Wonder Tools — Host Events Creatively
Why Run the World beats Zoom for social gatherings, offering a novel way to gather a community online
Welcome to the Wonder Tools newsletter! I’m Jeremy Caplan. Today I’m sharing my take on online events platforms I’ve tried recently. Recent posts about the best photo apps, Google’s Journalist Studio and other useful tools are here.
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RunTheWorld.today is a slick new platform for hosting engaging online events. It’s free to host events on the platform for up to 500 people. As host, you get a little “magic box” that lets you add quick polls, play music 🎵, share a link or launch stretch-break videos. You can also launch a “groupfie,” a silly but fun group picture that puts a more creative spin on the Zoom-box group screenshots. Attendees’ cameras are off by default, but they can share input in a group chat box or through emoji buttons.
As host, you can invite up to seven additional co-hosts on camera. Or any guest can ask to “grab the mic” and the host can invite them to talk on camera. There’s a slightly-awkward but interesting feature that lets you “follow” people to continue a conversation after an event.
I especially like the platform’s cocktail party feature. It’s basically speed networking — quick one-on-one socializing. The host decides how many rounds of one-on-ones will take place and how many minutes each round will last. The host can also include an optional prompt to help participants break the ice. [If you’re stuck coming up with somehing, try using “what have you been curious about lately?” or “what has made you smile recently?”] Once the host hits start, everyone is paired with someone else. When the round is up a few minutes later, everyone is moved into a new conversation with a different partner.
Caveat: if you have an odd number of people, someone is left out each time. There’s a 15-second pause between rounds as the software matches people. In my events, a few people struggled to figure out how to adjust their camera settings (though that seems to happen on all platforms).
If you charge for tickets the platform takes 15%. Founding CEO Xiaoyin Qu, 27, was recently featured in the Forbes 30-Under 30 list now that the service has raised $15 million, hosted 10,000 events, and grown to 45 employees. To me, the platform still feels playful and non-corporate, though, as do the short YouTube videos Xiaoyin has made with event tips.
One of the features I liked as an event host was seeing an insights report afterwards detailing what countries people attended from, how many one-on-one meetings they had, how many interactions they had, etc.
The platform has some limitations. It’s not ideal if you need to have more than eight people on camera at the same time, as you might for larger group meetings and classes. And event guests told me it was a bit tricky to access features on mobile. Some were confused by the multiple buttons and options in the chat area of the interface. But most participants at recent events I hosted shared positive feedback about the platform, describing it as fun and lively.
To try Run The World live, join me tomorrow, Friday December 11 at 10am ET for a 30-minute tech exploration break. Register free here. Say hello, see a new platform, and hear an upbeat song 🎶.
In a video chat I had with Qu recently to talk about the platform, she told me that she sees the service as a hub for creative virtual events rather than a corporate work-meeting tool. And it certainly seems a more lively online spot for a social event than Zoom.
If you’re keen to explore other options for holiday or social gatherings, check out Gretchen McCulloch’s Wired story about proximity services, which let people move around a virtual space to chat with those nearby. The piece references an exhaustive list of 42 distinct such services by Star Simpson and Devon Zuegel.
Airmeet.com is one I’ve tried and liked. It gives attendees the option to choose between speed networking (5 minute one-on-one conversations) and social “tables” for small-group conversations. Upstream is an app that’s promoting a similar speed chat feature specifically for holiday parties.
Wonder.me, which we’ve tried at the Newmark J-School, lets you move your little video icon around on screen to be near those you want to chat with. It’s a way to simulate walking around a newsroom to catch up with colleagues.
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p.s. Reserve a 15-min spot on my calendar🗓 next week if you’d like to say hi or if I can help with something. I’m hosting free, open office hours for one-on-ones. For these kinds of meetings I now use Around.co, a sleek alternative to Zoom or Google Meet.
Why another new platform? I try to take notes in meetings so I remember to follow-up, and Around has a nice built-in, shared notepad that everyone in the meeting has access to. It’s a feature I wish was built into Zoom, Google Meet and every other event platform, including Run the World. That way everyone would have access to a shared record of meetings & events.