Strengthening Connections & Building Relationships Online
This week I led a memorial service online using Adobe Connect. My father, Jack Clay, died at age 92 after living an extraordinarily rich life. My father was a director, acting coach, and a university professor in theater, and his students now work in the theater and film industry all over North America. My brother and I originally expected to hold an in-person service, and for all his students and colleagues, we planned to broadcast it simultaneously. But times change, and global pandemics occur, and we realized that the whole memorial service would have to be delivered via web conferencing. Fortunately, I know something about that!
Our company skillfully uses both Adobe Connect and Zoom to deliver virtual training and hold meetings. As we considered the goals of the memorial service, the size of the potential audience, and the types of activities we had planned, we realized that the better platform for this service would be Adobe Connect. We wanted it to be an intimate service with tributes shared by family members, friends, and theater professionals on camera. We wanted the audience to be able to chat with one another freely, using multiple chat pods. Expecting 100 participants, we knew we did not want everyone on camera at the same time. I wanted to show a short video that I had created featuring photographs illustrating my father’s life story, underscored with music. More than anything I wanted to create an intimate, emotional, shared experience that would bring people together, reunited to celebrate my father’s life. Just like a virtual training experience, I wanted this service to be participatory and lively, not filled with passive observers.
I am happy to report that this virtual memorial service was a success! People felt connected and joyful. While there were a few technical hiccups, overall the web-delivered memorial service worked beautifully. People who knew and loved him attended from all over North America.
Here are some of the key factors that made it work well:
- We had a producer dedicated to ensuring that the technology problems were resolved before and during the event.
- The service was solidly planned. The producer and every speaker received a copy of the agenda.
- We ensured that every person who spoke attended a dry run (rehearsal) the day before, where we walked through baton passes and practiced the steps each speaker would need to take to put themselves on camera to share their tribute.
- During the dry run, we had each speaker come on camera so that we could check their lighting and sound, adjusting the height of their web cams, and improving their lighting, as needed.
- We asked speakers to arrive online an hour before the service so we could do a quick refresher and make sure that they were ready. (Lights, Camera, Action!)
- We invited people attending to log in 15 – 20 minutes early so that we could troubleshoot any technical issues they might have.
- We opened the service on time by playing four minutes of calm music. That set the ambiance of the memorial service and allowed latecomers to enter the virtual room without missing any of the program.
- As soon as people began to chat together in the open chat pod, I acknowledged that it was delightful to see them doing that and they should keep it up. The chat space was lively, personal, and supportive as they praised each speaker who shared a memory or tribute.
- We included a layout in Adobe Connect with multiple chat pods. Each chat was labelled by a period in Dad’s life when people would have known him. Participants loved chatting with each other in these “small groups.” They reconnected with people they had not seen in years and shared contact information.
- We ended the memorial service with a champagne toast (everyone was told in advance to bring their bubbly beverages) with all speakers on camera. Then we played him out with his requested final song, “Hit the Road, Jack!” ending on a silly, high note.
I believe that it is possible to create intimate, personal, shared experiences online. I am committed to helping virtual workplaces support people emotionally and personally. We may be in physical isolation for many more months and virtual meetings may be our best resource for connecting with others, solving problems, and building relationships. Let us hold the expectation that we can do this brilliantly!
Tiny Adjustments in
Virtual Training (revisited)
We kicked off 2020 by focusing on Positive Intentions and Tiny Adjustments. I challenged you to make the virtual training space more compelling and engaging in 2020. I suggested that your Positive Intention might be "I Create Personal, Connected Learning Experiences Online." Little did I know that COVID-19 would dropkick us all into the virtual workplace, whether we were ready or not!
Nearly halfway through the most challenging year of my lifetime, let’s take a moment to assess how things are going.
If you're not already employing a web camera when delivering a virtual training session, it's time to play! Devote 30 minutes to setting up your camera, adjusting your lighting so you are not in shadow, cleaning up your background, and positioning your head and shoulders in the camera frame. Set your camera at eye level or slightly above. Then record yourself speaking directly into the camera lens. Watch the recordings to make small adjustments to your delivery and appearance. For example, you might sit at the edge of your chair instead of leaning back. Or you might add a little color to your cheeks and lips to brighten your appearance.
I made this suggestion six months ago, and here it is July already. The number of people using Zoom now has really helped many people address the issue (or fear) of being on web camera. Zoom – you’re there! I love having a specific place where I am on camera to facilitate a training or virtual meeting. I can control my background, lighting, and sound that way.
If you adopted the Positive Intention to create more personal, connected learning experiences, it is time to reflect on your progress.
Ask yourself these reflection questions:
- Do I call on people by name and use their names when reviewing their comments?
- Do I validate people's contributions?
- Do I build on their ideas and observations?
- Do I make "eye contact" by looking directly into the camera lens when speaking and listening?
- Do I include opportunities for people to collaborate?
- Do I welcome questions and respond to them in the moment?
- Do I allow people to share outside resources from their experiences?
- Do my virtual training sessions feel like collaborative, classroom experiences?
In July, I want to add one more reflection question:
- Do I help participants avoid Zoom fatigue by varying the ways they interact and keeping meetings short and focused?
As you consider these questions, note tiny adjustments that you can make in your delivery style that will increase the sense of warmth and personal connection.
This short video answers the question: "Is it possible to deepen connections online?"
NetSpeed Learning Events
Explore something new with one of our engaging and interactive webinars or public courses.
For Our Web Conference Essentials Program
In this program, a NetSpeed Learning Solutions master trainer demonstrates techniques that can be immediately applied in your virtual training programs. Participants will learn to design and deliver engaging activities and exercises, create strong engagement, use a webcam effectively, and ensure that learning transfer occurs.
The program also includes approximately two hours of online assignments in support of the webinar classroom sessions. Register by July 12th, and receive $100 off the normal cost. Use the promo code "July WCE" when registering.
This program is available as either a public or a private course for your organization. Our next public course runs on July 20, 22 and 24.
An Important Time
For Virtual Facilitator Trainer Certification (VFTC)
Now is the time, more than ever before, to go virtual! And it's not too soon to plan for Fall training.
The September VFTC is now open for enrollment. This popular course receives rave reviews from participants as it provides a deep-dive into best practices for virtual facilitation and design.
You've seen Cynthia Clay in action month after month, now it's your turn to rock the virtual classroom! The September course opens on September 11th, and the first webinar is September 18th.
Rocking the Digital Workplace: Leading High-Impact Virtual Teams
This session explores how virtual leaders must attend to relationship, reliability, results, and recognition issues as they strive to communicate clearly and build connections across virtual distance.
Wednesday, July 29th
1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT
In Case You
Missed It ...
What Customers are Saying About The Virtual Facilitator Trainer Certification Course
I wish I would've taken this course sooner. It's provided me with a different perspective on how virtual training can be perceived. I would recommend this for other trainers who have been tasked with moving from a traditional classroom to a virtual one. Great job!
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