How to be a good host for your online group
Have you ever invited someone to a party? I hope that you remember those days when we could. Well, the face-to-face part rather than the virtual meet-ups we are all still having.
When we did, we always took the time to create some sort of memorable experience for whatever length of time we had them with us. When it comes to an online group we use the analogy of a party host for good reason as the same theory is behind it.
As a host, you want to create a space that is not only welcoming but draws your members back, whether that’s for the discussions, activities, events or engaging people.
You want to give them a sense of value and belonging that encourages them to turn aside other engagements for the experiences promised in your party or, in this case, your online group.
So, what does it take to be a good host? Be it a party host or a group host. You probably already know the answers but let’s consider some key components of what makes a good host.
1. Make members feel welcomed
From the moment a member joins, ensure they feel welcomed into the group by having a well planned orientation experience. If you are working with a smaller group, you may reach out to them individually, along with your standard invitation or response to the request to join. If you have a larger member base, you could recruit your facilitation team or key members to connect and welcome your new members.
Either way, you can add little touches to make new members feel comfortable such as an online webinar or meeting for new members to show them around the group, a digital welcome pack where you signpost members via the announcement to key content and discussions, or simply a personalised hello. These simple acts will welcome your members and help them feel comfortable as they enter your group.
2. Have a plan
As a group facilitator, it’s tempting to assume your members will drive the discussion, activities and content. However, this is a rarity, particularly at the start of the group as members are just starting to find their feet.
This is where your party host role comes in. You will be guiding them to people, discussions, content and events to help them start. But you also need to have a plan to keep the members moving around, bringing in fresh content on a regular basis, interactive events - whether online, offline, or both - as well as opportunities to ask whether the approach you have taken is meeting their needs.
3. Flexibility is good for all
If you only ever did the same thing when people came to your parties, after a while they will get bored, you need to shake it up a bit. Try and make these experiences for your group members interesting by adapting to their needs. Keep an eye on the data. What activities are they engaging in? What types of discussion draws the most responses? What content is downloaded or commented on most?
Do you ask members for regular feedback?
The group will be constantly evolving and so will the membership, therefore you will need to adapt and pivot all the time but at the same time keep the group’s purpose as a focus. Just repeating something will not provide the value for the members. Ensure you connect with the vibe of your community and pivot when necessary.
These are just three simple concepts you can easily bring into your approach to facilitating and managing your group. Of course, there’s always more that can be done to make your members feel comfortable but these are fundamental steps for building that sense of community, and will help to avoid members feeling that the group is more for you or the organisation rather than them - its members.
What tips do you have for being a good host in your online group? We would love to hear what works well for you and your members.