Benjamin Franklin famously said: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” Involvement is essential to learning, and yet getting people involved in the learning process is becoming more and more difficult in a screen-mediated world.
The numbers from Gallup are eye-popping. Before the pandemic, a mere 8% of “remote capable” employees were fully remote. That means only 8% of people who could work remotely actually did work remotely full-time. By February of 2022, that number had ballooned to nearly 40%. That’s a 500% increase! Include hybrid workers into the mix and that percentage surges to 80%. 80% of remote-capable workers are now online either full-time or part-time.
The debate is over. Remote work is the new permanent reality.
But despite all of the benefits of remote work, there remain some very real costs. For one, researchers from Stanford University recently confirmed that Zoom fatigue is real.
- Virtual interactions make it harder to connect with others.
- Virtual interactions make it easier to zone out.
- Virtual interactions make our brains work harder to make up for lost context.
That means more stress for the attendee, and more responsibility for the speaker or meeting leader to keep people engaged. That’s why it is essential that you communicate with power and focus. To do this, make sure you appeal to all learning styles.
In this blog, I cover how to appeal to the kinesthetic learning style. This learning style is the learning-by-doing style. It calls for active involvement from the meeting attendees. If you are leading a meeting online and you are the only one talking throughout the meeting, and everyone else is just passively sitting there, you have neglected a key opportunity. By getting other people involved, you create the kind of engagement that will help people learn, remember, and agree with your message.
- Prepare questions for the meeting attendees.
Research shows that a good Q&A strategy will encourage active listening. Set aside key moments in the meeting to ask questions. In a Zoom environment, people can respond orally or they can write their responses in the chat, so others can read them and comment on them. This kind of vocal, visual, textual, and tactile involvement from meeting participants has been proven to increase learning. When listeners become collaborators, the content of the meeting becomes more “sticky.” Here are some example discussion-generating questions:
– I think this is a good place to stop and get some discussion going. What issues can I clarify up to this point?
– How do you feel the principles we’ve covered align with our strategic vision?
– In your view, what are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this approach?
– Let’s take a kind of informal vote. Respond in the chat with your favorite of the options we’ve covered so far. . . . How about your least favorite?
– What options haven’t we considered yet?
– What trends do you notice in the data we’re seeing?
– Take a few moments to review the details in Section 4 of your notes. How do you feel about those potential impacts?
– Who is going to be most impacted if we take this approach?
– How do you think our clients will respond if we maintain the status quo?
– What are some other examples of when this approach has worked?
- Invite questions from the meeting attendees.
Set aside key moments in the meeting or presentation where you invite questions from the attendees. Don’t invite questions by saying, “Any questions?” Instead, ask, “What questions can I answer at this point?” Or, “Who has a question at this point?” Then, after you have answered the question, do not just move back into lecture mode. Instead, ask, “What other questions can I answer? Or, “Who has another question?” In other words, invite questions by assuming there will be questions.
|WRONG APPROACH||RIGHT APPROACH|
“I can answer questions if you have some.”
|“What questions can I answer?” “Who has another question?”|
- Invite questions (Part 2): What if no one is asking questions?
Often, people do not have questions ready the moment you invite the questions. They have to take time to formulate the questions in their mind. There may be a long and seemingly uncomfortable pause. Amature leaders do not know how to handle this silence. They get nervous and rush right back into their presentation.
Here is what you should do instead: Let the pause go on for several seconds, even up to 20 or more. Take a sip of your water, look around the room, adjust your papers, let people reflect in silence. Remember, you have just challenged them to put themselves forward in front of everyone. So, give them a moment to prepare. Once they know you’re serious about waiting and they’ve had some time to generate some thoughts and find some courage, the comments and discussion will begin to flow.
- Invite questions (Part 3): What if, still, no one is asking questions?
Here is one of the best tricks I’ve learned as a professor and corporate trainer. If people still are not asking questions, buy them some more time by having a question of your own prepared. Say: “One question I often get is . . .” Then answer your own question.
