4 MIN READ
How we organized a 3-day virtual meetup in less than a week
This is the inside story on how we put together a three-day virtual meetup in less than a week, while spending just €866 for the entire 3-day event.
We didn’t have a successful recipe to start from but as an early-stage startup that has recently doubled its headcount, the ROI of the meetup was priceless.
At Avrio we’re building a 100% remote company, and we are currently spread across 6 different cities - in 4 countries. As a newly formed team, alignment and knowledge sharing are vital for our growth and success.
Having seen first-hand the power of remote work done well at Hotjar, Andrew (our founder) wanted to replicate the formula for us at Avrio. One of the aspects that he believed contributed to the success was the bi-annual in-person meetups held to help build relationships between the team and keep everyone aligned and focused on the company's mission.
So after our last round of hiring, we decided that it was the right time to take a step back to spend some time together and in October 2021 Avrio had its first team meetup.
Due to our early-stage and current travel restrictions, our first meetup had to be a virtual one but we’re looking forward to hitting a few key milestones and hopefully meeting our teammates in person for the next one if Covid allows :)
How we made it happen
The first thing we had to do before starting arranging any of the logistics was to agree on what the goal of the meetup was.
We decided that it was important to:
- Review our performance and discuss key challenges as a team,
- Share ideas and plan together,
- And most importantly, get to know each other a little bit better and have some fun!
First, we thought about how we would like to split our time between team bonding, having fun, information sharing, brainstorming, and working together.
As this was our first meetup we decided to give it a theme, ‘BUILDING BLOCKS’, and our aim was to:
Define the key foundations we need to have in place in terms of the team and product to make Avrio a success.
So we then created the agenda with topics related to our theme and started setting dates and time frames for each session. We also named the owner of each session, responsible for preparing the session through arrangements/slides or leading the conversation on the date and time of the session.
This agenda was shared with everyone prior to the start of the meetup so we all knew what would be happening during these 3 days. We then created the links in zoom for each event and sent the invites.
Virtual team experiences and Activities
Finding fun stuff for all to do during a virtual meetup was challenging, so before making any bookings, we sent a survey with some options for team-building activities and experiences to see what the majority would enjoy doing.
We ended up booking a motivational speech, a meditation session, and a virtual crime investigation/escape room from Airbnb experiences.
You cannot imagine how many interesting virtual team bonding experiences you can find in Airbnb that suit all types of teams.
Directly inspired by Andrew’s time at Hotjar, Lighting Learning was an opportunity for team members who volunteered, to share personal learnings that helped them to overcome challenges, learn new skills, or grow as an individual.
Anyone who wanted to take part had 5 minutes and 5 slides to present a topic of their choice, that could be serious, humorous, adventurous, etc.
Team members had to confirm their participation at least a couple of days before the meetup date so we could accommodate them in the Agenda.
Some of the topics presented were:
- Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
- Have you ever been to Abilene? (Abilene Paradox)
- Personal knowledge management (PKM) & Obsidian
Sending goodie bags to all team members
We were also planning to send a little bit of swag to all team members and we thought that it would be a good idea to combine this with our first meetup. The goodies bags included branded SWAG, some reading, mini personalised Lego miniatures.
So we hustled to order everything, print the swag and deliver a few days before the start date so everyone could wear their swag during the meetup.
We wanted to treat the team, and the only way to do so was to find a way to somehow provide lunch at home. So we checked with each one for dietary preferences and delivery services in their town and arranged lunch deliveries. The orders were placed daily approx. 1,5 hours before lunch break.
What went well
- Nobody was left to starve!
What went wrong
- Delivery time varies in each city, and it was not possible to eat together with the varied delivery times.
- Only one person was placing all orders so the first and last order had at least a half an hour gap between ordering.
- Using the same payment method to complete transactions in 6 different cities can be seen as suspicious to the processor and they will block the payment.
- Not all locations have good or any delivery options, we were unable to order delivery for one of our team members.
Note for next virtual meetup
Look for other ways to treat your team members. We think that giving an allowance to each of us to order our own food or get supplies to cook would be more efficient next time.
The total cost for our meetup was €866 and we all agreed that it was a great investment of time and money for the team.
Did we achieve our goals?
Goal 1: Review performance and discuss key challenges
We had a constructive discussion on what we have achieved so far and a candid discussion on our biggest challenges. New stories were created based on potential customers’ needs, and targets and goals for the future were set.
Discussing and reviewing our OKRs and Product Strategy allowed us to identify and prioritise future actions, got us all aligned, and helped set priorities. During this process, all parties were informed about the challenges that each team is facing and each of us had the chance to express our concerns, make a case about what we think is important and what can be put on hold.
Goal 2: Share ideas/knowledge and plan together
During our hackathon session, we managed to define the foundations for collaboration and communication and quickly come up with productivity solutions.
Overall, one of the biggest wins from our meetup was the new ideas that came up and the inspiration and creativity during the brainstorming sessions. It was also made clear that we all agree on the needs that the product has to succeed and what it takes to make Avrio a ‘pain killer’ product.
This process gave us the holistic perspective of the stage we are at now, helped us understand the roadmap and priorities clearly, and it allowed us to dream about the future.
Goal 3: Get to know each other a little bit better and have some fun
Despite that our activities were virtual we made the first step, we did something together that was not related to work.
We even managed to convert experiences that weren’t supposed to be funny to the most discussed and laughable topic of our meetup. We found out that even if some did not have the impact we expected them to have they actually brought the team closer as we created common experiences.
Also, having the chance to have lunch breaks together and have casual conversations helped in discovering parts of team members’ character and personalities that we did not know.
If you're looking to set up a virtual meetup for your team, here are my top takeaways:
- Don't overthink it, you can organize a lot in a short time
- Start with a clear agenda
- You do not need a huge budget to organise something nice
- Ask your people what they would like to do and discuss, you can get nice ideas from them
- Schedule frequent breaks, everyone gets tired being 8 hours straight in front of the screen (team’s feedback after our meetup)
If you have any tips that will help us improve for our next one we'd love to hear them or if you'd like to learn a bit more I'd love to hear from you. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat.