Lately in a workshop we explored how to create engagement in online meetings. We went through a series of lovingly provocative questions (guided by TRIZ from the Liberating Structures repertoire) when one participant (lets call her Alexia) exclaimed. “But I love giving presentations!”
What had happened?
Giving lengthy presentations ended up on the group’s list of counterproductive practices to create engagement. Giving presentations in real time during an online meeting needs to be stopped. Alexia realized that it is time to creatively destroy her darling.
This provocation led to an interesting conversation.
- Why are presentations still a default mode in many online (and certainly also in-person) meetings and workshops?
- What do you know from your own experience as participants: are you listening to those giving a presentation, really listening? Do these presentations foster the engagement and interaction among the participants?
- What are the alternatives to inform and kick off a conversation?
There is nothing wrong with good inputs or talks
Let’s be clear. We – Corinne and Nadia – love inspiration from elsewhere. We ‘consume’ Podcasts, Do-Lectures, Ted-Talks etc. to receive updates, food for thought, novel ideas and to learn. To us, it is about choosing the right moment and place for input.
Put yourself into the shoes of the listening participant.
- Would you love to be in a live online session to listen to a 20 minutes presentation?
- Or would you prefer to sit in a comfy chair and listen to it at the moment of your choice?
There are many options for the comfy-chair choice. We will come back to this later.
Protecting real-time moments for interaction: three reasons
There are three main reasons why we prefer to move presentations out of the live session.
The first is a simple and important one. We want to make the best use with the given and limited time and the group assembled. We want to use it for interaction. Because people’s time is precious. People want to spend time in interaction because this creates value for them.
It’s often a passive consumption experience, with no attempt at helping participants integrate what just happened.Melissa Dinwiddie (in her March newsletter )
The second is about the potential of the group. The experiences, knowledge and know-how are with the group, and the level of knowledge is different. These different experiences, perspectives are of value, you want to tap into them when you gather a group in a meeting or workshop. The one holding a presentation is not the only knowledgeable person in the room. The potential is sitting in the room: The group! You want them to interact.
The third is technical. It’s so simple to share information via different channels. Everyone can do it.
Making space for interaction in live sessions
Giving preference to interaction means moving inputs out of live sessions. So what is the way forward?
Here are our suggestions:
The good old compromise
As a rule of thumb we would say, 5-10 minutes input to trigger conversation is fine. Some key points, sharp and compelling to the point, refreshing and provocative will do the job to launch the discussion.
Move inputs to the asynchronous sphere
More extensive introductions, information sharing and updating on background material needs to happen before or after the workshop.
There are quite some advantages to giving asynchronous inputs. We see the following:
- Flexible personal planning, watch the input at time and place of your choice.
- Higher flexibility means greater responsibility.
- Personal speed and preferences.
- Time to think silently and quietly about questions.
- You can hop back to the presentation and watch it partly back.
- Use the time before the meeting to prepare and the time in the meeting to interact, also with the lecturer about questions, ideas, and difficulties.
- Freeing up meeting time allows us to hold shorter meetings and work more concentrated and productively on the tasks at hand.
- Time-zone friendliness. If the group is dispersed across the globe, anyone can watch, listen and read at a time that is convenient for them.
- The input will be at your disposal for sharing and learning later on, beyond the group (if permission granted to do so).
- Recording a message means to think through the message carefully before creating it, which supports input of higher quality.
Sure, there are some disadvantages of giving inputs asynchronously:
- It can be less personal. But not necessarily. When well done – with bringing the speaker into picture visually and personally (performance) the input can be uplifting!
- You cannot ask questions instantly but delayed. This might slow down action taking.
- No immediate inspiration through exchange with peers, there will be a delay.
- You have to plan and fit in time to listen.
- You still can miss out (if you are distracted by multitasking) or possibly you do not remember during the meeting what you read or heard.
Options to give an asynchronous input or presentation
There are so many options to give an input or presentations online.
We’ll send out reading material in advance; we might set up an asynchronous discussion space to get the conversation started before the meeting, itself, and continue it afterwards.Judy Rees
Here are some:
- Record your presentation using PowerPoint, Loom and other tools.
- Record your speech. This is even simpler. Record an audio message, e.g. with your smartphone to talk to your group.
- Write a good blog post (could be a private/ internal blog) and invite for comments and questions.
- Write a series of smaller tweets (and include eventually links to short speech/ video) and ask each time a question.
- Record your input and invite those who want and are available to listen to it live (and all the others receive the link to the recording).
What experiences and ideas do you have with asynchronous inputs?
Engage & keep engagement high. A joint exploration on the art of facilitating engagement in online meetings and workshops. June 9 from 13:30 – 15:30 CEST. Join us if you agree that people meet to engage and that you – as workshop leader and facilitator – want to facilitate engagement so that the voice of each single participant can be heard? So that each single person can contribute?