This is an open letter to my colleague Nigel, who participated recently in one of our “Designing Interactive Webinars” events. In the pre-work reflection, Nigel asked:
Is engagement, all the time, the goal? How, as facilitators, and participants, can we be totally comfortable with nil, or minimal engagement? If we had little engagement, then can a webinar still be successful (from the organizer’s and the participant’s point of view)?
I think that your question about whether engagement is really important or what we are striving for (the Holy Grail) is an interesting one and was touched on during the groups’ brainstorming. Fundamentally, the meeting objectives should drive the process and, by inference, the level of interaction that we are striving for. Messages that I took away from the conversation included:
- Meeting/learning objectives are the key starting place
- Different people will have different objectives
- Expect people to have different levels and ways of engagement – and that’s OK
- It is important to keep checking in with people individually to give them ways to engage, and as much as they want to
- My job as facilitator is to set up and guide an interesting conversation that a good majority of participants will get a lot out of, albeit something different for each
The philosophy that engagement is fundamentally an individual and personal decision rather than a meeting objective changes the facilitator’s approach to a virtual meeting or webinar’s agenda and design. During pre-work, it emphasizes context setting, information exchange and self-selection. Our goal is to give participants the richest preparation possible with many opportunities to begin thinking about the topic at hand. By informing them and inviting them to engage ahead of the meeting, we are also giving them permission to determine how much they choose to interact and whether in some circumstances, they want to participate at all. During the meeting or webinar, it focuses us on dialogue and discovery in the session itself. We give participants a variety of ways to interact, then we set them free to experience the process their own way.
Anyone else want to weigh in on this question?
Posted by Editor