Creating a New Learning Experience for Virtual Meetings

Date: November, 2020

Author: Mandy Dennis, RDH

As we begin to look at 2021, we are optimistic on returning back to in person gatherings and seeing one another again. Until that happens, we can prepare ourselves and our teams with great opportunities in learning. Many of your team members may already be familiar with online learning through websites such as the Colgate Oral Health Network. COHN already gave dental professionals the opportunity to learn virtually by offering free continuing education prior to the pandemic and continues to be a great resource. Virtual meetings can be a great success for the entire team and can offer many people courses they typically wouldn’t be able to enjoy! Starting with a plan, just as you would for in person meetings, is the key to success.

Make A Plan

As you look at the year and the continuing education (CE) you need, how do you decide which courses to attend? Do you usually pick the location and then pick the courses? This year’s plans may be a little different, but you can still have a great experience. Many hygienists attend hygiene-specific meetings for the opportunity to get with other like-minded individuals. This opportunity can assist you when speaking with your co-workers about the meeting itself. Ask your doctor if you can take the lead on finding a meeting for the team. Talk with your co-workers and find out what courses they may be interested in taking. What topics would they like to know more about? Have you as an office experienced a situation where it would benefit you all to learn more about that topic? Once you have an idea on what everyone would like, you can begin looking at different meetings and determine the best virtual meeting to attend.

Prepare for the Experience!

Once you have the meeting decided, decide on the courses and get creative! It doesn’t always take getting on an airplane to experience somewhere new. Colgate supports hygienists under the Colgate Oral Hygiene Advisor (COHA) group. COHA sponsored the virtual kick-off party this year for the ADHA meeting, which would have taken place in New Orleans. This time, for the virtual meeting, a drink and a recipe were emailed to those registered to put us in the mood as if we were there! What a great idea! Put yourself in a mindset of being there! We choose our happiness. Experiences are what we make them. If you’ve taken the lead, put a "travel pack" together for each team member.

  1. Put together a packet with a fun t-shirt for those attending the meeting.
  2. Make a “did you know?” information sheet about the area the meeting would have been held in.
  3. Make a game out of knowledge about the location with a prize!
  4. Make an itinerary of what each person will be taking, and learning objectives. An opportunity to virtually meet up at the end can benefit the entire team.

Exhibit Floor

One of the things we love about attending meetings is the exhibit floor! Many of the sponsors and vendors offer discounts for attending and give free products. This doesn’t have to change! Once again, plan for the products you want to explore. After attending the ADHA virtual meeting, I received many samples in the mail from the vendors I visited. Encourage all team members to visit the virtual exhibit floor. In the spirit of making it fun, plan and create a scavenger hunt! As the lead, look ahead to see which vendors are sponsoring the meeting and ask specific team members to get additional information on specific products.

Wrapping up the Meeting

Usually during one of the evenings of the meeting, teams get together over dinner to talk about what they are learning. This time, you could meet virtually and create a theme evening, with the focus being foods of that area! (Depending on whether it is possible/advisable at this time in your area, you could also meet outdoors at a restaurant and socially distance.) Have everyone bring their sheet on what they learned and what they enjoyed. Have those you asked to attend specific vendors bring what they learned about those products. Ask for honest feedback. It’s possible that some of the team members who were able to attend the virtual meeting, haven’t been to a travel meeting before due to circumstances. What did they think of this experience?

Take away

While we continue to adjust our daily lives and look forward to getting back together, we must make the most of what we have. A positive attitude can help the situation be better. Creating a positive and lively experience can be a memory the team can look back on, just as going to the event itself would be.

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