Targeted Impact: Episode 2 Recap With Nancy Settle-Murphy

Organizational Management June 26, 2020


WildApricot’s Targeted Impact is a free bi-weekly Q&A session with experts in the membership and nonprofit space, dedicated to helping membership organizations thrive. 

We invite experts to answer your most pressing questions on topics ranging from membership growth to virtual fundraising and everything in between. 

For Episode 2, we sat down with Nancy Settle-Murphy, founder of Guided Insights and author of Leading Effective Virtual Teams, to answer your questions on how to make the best of virtual meetings and events. 

Nancy is an expert in the fields of virtual leadership, remote collaboration and navigating cross-cultural differences. Together we discussed topics such as how to get new members to join your organization in a virtual world, how to get leadership buy-in to try virtual events and how to keep participants engaged during virtual meetings.  

If you missed Episode 2 of Targeted Impact, be sure to check out the recording and hear Nancy’s value-packed answers to these questions. 


If you attended the Q&A session, you’ll know that we received over 100 questions but were only able to answer so many in the 1-hour period. This is why Nancy grouped the most common questions that we didn’t get to and graciously answered them in this blogpost. 

Feel free to check out all of them or jump to a topic that interests you the most. At the end of each section, we’ve also included resources for additional reading, so you can dive even deeper into the topic. 

Participant Engagement

Q: With so much of our work and learning now done online, many people may be experiencing “online meeting fatigue”. What can we do to keep webinar and virtual meeting attendees engaged and actively participating? 

A: To make meetings more interactive, embed “multitasking on task” into your meeting design. By that, I mean find ways people can frequently interact, either out loud by talking, or by taking some type of action, such as responding to a poll, typing or reading chat responses, putting a hand up (physically if on video and using a meeting app tool function if not), or writing an idea on a piece of paper. Design your agenda to include interactions every few minutes. Plan for 80% of meeting time to involve active participation, vs. passive participation.

Plan to draw people out frequently by asking specific questions that help them contribute their best thinking. So instead of asking “Anyone else have any ideas?” ask “Jade, I know your organization has had success with this kind of promotion in the past. Can you share a few tips with others who might have the same challenge?”

Consider and address other reasons people may disengage: The session is boring, the subject matter is not relevant, people are confused about why they are there, the meeting leader lets a few people dominate over others, the presenters or meeting leaders review content that could have posted in advance.

Finally, make sure people come prepared for a conversation, instead of putting themselves in automatic listen-only mode, ready to respond to emails. Let them know what they need to read, review and prepare for in advance, and give them a heads-up that you start off straight away with their ideas or questions based on the pre-work.

Additional Reading on Participant Engagement:

Participant Management

Q: How can we make sure that no participant is taking up too much time and give everyone a chance to speak? 

A: To make it easier to intervene when participants are out of control, out of line, off-track, tuned out, or are exhibiting other dysfunctions that can derail your virtual meeting, it helps to start with ground rules that all agree to. That makes it much easier to intervene later. Ground rules might include such examples as: Assume good intentions, share the air, generous listening, respectful disagreement, balanced participation, take turns, etc.

With these ground rules in place, it becomes easier to make needed interventions when problematic behavior begins: “Jane, sorry I need to interrupt, but we had agreed to ‘share the air’ at the start of the meeting, so that everyone has a chance to contribute their best ideas. You’ve made some great points. At the same time, I’m concerned that others have not had a chance to jump in. Adam, let’s move to you…”

Your job as a meeting leader is to create a safe space for people to share their best thinking, without judgement. If you let bad behavior go unchecked, your credibility as a meeting leader can take a big hit. Be prepared to intervene quickly when participants are threatening to derail the meeting. Just because meeting leaders typically must maintain neutrality, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be assertive.

Additional Reading on Participant Management:



Q: How do we move an in-person event to a virtual one?

A: Some meetings are easier to move from face-to-face to virtual than others. For example, the process of converting a team meeting from in-person to virtual is pretty straightforward, most times. A three-day onsite strategic planning conversation or a medical conference with hundreds of attendees, on the other hand, takes a lot more planning to replicate in the virtual world.

One on end of the spectrum, many people underestimate the time and effort it takes to make the conversation, and simply take the original agenda, create a meeting link, and then run the meeting as though everyone were face-to-face. That rarely works, given the ease with which virtual meeting participants can tune out without intentional and frequent engagement.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who believe that it’s impossible to convert a multi-day face-to-face event into a satisfying, engaging experience, and they either decide to cancel the event altogether or postpone it indefinitely. And that would be a shame, especially when it’s apparent that large indoor events are super-spreaders of Covid-19, causing many to feel unsafe attending, even if and when local officials allow it. This means that all of us have to suspend disbeliefs about the perceived limitations of virtual meetings and events, and instead imagine how we can take advantage of the truly limitless possibilities virtual experiences can offer. And that means we have to get quite an education on how the myriad technology options can be combined to create engaging, memorable and successful virtual experiences.

I’ll share a real-life virtual conference I just helped my client team design. This is a nonprofit membership group where in the past, more than 100 members would gather together for three days and nights in one rather nice location. When the seriousness of this pandemic became real, the organization quickly declared that the show would go on, virtually.