This tactic not only buys more time but also signals to your listeners that you are serious about getting them involved in the discussion. Furthermore, it shows that you’re not backing down and hurrying back to the safety of your lecture. Your listeners will feel more comfortable getting involved at that point, and you will look more confident, engaged, and in control.
- Use breakout sessions.
Almost everyone hates group work, but the research is clear. Group work is a highly effective means of engaging kinesthetic learners. Not only does it cultivate better communication skills among learners, but it actually helps to improve individual performance. In a mediated setting, such as a Zoom meeting, the group work option can be surprisingly easy to create. Get used to tools like Breakout Rooms, which allow you to create small groups of three, four, or more people who can scrum for 5 or 10 minutes as part of the overall meeting. You can control how long they meet, and you can even pre-select who will be paired with whom when you launch the breakout rooms. Or, you can make the groups random. Direct each group to consider a specific question and return to report their insights to the whole meeting. Again, turning learners into collaborators is perhaps the most powerful strategy you have for ensuring that they invest in the content of the meeting and remember it.
- Gamify your meeting.
There are lots of excellent tools to build fun into virtual meetings. Gamification can often involve irrelevant time-sucks, but it doesn’t have to. Icebreaker games such as “What’s something awesome that happened to you today?” can build engagement, but it is sometimes the sort of engagement that people resent, because they feel it is not relevant to the time they are investing to be there. Instead, consider easy-to-use web-based tools like Kahoot or Quizlet, or even tools that are built into the Zoom app, such as polling, to provide opportunities for attendees to test their knowledge in an atmosphere of friendly, low-stakes competition. If you create a short quiz on Kahoot ahead of time, for example, you can invite meeting attendees to log in on their phones or computers, create nicknames for themselves, and answer questions related to the content of the actual meeting.
This sort of kinesthetic engagement gets their focus surging, and it creates a spike in adrenaline that bonds them to your message. Research shows that it also increases motivation levels and knowledge retention. It also creates connection between attendees, since they will pay close attention to who is winning. You might even create achievement badges, leaderboards, and prizes for winners.
- Turn the time over to someone else.
One of my favorite tactics is to ask someone ahead of time to prepare some thoughts for the meeting, or even to run a portion of the meeting. Variety keeps learners interested. Even if you’re an amazing teacher, speaker, or meeting leader, having someone else take the reins for a few minutes is a good idea. It shows that you are not a control freak, that you are willing to share power, and it creates corroboration–meaning that when more than one person is sharing or reinforcing the message, people are more likely to trust the message.
Just make sure to prepare the person ahead of time. You can ask them to do something as simple as sharing their personal experience with a particular client, or as complex as doing some data analysis ahead of time and reporting on their findings. Sharing control in this way is much more natural in meetings that are already designed to accommodate multiple sharers, such as a quarterly S.W.O.T. analysis with department heads; but even in lectures or formal presentations, a brief minute to hear from someone else shows that you are an effective, confident leader.
Review these seven options to engage kinesthetic learners, then imagine your next meeting in which someone just drones on for the entire hour or more, without getting anyone else involved. The contrast is both ugly and illuminating. Falling into the trap of just lecturing the whole time is even easier and more damaging in a virtual, screen-mediated environment, where disengagement is more likely. If your goal is to increase learning, persuade your audience, make yourself memorable, or put yourself in a position for leadership and promotion, get people kinesthetically engaged with these easy-to-use tools. In the next blogs, I will address how to engage the visual, vocal, and textual learning styles.
If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy reading, “Six Ways to Use Good Visual Communication in Video Conferencing.”
Ben Crosby is a professor of rhetoric and a communication skills consultant. He teaches courses in public speaking and presenting, argumentation and debate, technical and professional communication, persuasion and selling, and the history of rhetoric.
His work is regularly published in his field’s top academic journals and conferences. He is also the author of Presentations as Performance: A Professional’s Guide to Better Speaking.
Ben’s areas of expertise are Public Speaking, Presentation Skills, Argumentation, Sales Training, and Professional Writing.
In his free time, he spends time with his wife, Rebecca, their four kids, and their cat, Arza. He is an avid Utah Jazz fan.
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