After high school a couple of friends and I visited Paris. La Grande Arche de la Défense had just been finished, which we of course went to check out.
I remember coming up from the Metro station and the building is breathtakingly beautiful: big, massive glass, granite and steel. It was getting late in the afternoon and the Parisians were hurrying back home from that office building. We were getting tired and wanted to sit down for a bit. We looked around and there was no place to rest. It was getting dark and the wind picked up and all of a sudden, there were almost no one there anymore. It was impressive, beautiful, but ultimately it left us feeling small, insignificant and cold. We left shortly after.
The next day we went to Sacre Coeur, the sun was shining and the stairs leading up to the church were brimming with life and laughter, people enjoyed ice cream and sat down on the stairs and got entertained by the street performers. We even had a conversation with some of the musicians. It was alive, it felt good, it was glorious.
With Covid-19 cancelling most conferences, even grounding us in our homes, the go to alternative is hosting webinars or whole virtual events.
Therefore time to check out the Zoom Webinars Training replay offering tons of tips on how to host one.
It felt a lot like La Grand Arche. The Zoom platform is beautiful for sure:
- Presenter video with the possibility to project a different background, even an animated one.
- Automatic transcript of what was said, which surprisingly good results.
- Chat, which in this training was limited to the presenter sharing links to additional information, aka no possibility for real interaction.
- You are able to post questions, but at least in the recording, you are not able to see them, even when they are answered. You also can’t check out the person that posted the question.
It is a lot like going to church, you sit down and mostly listen, you know that there are others virtually close by, but you can’t even interact with them. You are here to absorb the information that people have selected to share with you. It is a lonely experience, that makes you feel small and insignificant, just like the Grand Arche did so many years ago.
We are longing for connection, of shared experience especially right now from our home office isolation. My daughter just did a paper for school about how cruel solitary confinement is for the human psyche.
Time for a little Cluetrain Manifesto refresher:
The central theme of their manifesto is that Markets are conversations. We don’t want to be sold to, treated like cattle to be led through the chute of content. We want to interact, be seen, heard, like on a Bazaar: bump into people, reconnect, make new friends, hear the viewpoints of the audience. Simply come alive, ideally together bring the topic forward.
It is no secret that at conferences the hallway conversations are often the best ones. How can we create hallway conversations during our webinars?
When I was developing the SAP Mentor program together with Aslan Noghre-kar, a collection of ~130 of SAP’s top community influencers, we would run 2–3 webinars every week. Some were for mentors to connect with executives of SAP, or product folks that introduced the latest developments, or once a week SAP Mentors would share their insights with the rest of the community.
One of the things that we were famous for was that we were able to get a level of interactivity going especially in the Webinars, that astounded our presenters.
Björn Goerke & SAP Mentors
We had an active general chat going, in parallel we made sure that no interesting questions got lost by collecting them in a separate Q&A window.
Every participant could not only post to the general chat, but also see and message any other participant privately. It was a way for the SAP Mentors to catch up and stay connected too.
I remember SAP Executive Björn Goerke after finishing a fast paced back and forth webinar with the SAP Mentors, leaning back and saying in astonishment and admiration: “This was a great conversation and you guys always seem to have fun”.
It was this magical mixture of intense high signal conversation, and at the same time friendly banter that was putting him and everyone in the webinar at ease. You were often really exhausted after such a session from the intensity of all the things that were happening and happy about the experience and the outcome.
I hope with this post you start to think more about engagement when developing your next virtual event.
As Timo Elliott tweeted above: Same old lecture at people is not going to cut it. He just posted a great step by step summary of how he does these beautiful video presentations as well as a some thoughts on how to switch an all day workshop into a virtual meeting.
In my next post I will detail some of the things you can do now with the available tools, even on Zoom Webinar to make your virtual meeting more engaging. I will also share a little wishlist for Zoom and other webinar platform builders on how to board the Cluetrain.
P.S. Thanks Aslan Noghre-kar for your input to this post and the walk down memory lane.