It’s been a whole year since the UK first went into lockdown. Crikey. Just this past week, I have been reminded of that fact from the emails I received – my subscriptions to Zoom.us, Miro.com and Disney+ have just had their one year anniversary! Without question, the last 12 months has shaped us as humans. And I have no doubt this last year may still shape what is to come next.
The stories we tell are what defines us. It makes our facts much more human. But I also think our own stories make us stronger, increase our sense of belief and purpose, and can help us re-engage with a task or project.
I thought I would share with you a simple storytelling technique I have been using in my online training sessions which has really helped my attendees engage with an online teaching environment, and also connect with their online colleagues in the process.
Within the first 30 minutes or so of any online training class or workshop, I ask each attendee to share two things via the online canvas we are using (miro, mural or jamboard etc).
Firstly, using the online canvas tool of choice (I prefer miro.com but many others have similar functionality) I ask the attendees to find and create their own profile sticky-note and include three things on it; name, role/job and location.
Secondly, I ask attendees to trawl through their hard drives and find a photograph of themselves they are happy to share with the others in the meeting. Ideally a photo that tells a story. Add that photo to the post-it profile from step one!
As an example, here is my post-it profile and photo from a recent course…
.. which of course has quite a story behind this particular photograph! (If you want the full story, you will have to ask me sometime!) The benefits of this exercise have proved a great way to start my online classes, with many attendees commenting on how nice it was to reduce the formality of the class and talk more freely about ourselves. It’s also an easy way to get your attendees familiar with some of the simple features that online collaboration tools offer, and maybe required for the meeting ahead.
Here are some tips from my own experiences of running this exercise…
Expect some nervousness about your audience sharing photos (potentially with strangers) via an online tool. Make clear they should only share a photo they feel comfortable sharing online, and crop out any others in the photo if necessary. I have also found that safety can be increased if you (as a facilitator) demonstrate what you want your attendees to do by going first yourself. Share a photo of yourself in the same way, and you will set the tone on how vulnerable you are prepared to be, and maybe others will then feel safe enough to share something too.
Encourage each attendee to read through their post-it profile, and most importantly to tell us the story behind the photo! Not only do we as humans enjoy listening to a story, but we equally enjoy telling a story too. A pattern I have seen emerge from my online classes during this pandemic, is that most photos attendees have shared have been those which remind them of happier times. This lifts both the mood and morale of the storyteller AND the group as a whole.
As a facilitator, show your interest by asking questions about the story and the photo. When was it taken? Where where you? Who are the other people in the photo? Maybe you have something in common with the story itself – do any other attendees share parts of the story too? You will be surprised at how much conversation can be spawned from a single photograph and a story shared amongst strangers. This is a great opportunity for you as a facilitator to make your attendees look good, right at the start of the meeting.
Why don’t you give this a try in your next online session. If you do, let me know how it goes in the comments below!!