So, have you ever struggled to create authentic connections in your corporate meeting with colleagues online?
It can be super challenging
- because we don't have that natural, in-person connection from body language and all those other subtle cues.
- And your audience is getting paid by your company to sit through your session, constantly subconsciously asking, “What shall I pay attention to?”
- Fending off texts, emails, doorbells, kids, pets, and everything else that life throws our way. You are fighting for attention with many other distractions in the background, right? So it's like you are on this virtual battlefield, trying to keep each other's attention.
But here's the thing: creating authentic connections online is so important. It fulfills our need to belong, helps us take risks and learn, boosts our overall well-being, and makes life more enjoyable.
Well, well, well, if you want to rock your onboarding meeting or brainstorming session with a team scattered across the globe, you gotta bring the engagement game strong, right off the bat. And believe me, mastering this skill is like having a superpower, especially for all the future-ready ladies out there killing it in the corporate world.
- Facilitation is not just any old skill; it's a critical one that can make you a true leader.
- With top-notch facilitation skills, you can lead your team with confidence, clarity, and empathy, like a boss.
- You can create a safe space where everyone can freely share their ideas and perspectives, making inclusivity and collaboration a reality.
- And that's not all, folks! Your facilitation game can help you develop executive presence, establish credibility as a thought leader, and strengthen relationships with your teams and stakeholders.
So, get ready to dazzle your team with your facilitation prowess and watch your leadership skills soar higher than ever before!
So, how do you turn that low energy in your virtual room into a powerful, engaged session right from the beginning!
Well, I've learned a few key lessons the hard way from hosting my own cohort-based Masterclasses and learning from some of the best facilitation and learning experience designers out there. Shout out to Gwyn Wansbrough, Felippe Nardi, and Liberating Structures Expert Julia von Grundherr.
Lesson #1: Engagement starts before the virtual session even begins.
Learning about your participants before the session builds a connection and shows that you care, increasing their engagement.
- Organize onboarding calls to connect with participants ahead of time.
- Learn all the names of participants to show you care.
- Send a pre-session survey using tools like Typeform or Google Forms to learn more about the group and its challenges.
- If you're not the session organizer, ask them to share information about the group and their challenges beforehand.
- Initially, the "10 Facts About Myself" exercise seemed deceptively easy, but many people struggle to get started as they feel compelled to share remarkable experiences. However, I learned that even the most mundane aspects of our lives could be exciting and relatable to others. This exercise reminded me of discovering a shared connection with a stranger at a party, like attending the same university. Suddenly, that person becomes more relatable, and I feel a greater sense of connection. It's a reminder that we all have unique stories to share, and even the most ordinary details can create meaningful connections with others.
Lesson #2: Create a welcoming environment for your group.
- Create a welcome slide that includes your audience's names or video and welcomes them to the session
- Play music when people arrive to create a positive atmosphere
- Greet people as they join the virtual session to make them feel welcome
- Show the people from the audience to give everyone a chance to see who else is there.
- Smile; you are on camera (and it's the best video filter)!
Lesson #3: Connect people right from the beginning.
This is where the real magic happens. Yes, connecting virtually can be challenging. Unfortunately, most of us have a false belief that it is hard, but mixing up different methods and tools to get all voices in the room and give people opportunities to participate can quickly create meaningful connections and increase engagement.
- Ask people to turn on their mics and say "hi" in their language when the session starts.
- Start with a warm-up exercise that includes a low-risk way of connecting, such as an icebreaker question in the chat, for example, "What was your superpower as a kid?"
- Organize breakout groups early in the first 15 minutes of your session to leverage engagement immediately. I love to use activities like "Milling" online and combine them with "1-2-4-All" liberating structure methods to get everybody in the room, even the most introverted, seen, heard, and valued.
- Use interactive whiteboards like Miro to foster collaboration and create something tangible for participants after the session.
- Launch a poll or survey like Mentimeter or Slido to make it interactive and start a dialogue with my audience.
- Use interactive maps, such as StreamAlive, that bring your audience's locations to Life on a Real-Time Map via chat.
Lesson #4: Treat live sessions as sacred.
”Can you see my screen?
Oh, the video has no sound;
where is my screen?
Of course, we all make mistakes during live sessions, but you need to reduce the predictability of technical challenges.
- Deliver content in bite-sized chunks before the session, during, and after, allowing your audience to apply it to their work.
- Plan for breaks and transition challenges ahead of time to avoid predictable intervals that disrupt the flow and engagement of the session.
- Pro Tipp: Use OBS, a free and open-source video recording, and live streaming software, to create rich multimedia Zoom lectures that foster more powerful, engaged learning.
So there you have it, my four key learnings. With these tips and tools in mind, you can create authentic connections online and make your virtual sessions more engaging and enjoyable for everyone involved.
🦸♀️ Now it's your turn. What tools or ideas mentioned above will you use in your next remote session?