What I’ve learned from leading virtual programs this summer

With the recent spike in COVID cases around the country, many people and organizations are again reassessing the immediate need to get back to business, school, and more.  We’ve had a (relatively) busy summer filled with virtual programs for summer camps and libraries.
I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way when it comes to facilitating virtual programs on Zoom and similar platforms. Could any of these help you with your next remote meeting?

Be patient – be very, very patient

I’ve had the pleasure of facilitating mostly groups of kids during our online summer programs.  Now, working with kids takes lots of patience anyway, but add online technology into the mix and you’ve reached a new level of patience.

For the most part, I’m amazed at how well-behaved the kiddos are during the online sessions.  I’m assuming they’ve already sat for hours in front of a screen before they come to my program. But what takes patience isn’t their behavior (leaps and bounds ahead of the behavior for our in-person programs), but rather the technology.

Screens freeze.  Someone used the “old” Zoom invite link.  Adorable babies, dogs, and cats cry, jingle, and leap in the background. Your screen share suddenly doesn’t work and you have to apologize profusely while randomly pressing keys to make it look like you’re doing something to fix it.

It’s a lesson in patience for sure.  Take a deep breath, laugh about it, and move on.

Adapt – go with the flow

Speaking of moving on, those technology foibles make it necessary for us to adapt quickly to change and think on our feet (even when we’re sitting on our keasters).

A little background – my laptop is 5 years old, which in computer years is about a zillion.  It doesn’t know how to run Zoom and share audio or video at the same time.  So I started using my husband’s old laptop (curiously older than mine) to do Zoom calls where I need to do more than just speak.

It’s a comfort to know others are in the same boat, and we can be patient with one another when things go awry.  Computer not working?  Dial in on your phone.  Missed the live call because your dog threw up all over the floor of your ‘home office?’ Catch the recording.  Adapt!

Be real

Last, recognizing the enormity of the situation but still being able to take it lightly are paramount.  Do you feel more yourself in some ways on a Zoom call?  That’s because we don’t have to deal with the usual social hierarchy that tends to be present at in-person meetings and events – your boss might be taking the call in the laundry room because the kids are trying to home-school at the dining room table.

Seeing everyone at home in their domestic element (at the mercy of WiFi, kids’ and pets’ needs, lawn people right outside their window) paints everyone in the same light.  It breeds authenticity in a way that just can’t be achieved in a board room.

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