Guest Blog by Lavu Njobvu | April 2022
Running Virtual Events with Confidence
Facilitation and running events have always been something I've been passionate about since the start of my career in 2009. Pre-covid, I loved standing up in front of different audiences to deliver training and run events. It gave me life knowing that I am transferring knowledge that helps those participating develop personally and professionally.
It took me a while to develop my delivery style; I learned how to be comfortable, express my personality, develop a rapport, and create a 'presence' in front of my audience, of which I'm proud. I had spent eleven years trying to master the concept of controlling a room, capturing my audience's attention, and transferring my energy across to people. Nobody is perfect, especially myself, but I pride myself in saying that I now do a good job of it.
Fast forward to 2020, suddenly, and very unexpectedly, the world changed. Businesses changed, and the way we work, operate, and run events changed. I had always been against running virtual events, but I ran out of options as we couldn't leave the house and had to make do with the resources we had, so I had to adapt.
I started running regular virtual events for JCI (Junior Chamber International) London; the first few felt a bit strange for several reasons, but I’ll share just a few:
- Not being in the same room as my audience to feel their energy
- Some participants joined with their cameras off
- Not knowing how to create role-play and group activities
- Wondering if they're actually listening or paying attention
The biggest lesson I learned from virtual facilitation was that the methodologies and practices you apply to run engaging physical events effectively are not the same methodologies and techniques you use in the virtual world; the rules are entirely different.
For example, I was used to running full-day classroom training sessions, which at the time worked well. There is no way I could run these sessions over Zoom and expect the same outcome; I've had to adapt my content and break it up into digestible bite-size chunks for my audience to consume.
In the virtual space, there are so many more distracting factors:
- Your doorbell is going off
- Checking your phone constantly
- Replying to messages/emails
- Multitasking your attention on different tabs
I learned a few tricks for dealing with some of the challenges faced.
Keep the events short and sweet – people have a short attention span; the audience do not want to stare at a screen for hours. If you feel your session will take hours to run, think about breaking them up into parts, for example:
- Session 1 (day 1): 1 Hour
- Session 2 (day 2): 1 Hour
- Session 3 (day 3): 1 Hour
Don't talk to your audience; talk with them – avoid death by PowerPoint in any environment; it's lazy and cannot engage your audience.
5-7 Minute rule – if your session is an hour, change activities frequently to keep your audience bouncing, for example:
- First 5-7 mins: Discussion
- Next 5-7 mins: Put the audience in break out rooms for group activities
- Next 5-7 mins: Present information
- Next 5-7 mins: Activity
Turn cameras on – before the session, ask your audience to turn their cameras on so you can all see each other; it makes a difference.
Interaction – call out participants by their name during the event, for example, "Hey Jack, what are your thoughts on virtual facilitation?"
Virtual Tools – I'm still learning more and more about this as time goes on, but leverage as many virtual tools possible to make your events engaging, for example:
- Google Jam Board – virtual post-it notes
- Poll Everywhere
- Zoom – Break out rooms and polls.
You! – This doesn't just apply to virtual facilitation; it applies to facilitation in general, showing enthusiasm and love for the subject area. Your audience will feed off the energy and passion for your project. I am not saying you should be over-animated; don't talk to me about a subject if you sound tired and lazy. I learned a long time ago that people don't buy products; they buy into you.
I figured out why I hated virtual facilitation before giving it a chance; it wasn't so much that I was not too fond of it; it was more to do with the fact that I didn't know how to do it and it frustrated me.
I was the equivalent of someone who used the same process to perform tasks in their job forever and was not open to change. I had the 'if it's not broken, don't fix it' attitude, but then it broke, and I had to fix it.
I've seen people struggle to adapt to change; I guess it's the fear of the unknown and unfamiliarity. Dealing with change is filled with different emotions. The Kubler-Ross change curve suggests that we go through different phases:
When referring to the roller coaster ride of emotions from the 'Kubler-Ross Change Curve,' I can honestly say I went through all seven phases, especially the shock phase during the first initial lockdown.
I'm much more confident at running virtual events than ever before. I've learned how to engage my audience, capture their attention and create the same presence online as I spent years developing in person.
The biggest takeaway from experience is to embrace change and don't be scared to do things you've never done before. You don't hate it; you just don't know how to do it yet.
About our Guest Blogger
Lavu Njobvu is an experienced 'Training and Development professional, who is passionate about helping others reach their full potential to become the best version of themselves personally and professionally. Lavu uses a range of different methods, such as coaching, mentoring, and training delivery in order to drive desired results.