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Is it possible to connect meaningfully online?

Yes. But it takes intention and effort.

The digital world requires a bit more finesse than in-person events. Many of us grew up in front of screens —- televisions, cinemas halls, Ninentedos, and Game Boys. These same screens paved the way for productivity tools, redefining our lives and the ways in which we schedule, communicate, and do business. Now, laptops and cellphones are within easy reach from sunup ‘til sundown.

However, “the way we do things” is once again evolving, and we have the choice to embrace or reject these changes. So whether you’re trying to organize a meeting, host a conference, teach a class, or build a relationship, there are four elements to consider when connecting from afar:

Participation 

Online activities work best when people engage. Think of the lecture hall in which a student hides in the back row. Now recall a class in which the teacher prompted students with questions and lively discussion. Which scenario fosters learning?

Though direct participation may not be required by a host or organizer, you are guaranteed to get more out of the experience by taking responsibility for yourself: Turn on your camera, type in the chat box, follow up with an email, do your own research on the topic at hand.

If you’re participating, look for ways to get active.

If you’re organizing, look for ways to engage others. 

Nothing will work unless you do.

Maya Angelou

Entertainment

If you’re responsible for planning an online seminar or teaching a virtual class, remember: We want to be entertained if we’re watching something. And if we’re watching something, we want to feel. That feeling might be surprise or intrigue, curiosity or delight, disgust or repulsion, but we must feel something to be interested.

A traditional lecture won’t cut it. 

Incorporate images, videos, sounds, and unexpected elements to spark engagement and hold interest. Themes and pop culture references can surprise and delight attendees; end your meeting with a song or insert a relevant story into your presentation.

Collaboration

The greatest gift of online activities: The ability to network and share. 

Exchange opinions, ask for resources, find ways to trade thoughts, and start online conversations with others. While you can stick to more traditional chat forums and send emails, you can also get creative: Write a turn-by-turn story with a friend, watch a movie separately before sharing opinions, create a music playlist together.

Collaboration can become a tremendous pool of inspiration and insight. With a bit of creativity, options are endless.

Some people look for a beautiful place. Others make a place beautiful.

Hazrat Inavat Khan

Expectations

As an organizer, intentionally decide upon the set outcomes of your online happenings. Then make a plan. Choose whether recurring events or one-off structures will best suit your goals. Schedule the meeting in advance, or jolt an eager audience with unannounced events.

Next, consider how you’ll present to participants. The way in which you communicate establishes rapport and sets clear boundaries, establishing a framework for what will take place. Audio-only arrangements create different spaces than those with video elements. Participatory tasks with light structure can be the right amount of encouragement participants need to stay interested.

Thoughtfulness guides the most worthwhile experiences and helps provide foundations for creativity to blossom.

Meaningful content is grounded in intention.

Announcements (plus a free ebook)

Have you heard? I’ve put together a free ebook on adventure and risk-taking. You can download it here.
Also, September’s NYC dinner event is almost sold out. Get in touch if you’d like to be considered. This private event is limited to fifteen participants in order to encourage meaningful conversation and constructive networking. If not this time, we can keep you on the list for future dinners.
Questions? Reach out or say hi @redheadlefthand.

7 ways to make sure your next meeting is not terrible

1. Get curious
Gather input and collect information from your team before the meeting is scheduled. What are employees struggling with? What would help them reach their goals?

2. Turn it into a competition
Split attendees into teams. Award points and reward initiative. You can keep a running tally from month to month and provide incentives for top scores.

3. Actively participate
Be prepared to present your own views and concerns instead of sitting passively in the corner. Listen carefully and think through problems.

4. Add music
Play a song in the beginning of the meeting when attendees find their seats. Turn tunes back on at the end of the meeting and allow time for socializing.

5. Design a seating chart
Placing name tags on seats can help encourage cross-collaboration among teams and introduce executives from different departments.

6. Vary presentation styles
Mix up powerpoint, video clips, role play and dialogue. With so many online resources available, supplement your biggest points with inspiring talks from other speakers.

7. Set due dates
Follow up with your team and ask for feedback about meetings. Discuss what is going well and what needs improvement.

8. Choose a theme
Designating a central theme can intrigue attendees and keep meetings focused and on point.

Summer dining (invite only)

Invitations will soon go out for July’s dinner event in New York City. You must be on the list to be considered. Seating is limited to preserve quality of conversation. Individuals from a range of business sectors are brought together to discuss success (and failure), mentorship and art.

Networking events often attract professionals from similar industries. Our dinners aim to bring together complementary experiences, contrasting ideas, and professionals at different stages in their careers to enhance participants’ views and encourage meaningful work.

Past attendees have met business partners, friends and people to bounce ideas off of. The dinners have been described as “Such a valuable moment for me. I walked away with new tools for my work and a new perspective,” “An evening to remember! The connections were magical.” and “Unforgettable stories, inspiring.”

Michelle will be hosting the July dinner. For questions, please send an email to info@projectexponential.com.

The value of meeting new people (offline)

Hectic schedules and limited time pushes “meeting new people” down priority lists. But new people can add spark to your life. From work strategies to personal motivation, even brief encounters can leave a lifetime mark. A meaningful conversation can inspire you to try something new, do better work, become a more thoughtful person, or keep going down the right path.

Online we’re exposed to new tactics and images, but face-to-face encounters are more likely to contribute to trust and long-term relationships. These connections help businesses thrive. While it’s easy to forget a screen name, personal interactions build experiences that help tell stories. And in a world where storytelling and marketing drive results, representing your “personal brand” is key.

Meeting new people may also reveal unknown parts of yourself, creating self-awareness of your own expertise and highlighting areas that still need work. There are health benefits, too: improved cognitive functionphysical health and creative power.

Our next dinner event is scheduled for May 31 in NYC. Send an email to info@projectexponential.com with details about your current projects if you’re interested in attending. Our dinners match those with complementary interests and skills, and space is limited to preserve intimacy and quality.

A call could change your life

I can guarantee it WILL change the life of others.

For the next 48 hours, I’m offering a special incentive. Those who donate a minimum of $100 to the Light Campaign will receive a free one hour phone session with yours truly.

Things we can talk about:

You can stalk my LinkedIn profile to see other skills and endorsements I’ve received from clients I’ve worked with.

At the risk of sounding like a marketer, I will tell you this IS a special offer, worth far more in value. You have the opportunity to help yourself, help a community, and feel good about it.

You have until Friday, March 7 at 2pm EST to take advantage. I can’t guarantee I’ll do this again, but I thought it would be a fun way to get the solar project the help it needs. To get started, pledge a minimum of $100 on the indiegogo page, and you’ll be contacted for scheduling. Your free call is good through April 8, 2014, so let’s get moving.

I hope to speak with many of you.