CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – DECEMBER 13, 2020
A Zoom meeting brought me to tears
Logging in for our first day of class, peering at the gallery of unfamiliar faces over Zoom, my students and I were understandably apprehensive. Could we really take the intimacy of an in-person classroom and create community and trust online, especially when we had never met in person? One of my students was still on the fence and openly shared her fear that class would be a waste of time and an ineffective way to learn public speaking. I told her that, if she would make the commitment to participate fully in the class, then I would make the commitment to ensure she would learn from it.
Our apprehension quickly melted away the moment we dove into our coursework.
I’ve learned that adapting in-person content to a virtual medium takes about the same amount of time as the class itself. Therefore, a 6-hour course took me about 6 hours to adapt the exercises and content. We broke the course down into four 75-minute modules with a 30-minute break in between each one for individual work. We decided to move the last module to one week later so students had time to apply what they learned and then come back and ask questions – something we couldn’t have done in person.
Their confidence and passion poured through the camera lens and struck me right in the heart. Many of their speeches brought me and their classmates to tears. The feedback they gave one other in the chatbox was compassionate, respectful, and challenging. Not only was the feedback as substantive as it would have been in person, it was actually more so, because more students could weigh in on the chatbox as we could have accommodated in person. And we recorded the classes and saved the chat text so speakers could go back and learn from the feedback.
During our last class, students were reticent to log off at the end. There was something about hitting “end meeting” that felt like it would end the safe space we had created in the classroom. There was talk of creating a WhatsApp group or some other way to stay connected going forward. We weren’t ready to let go.
I don’t know what our community will look like going forward, but I know this: 30 strangers came together and created a sense of community and connection in a virtual classroom. They learned concrete skills and made measurable progress. They left the class with strategies and confidence to represent their ideas, their values, and their mission in a virtual or in-person setting. And they left with a network of people to call on when they need help. That, for me, is a resounding success.
I know many of us are feeling Zoom fatigue or whatever term you use for overuse of your video conferencing platforms. I ask you to keep in mind that these platforms are there to serve people, and as long as we keep people the focus, then we can use these platforms to have a positive impact. If you are willing to invest the time, learn the tools, and build the strategy, and if participants are willing to bring their whole self to a virtual environment, then we CAN create community, connection, and trust.
Make It A Champion Day!