Online Events: Are You At Level Two?

“They don’t know how much pain they’re in!” says my friend and colleague Lisette Sutherland. What she says is true.

Most people are now spending their whole working days – and social evenings and weekends – in hyper-grim online video calls. They notice that they’re tired at the end of the day. But they have no idea that things could be much, much better. They don’t know what they don’t know.

And so they press on, doing the hyper-grim thing. 

Some even regard people like myself, offering training in how to do this stuff a whole lot better, as snake oil salesmen.  For example, someone appeared in my social media stream this week saying, “Why do qualified therapist feel the need to “train” to do online counselling or therapy? 🤔 I saw someone (a counsellor) say earlier “I would like to work more online but I haven’t had the training.” What? Am I missing something here??”

Let me be clear. I’m not teaching people to “use Zoom”. That’s trivial, and nobody should pay for that.

I help people to use Zoom (or other video conference platform) to transform their online meetings, workshops, events and training so that they’re better than the equivalent in-the-room ones. To take things to a level that, perhaps, they’ve never imagined.

“Judy’s method is a complete game changer for online video meetings. An hour long Zoom call felt like 15 minutes. She has raised my Zoom game immeasurably. Everybody should check this out.”

Ian Harris, Agency Hackers

All of this seems to connect to a couple of interesting ideas.

Matt Mullenweg of Automattic proposes five levels of distributed teams:

Level 1: Non-Deliberate Action
Level 2: Recreating the Office Online
Level 3: Adapting to the Medium
Level 4: Asynchronous Communication
Level 5: ‘Nirvana’

When it comes to online conversations, most people and organisations who have gone “suddenly online” in response to the covid crisis are stuck at level two. That’s the best they aspire to.

And that reminds me of a skill from the Clean Language toolkit. David Grove, the creator of Clean Language, used to recommend directing one’s questions just to the edge of what the client knew.

Asking questions about what the client already knew would be pretty boring. Asking about things they had no idea about would produce a baffled “I don’t know,” like showing a dog a card trick. But the right question, aimed to land perfectly just beyond the edge of the known, sparked curiosity, growth and change.

I love doing that! I love to see the client’s “known universe” expand. And at the same time I recognise that’s not always comfortable – not least because as the circle of the known grows, so two does the edge of the unknown. Some people find that scary, other exciting.

And all of this makes me curious.

If you’re constantly exhausted at the end of a day of online meetings, or you can’t bear the thought of attending another desperate “online training”, what would you like to have happen? You may be interested in our training and consultancy services.

And if you’re fine with your online meetings as they are? Move along now, nothing to see here.

“Two things happen when you take this course. First, you gain an awareness for how terrible most online events are (including your own). Second, you learn what it actually takes to rise above the status quo through participatory methods. Judy shares the knowledge and experience you need to run better, more humane events that bring people together and leave them better off. Believe me, it makes worlds of difference.”

Ben Mosior, Principal Consultant, Hired Thought

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