How much attention do you plan to invest in this piece of content? Do a quick check in with yourself, on a scale of 1 – 7, what are you comfortable with? Do you plan to just skim through it to see if it appeals to you? Maybe a 4 then? Or are you in a mood to go all in and give me a 7? Whatever you chose, that’s perfectly fine, just check in with yourself, and see if there is anything you need to do for the next few minutes to help you stay focused to the extent that you want, on this article.
A webinar on coaching that kept me glued to the screen and completely transported into another world, began with the speaker asking the 200 plus people logged in this simple question. It was a direct appeal for us to bring our awareness to how much attention we were willing to devote to the learning experience that we had signed up for. (I also thought to myself why 1-7 and not 1-10. Either way, I was hooked from the first 60 seconds and stayed that way for the full 60 minutes)
The presenter- let’s call him Mr. Bluebeard, was wearing an energetic yellow floral shirt. He was standing in front of an electric blue textured wall and he promised to offer us “two of the best coaching tools” in exchange for our attention.
Mr. Bluebeard then proceeded to keep us completely engaged for an hour without a power point presentation or any other high tech audio visual content. What worked like magic was less content, more conversation and space for the unscripted moments to come to the surface. Four or five hand written notes that had a few words on them is all he had at hand to help keep us engaged. I can still visualise them, I know the words he had written down, and I have internalised them. He allowed us the space to connect with those words. Debate and discuss them. Find our own meanings and truly connect with them. Like any elegant piece of technology that is sophisticated and well designed, he used the medium of the screen to its full effect by keeping the content minimal.
Mr. Blue beard recognised that we are all getting to that point where we are fed up with webinars and online meetings. He played into the insight that we are disconnected in the blink of an eye the minute our cameras are switched off, and deeply discontent, with too much content. He stayed completely visible, connecting with us by not hiding behind a presentation and he had little to say, which meant a lot.
The hard work he had done ahead of his session was to distill his thinking down to two key concepts that he wanted to share, and then he broke the 60 minutes down into two halves and helped us explore these ideas for ourselves. It was not a slick slide show that wowed us, however it was a session that opened many of us up. He created a space for exploration and exchange of ideas, and he made it fun. So many webinars, panel discussions and meetings are filled to the brim with content. Truly great content, where the presenters are so keen to share everything they know with the audience, leaving no time for discussion or debate. No time to absorb the content and try it on for size, to see if it fits.
At the end of the session, I had committed myself to at least one action that I planned to take, basis my learnings from the webinar. He brought me, and possibly many of us (going by the outpouring of appreciation in the chat window) enhanced self-awareness and then helped us commit to an action that we wanted to take, that is likely to have an impact on our lives. This is the essence of coaching, it helps catalyse change.
Mr. Bluebeard reminded me that less is more: A cup that is full to the brim is difficult to drink from. So too is a webinar or any screen based session that is packed full of content. I was reminded that in these times of screen fatigue ‘less is more’. Less content ensures more time to engage with it. The hard work is to really figure out what I want to share with my audience. Then find a space and a place to allow them to consume that content at their own pace. I went in search of content that would help me learn how to become a better coach, and in addition, I got a master class in communicating with a screen based audience.
Notes to myself, five ways to fight webinar fatigue:
- Check in with the audience at the beginning and ask them to check in with themselves and see how willing they are to engage with the content on offer.
- Standing and presenting changes the energy, so find a place that allows me the chance to explore this approach
- The clothes you wear and the backdrop you chose matters, give thought to how I want to show up
- Razor sharp clarity on the few things you want to convey helps sharpen the content – what would be most helpful for my audience? In this case, it was allowing ample time to work with the content, ask questions, make notes, and truly engage with the ideas being shared.
- Raw and real, really works, no need for fancy stuff, in fact the good old fashioned hand written notes held up in front of the camera to make a point, seems to resonate better.
The last one especially is easier said than done. I love the crutch of a good old power point presentation. Let’s hope I am brave enough to follow through on my notes, and find the courage to appear on a screen with only a few pieces of paper that capture deep thinking. This, followed by being able to create a safe space that can catch the attention of my audience.
I enjoyed the unscripted moments the most. Maybe in the end that’s what I crave, a real experience, not a screen based one. Till that is possible again, here is to the unscripted webinar that allows for many serendipitous and fun filled, light hearted, learning moments.
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