As a coworking space owner or manager, you’re surely navigating membership pauses, extensions, cancellations and questions about when you’ll be open again. It’s a disheartening and worrisome time for most small businesses, especially those that thrive on groups of people coming together. If you have an established community at your coworking space, closures during the coronavirus outbreak can leave your members feeling disconnected. Many of your members joined your coworking space because they don’t want to work from home.

While much about the current health crisis and economic downturn are uncertain, one thing is for sure: your members find value in community. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have joined your coworking space. So how do you preserve that value if you’re not supposed to leave your house? How do you create a sense of community when you can’t actually be with your members? 

Continuing to host events for your members is the best way to keep your community engaged while your coworking space is closed. Whether you use Zoom, Google Hangouts or Instagram Live, there are a number of free and inexpensive tools to help you gather your members virtually. Your virtual events should follow the same general rules as your in-person events—every session should serve a specific purpose and provide value to your members. Whether you’re hosting a conversation to discuss work-from-home tips, teaching your attendees a useful skill, or simply spending a little time together to provide some calm and stability, make sure every event has a goal in mind. 

Just like your in-person events, you don’t have to lead every session. Provide your members with as many opportunities as possible to share their unique skills and expertise, especially during this time when they could likely use support from the members they know and may want to meet new potential collaborators or customers. Extend your event invites to non-members via social media, your email list and word-of-mouth with your current members.

Here are seven event themes to help get you started with virtual events or add to your event calendar:

1. Plan a Workshop to Teach a New Skill

Now that many of your members are spending a lot more time at home, they’ll be looking for ways to productively use their time. What are some of the valuable skills your members could learn or sharpen that would help them improve their businesses during these tumultuous times? When you’re trying to pursue a new skill, learning together is far more motivating than being in the void of an overwhelming Google search. Maybe it’s sprucing up websites, planning social media content or learning the basics of Quickbooks. If you’re not sure what skills to start with, ask your members what they’d like to learn. Seek an expert (preferably a member!) who can lead a session and provide value to your community.

2. Support Your Members with Career Development

You likely have members who have experienced the negative impacts of the sudden economic downturn and are now seeking new jobs, new clients or both. Help them address uncertainty by taking control of what they can—presenting themselves and their work professionally. Whether it’s writing a standout resume, making the most of a LinkedIn profile or building a personal portfolio, tap an expert to provide tips for the best ways members can refresh or improve their professional materials and online presence. You can also pair members with each other for resume reviews, portfolio feedback or interview practice.

3. Create a Virtual Panel

What’s a topic your community would be interested in discussing together? Work-from-home tips? How to manage remote employees? Best practices for homeschooling? There’s so much information for each of these topics, and including three to five professionals on a panel with a focused subject is a great way to capture different perspectives and a lot more information than a single expert may be able to offer. Virtual events allow you to extend your panel invitations broadly, so think big and get creative with the experts you’d like to invite. Plan questions for your panel in advance, and be sure to save time for your attendees to ask their questions.

4. Host a Group Exercise Session

You’ve seen these skyrocketing on social media and there’s a reason. It’s really fun! With a little extra time on our hands and plenty of stress to burn off, exercise is a great way to engage your members with an easy-going activity and encourage them to take a break. Ask a qualified member, your local yoga studio or a personal trainer from your gym to hold a 30-minute session that requires minimal equipment. Bonus: offer your members a follow-up fitness challenge (such as holding a plank or completing a set of sit-ups) and encourage them to tag your coworking space on social media when they complete it.

5. Feature a Local Business

Right now is a critical time to show support for small businesses. Plan an activity with a local business that offers a Member Benefit to your community or a business you know your members love. Is it a restaurant? Ask them to show your members how to make a dinner favorite or a signature cocktail. Local boutique? Ask them to get creative with spring styling tips. A bookstore? Ask for the best new book recommendations for entrepreneurs, kids, history fans, fantasy-lovers and any other genre your community would enjoy. Let the business make an ask during the event—attendees are likely to want to support them by making an online purchase, buying a giftcard or ordering takeout.

6. Give the Parents and Caregivers a Break

If you’ve ever worked from home with kids, you know how difficult it can be to prioritize productivity. Many of your members are likely experiencing these challenges right now, so why not offer them a little reprieve? A virtual storytime or a craft activity are excellent ways to engage the kids of your members with something fun to hold their attention. Consider what you know about the families of your members and plan your activity for the appropriate age range. If you’re leading a craft, select a project that uses common household materials that your members will have on hand. A Google or YouTube search for “kids craft ideas” will give you tons of project ideas to try.

7. Hang Out Over Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour

These events are the easiest to plan yet offer significant value for your members. They want social connection with you and the rest of their community, and a (virtually) shared cup of coffee or a post-work glass of wine provides just that. Prepare a few questions for the group to kickoff the conversation. Be sure to welcome each attendee and allow time for introductions. If you’re offering a social hour consistently, you’ll definitely attract some new folks to your group. Be sure to acknowledge them and ask how they could be supported by your community.

If you’d like to check out an example of a virtual event, join our next Coworking Community Call or one of our Friday Coffee & Coworking sessions. We’d love to see your face and hear how your events are going!

The Proximity platform helps you promote events and register your attendees. Learn how to manage events for your coworking space by booking a demo with the Proximity team or starting your free Proximity trial.

Virtual Events for Coworking Space Members