RVI’s Guide To Running a Virtual Angel Group Meeting

This post contains our up-to-date set of best practices on how the River Valley Investors angel group runs our meetings online. Last updated on: 8/27/2020

Technology of choice:  Zoom

  1. Prep
    1. Updated 5/18: We send all likely attendees these online meeting etiquette guidelines (kindly shared by the Keiretsu forum).
    2. Before the event, we ask everyone to log in with a device with a camera so we can see each other. They all have been invited to a google calendar event with the link embedded in it.
    3. Created Breakout Rooms from the get-go. I’ve used Zoom for over a year and hadn’t even realized it was built into the pro plan I was already paying for! If you haven’t used breakout rooms before check them outUpdated 4/15: we name the breakout rooms after spots in our area where people like to meet in person. Updated 5/22: We assign some of our trusted regulars to facilitate breakout rooms and help make our new attendees feel and home and meet new people.
    4. Updated 4/15: We also enabled the waiting room feature. This gives us a very easy place to park entrepreneurs and proved to be better than using a dedicated breakout room.
    5. The group Manager and assistant manager make sure to have the Participants & Chat subwindows open (do this by clicking on the respective buttons).
  2. Troubleshooting & networking
    1. Updated 8/27: As our members log in, once we are sure we can see & hear them and vice versa, our Manager will invite them to head into one of the  Networking breakout rooms to socialize. We aim to put 3-6 people in each breakout so the interactions remain personal. This way people who are ready to go don’t have to listen to others getting tech support :). We always ask one of those people to serve as the “host” of the breakout, taking responsibility for ensuring everyone gets to meet each other. We often ask newer members to play this role as it helps them get to know their peers faster.
    2. As the entrepreneurs login, we have them hop into one of the breakout rooms where our assistant manager makes sure the entrepreneurs are ready to share their screen and has their questions answered.
  3. Setup to best re-create in-person meeting
    1. Updated 4/15: Our Manager messages everyone via zoom’s integrated chat when networking time is about up. He then closes all the breakout rooms. This causes all members to be automatically dumped back into the main area in one minute, with a handy countdown. This helps people wrap up their conversations.
    2. With everyone present, we ask people to switch to Gallery mode, this shows a grid of as many people as can fit on one’s screen. It helps recreate (as close as we can) the feeling of all of us being around the same table.
  4. Meeting start & entrepreneur presentation
    1. Updated 4/9: Remind members…
      1. There are bio breaks systematically placed in the meeting, so please stay until the breaks if at all possible.
      2. “Pass a note” to the Manager via Zoom’s Private Chat feature. We discourage people from sending messages to the whole group.
      3. Use the “raise hand feature (click the “Participants” button to find the “Raise Hand” button) to signal you’d like to ask the entrepreneur a question.
    2. Go through our introductory agenda (quick intros, explain the process, etc).
      1. Updated 5/22: Intros in a large meeting can take a while. Instead, we have attendees change their name on the zoom call to reflect their organization or expertise.
    3. Manager mutes everyone (except the presenter) to minimize background noise.
    4. Presenter shares their screen (where they already have their presentation in full-screen mode, ready-to-go). This puts their slides in full-screen mode for everyone.
    5. Updated 4/15: We have presenters confirm that they have a 10-minute timer, that makes noise when complete, ready to start. We set one up as well and if the company runs over time the Manager discreetly private-messages the entrepreneur. Once the entrepreneur has confirmed they are ready to start their timer, we tell them to begin.
  5. Q&A
    1. With the presentation complete we ask the entrepreneur to stop screen-share so we can all see the grid of faces.
    2. Updated 4/9: The Manager uses the list of raised hand symbols visible in their Participants” subscreen to identify who is next in line to ask a question.
    3. Updated 4/9: Manager unmutes the person who’s turn it is (saves a lot of time of people forgetting to unmute themselves), announces something to the effect of “Mary has our first question, and Jim is next in line.”
    4. Updated 4/9: The manager mutes themselves.
    5. Repeat until Q&A time runs out (for us it is usually 15 minutes).
  6. Closed-Door Session
    1. Updated 4/15: When Q&A is complete the Manager politely moves all presenters to the Waiting Room.
    2. The closed-door session continues as normal. At RVI we follow a particular format with the discussion going in three parts…
      1. “Why might this be a great investment opportunity?”
      2. “If you were on the due diligence team, what questions would you recommend they think through carefully?”
      3. “Who wants to be on the due diligence team?”
      4. Updated 4/15:
        1. If there is a due diligence team then the manager asks the team to stay present and releases everyone else to go on break for 10 minutes. The entrepreneurs are brought in from the Waiting Room. The Assistant Manager then coordinates the date & time of the next due diligence meeting.
        2. If there is no due diligence team, the entrepreneurs are sent to a breakout room where the Manager joins them and gives the bad news and a very brief summary of why we did not have the critical mass to proceed. We believe a fast, respectful no with an explanation is the only appropriate and fair thing to do for an entrepreneur. We also offer to have a conversation after the meeting if they want more info. If they are a local company we sometimes invite them to rejoin the meeting at the end to get some targeted advice from the group.
  7. The rest of the meeting
    1. Rinse-repeat for other presenters.
    2. Do end-of-meeting wrap-up (portfolio company updates, upcoming ACA meetings, etc).
    3. At the end of the meeting, invite people to use the breakout rooms if they would like to continue any conversations or otherwise take advantage of the fact a bunch of us are in one (virtual) place at the same time.

2 thoughts on “RVI’s Guide To Running a Virtual Angel Group Meeting

  1. At Sand Hill Angels we have a co-host log in as two accounts (one on web and one on a phone). A second laptop displays the timer. Out timer is HTML coded branded with our logo and can be customized for presentation time, Q&A and Deal Lead Next Steps. The second account on the phone serves as the timer. We have a webcam on a tripod that faces a second laptop. The video share from the phone account serves as the visible timer. We switch between that accounts video being pinned and the speaker view throughout the meeting.

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