedule of many virtual board meetings, several units assigned readings for homework:

  • The committee members understood that pre-reading would help them get the most out of the meeting and keep the meeting moving efficiently. Women’s Impact Network
  • Participants appreciated having the information they needed to dive right into the packed agenda. Materials also offered context for the break-out groups, which made those discussions more fruitful. Duke Alumni Association

Encounters such as informal chats at the coffee station or in the hallway, and traditional social events, are missing from board meetings in Zoom. Yet social interaction actually contributes to a productive virtual meeting:

  • With this group of young donors, I think it’s important to begin the meeting with some social time, to renew connections, and to warm everyone up to participating in subsequent discussions. Young Alumni Development Council
  • They received a lot of great information, but we’ll plan differently for the next meeting to have more opportunities for discussions and conversation. School of Medicine

Many planners have adjusted their agendas to foster informal interaction:

  • Even though the meeting was very business oriented, we had a brief ice breaker exercise for new members of the board. Duke Alumni Association
  • We’ve been opening Zoom rooms approximately fifteen minutes before the scheduled start time. This way, trustees who wish to join early can spend some time socializing with each other. Board of Trustees

And some took the concept even farther, hosting virtual cocktail parties during the board meetings:

  • Our virtual cocktail receptions typically have opening remarks from the president and board chair and then we place attendees in breakout groups for smaller conversations. We switch up the breakouts after fifteen minutes, so they get the chance to chat with different people. Board of Trustees
  • One of the national co-chairs led a cocktail demo, and we shipped a virtual meeting kit to attendees ahead of time, with printed recipe cards and Duke branded cocktail napkins. Young Alumni Development Council

We asked planners what was most challenging about planning and producing their virtual board meetings, and general impressions varied:

  • Not unlike a traditional board meeting, it’s challenging when the program content comes together at the last minute. Annual Fund Advisory Board
  • Planning this board meeting is by far easier than planning an in-person one. The only real challenges are keeping up with timing and technical difficulties. Duke Libraries

Indeed, when we drilled down a little further, the technical challenges were a common theme:

  • It is still a challenge to get new Zoom users connected. We also have to encourage audience members to ask their questions live rather than just putting the questions in chat. Nicholas School of the Environment
  • The most challenging element has been the internet connectivity of the speakers. During one meeting, we were forced us to adjust the entire agenda on the spot so the speaker could troubleshoot and present later in the meeting. School of Nursing
  • I think the most challenging aspect of the meeting was the coming and going of speakers throughout the meeting. We worked with our events team to create a virtual green room for speakers to test slides, mics and cameras, so they would be prepared to join the ongoing meetings with confidence. Medical Alumni Council

And this technical theme was underscored with additional helpful tips for others planning virtual board meetings:

  • Learn everything you can about Zoom, and conduct many Zoom meetings and practice sessions in advance of your actual board meeting. Duke Libraries
  • Remember: if you are recording a meeting, when your attendees are in breakouts, you ae still being recorded in the main session! Women’s Impact Network
  • Make sure that you have two people behind the scenes for audience support: one who board members call when they have connection issues, and another who monitors the chat messages and mutes audience members as needed. Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Enlist help: you can always use an extra pair of hands to handle the unexpected. This is just as true of virtual events as with live events! Annual Fund Advisory Board

Congratulations to event planners and volunteer managers across campus on a great season of board meetings, and special thanks to the contributors to this article!

Laura Brown, Assistant Secretary to the Board of Trustees and Director of Board Operations, Office of the University Secretary

Lisa Dilts, Senior Director Special Events, Duke Alumni Affairs

Kim Garcia, Senior Director Special Events, University Development (AFAB, Parents Committee)

Marla Gregg, Director, Alumni and Development Programs, Duke School of Nursing

Stephanie Lowd, Director of Strategic Events, Duke Health Development & Alumni Affairs (School of Medicine)

Katie O’Grady, Development Projects Coordinator, Nicholas School of the Environment

Katryna Robinson, Executive Assistant to the Vice Provost, Duke Libraries

Brie Russell, Senior Director, Alumni and Regional Engagement, Duke School of Medicine (Medical Alumni Council)

Kym Trimarchi, Senior Assistant Director Special Events, University Development (WIN)

Stephanie Wheatley, Director of Development & Major Gifts, Nasher Museum of Art

Kathy Wright, Senior Assistant Director Special Events, University Development (YADC)

 

Kathy Wright, Editor

 

Share
« Older posts