Here’s what we did: We created five four-hour tracks, spread over five working days. Members could register in advance for the tracks they wanted, so we were able to design agendas for the appropriate number of expected participants. Each day, we had three sessions of 75-minutes long, with 15-minute breaks in between. We varied the activities, and methods of engagement so that people attending multiple tracks would be greeted with fresh activities.

Hybrid events, where some are face-to-face and some are virtual, are much trickier to design and manage, given how important it is to create a level playing field among all participants. Find ways to make all participants visible to everyone in all locations, which will mean that all participants will be using video (with rare exceptions). Make sure the audio works perfectly for everyone, which means that the physical gathering place should have high-quality drop-down mics, ideally, and that ambient noise is kept to a minimum.

Additional Reading on Events: 


Technical Tips

Q: What are some technical tips for running virtual meetings?

A: When people ask me what I’d suggest as the maximum length of a virtual meeting, my answer: It depends.

Typically, I recommend no longer than 90 minutes at a time, but if it’s fast-paced, interactive and engaging, you can stretch it to two hours at a time. In either case, building in a brief break somewhere around the middle is always a good idea. If you are running a string of meetings back-to-back, I recommend a 15-minute stretch break at least every 2.5 hours.

Consider engaging participants in the conversation before the real-time meeting by setting up asynchronous (any time) conference area, which can take the form of a Google Doc (or Jamboard), or a meeting app that has an asynchronous component (e.g. MeetingSphere) as well. Starting the conversation early can save a lot of valuable time during your actual meeting, and gives participants a chance to make introductions and learn each other’s perspectives. Be prepared to send at least a couple of reminders, as is the case with any kind of meeting prework. You can use these same discussion boards for your actual meeting, building on ideas posted there in advance.

If you’re planning to show slides, think about how you can convey the content in other ways, outside of meeting time. For example, consider sending a longer document as pre-reading in advance, and show just a few slides with highlights, which can act as a discussion-starter. Slides that are text-heavy are even more off-putting in a virtual space than they are in face-to-face settings. If you use text, choose just a few high-impact words per slide, and fill in the gaps by narrating. Better yet, use powerful images instead. (Several sites have royalty-free photos, in exchange for giving the photographers credit. I like Unsplash and Burst.)

If you’re the meeting leader, get your camera angle and lights right before you start. Ideally, you want your camera to be more or less at eye level, so it appears you’re looking across the table, rather than looking down or looking up. I like to set up lights across from me, which I can adjust with angles and filters. You can do a search for “video lights” and find an array of options. Mine were worth every penny of $30 for two. The difference is striking.

Additional Reading on Technical Tips


Meeting Style

Q: What are some common meeting styles? Should we consider organizing breakout rooms and if so, what can we do to facilitate them? 

A: Virtual happy hours have become increasingly popular. Everyone’s doing it: managers and colleagues alike are inviting workmates to join, often at around 4 PM on a Friday. Professional associations are doing the same, sometimes having a keynote speaker, and sometimes not. Some virtual happy hours have themes (e.g., movies, music, food, books, etc.) and some are completely unstructured and unpredictable.

For meetings of almost any type with more than eight or so people, I think that breakouts are usually best for helping people make deeper connections and have insightful conversations. For a virtual happy hour, for example, the leader might consider putting people into pairs as they join, so they can say hello and answer a social question like: What has been your biggest life change over the last few months? Or: If you could go anywhere once it’s safe to travel, where would it be? Then as more people join, you can add a person or two to each group. Bring the entire group back together every so often for a quick debrief, and create as many breakouts as you have time for, each with a different question or assignment. These breakouts can be random, or you can create manual groupings. There are also ways that participants can self-select their groups by interest area; this varies depending on the meeting app you’re using.

Personally, I use Zoom far more frequently than any other meeting app, mainly because it makes forming breakouts so easy. Be aware that if you have a meeting of any size, or there’s a lot on the line to make sure everything runs perfectly, I would ask a colleague to act as your co-pilot, organizing and running the breakouts, especially if you want to form customized groupings.

When using breakouts, you almost always want to have some type of debrief, even if it’s quick. For a casual, virtual happy hour type gathering, you can ask a few people for some quick epiphanies. For a working breakout, make sure that someone in the group is taking notes in a way that can be easily transported back into the main room for all to scan and reflect on. I like using Google Docs or Slides for this, but where Google products are not allowed, cutting and pasting from a Word doc works fine, too.

Additional Reading on Meeting Styles


So there you have it! A huge thank you to Nancy for being a guest on Episode 2 of Targeted Impact and for taking the time to answer the questions we didn’t get to in the live Q&A session. 

I hope these answers help your organization better navigate the virtual world we’re living in and make the best of your virtual meetings and events. If you didn’t get a chance to attend the live session, don’t forget to check out the recording here. 

What’s Next? 

Episode 3 of Targeted Impact is just around the corner. On Thursday, July 2, at 3:00 PM EST, we sit down with Sean Kosofsky, the Non-Profit Fixer. Sign up here and come prepared with your questions for Sean. Hope to see you there! 


The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.


About results ( seconds) Sort by: 
Sorry, an error occured when performing search.