Back at the turn of the last century, I found myself facing a divorce, and needing to turn my little hobby calligraphy business into something that would earn a viable living in expensive Silicon Valley.
Reasoning that some digital design skills would serve me well, I signed up for classes at the local community college.
The new tools I was learning — Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark Express — could do things so much more quickly and easily than I was able to do by hand, using old-fashioned paste-up (yes, literally cutting up strips of paper and pasting them down on board!)
Still, I remember being a bit shocked in an Adobe Illustrator class when the teacher blithely quipped that designers were “lazy.”
What he was really saying was that designers (read: humans) will always look for the easiest, most efficient way to do something.
Why take 27 steps, after all, if you can do something in 3 steps?
Perhaps this is why so many virtual meetings are so goldanged boring: people are simply looking for the easiest, most efficient way to run their meetings…
Because easiest and most efficient, in the context of virtual meetings, is usually some form of talking heads.
No engagement. No interactivity.
Sure, it’s easy, but you end up with some pretty miserable attendees!
That truly is the lazy way to design for virtual: treat your attendees as if they’re passively watching television.
If you’re going to do that, what’s the point in bringing people together for a live gathering at all? You might as well record a video, send everyone the link, and call it a day.
Of course, sending a video won’t allow you to build connection the way a synchronous meeting can… when it’s designed for interactivity.
Designing for Interactivity
To help infuse connection into virtual sessions, ask yourself, how can you make your training or event interactive?
Interactivity doesn’t have to be complicated.
An interactive activity is literally anything that gets people engaging with you, or with each other.
Have you ever asked people to answer a question in chat? (*Boom!* That’s interactivity!)
Have you ever facilitated a discussion? (That’s also interactivity!)
How about sending people to breakout rooms? (Interactivity!)
Or polls? (Yep, interactivity!)
All of these examples invite people to engage, rather than sitting back and passively observing.
Build in Variety
Humans are novelty-seeking creatures, so the more variety you can incorporate into your virtual session, the more likely your participants will perk up their ears and pay attention.
Mix up the types of activities, and the types of responses you solicit from them.
Check out this article for some ideas on great activities for starting off a meeting, many of which can also work well throughout.
Attend to Energy
As a facilitator, I also think about the energy flow in the room.
If the energy is low, an energizing activity can bring up the vibe. If something heavy just happened, we may need a moment to share our feelings before moving on.
Remember, regardless how important our jobs may be, we’re people first. Holding space for interactivity acknowledges this simple truth.
People coming together in real time for a reason. You may have a goal to learn new skills and behaviors, to share ideas, or other “heady” outcomes, but underneath all that, unless you also have the goal to connect and strengthen relationships, there’s no reason to meet.
If you are going to meet, let’s make sure those meetings are interactive and engaging! Your attendees will thank you.
If you’d like to experience some brain-friendly exercises that activate learning while building connection, come to my next Non-Boring Virtual Meetings Learning Lab.
Interested to learn more? Message me to chat about how I can use my signature system to help your employees infuse connection, joy and delight into virtual meetings, trainings and events at your workplace.
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