Friday, June 13, 2014

Talking to My Laptop

Starting July 2, and continuing every week until Aug 13, I'll be conducting a series of webinars about group dynamics every Wednesday afternoon. (See Laird's Greatest Hits for details.)

On the one hand, I'm thoroughly familiar with the material that I'll be presenting—all of the topics have been selected from workshops that I've delivered multiple times:
July 2: Consensus 101
July 9: Conflict: Fight, Flight, or Opportunity?
July 16: Membership: Questions You Should Have Asked Before Joining
July 23: Participation: Navigating the Swamp of Non-monetary Member Contributions to the Group
July 30: The Essentials of Dynamic Facilitation: How to Get Through the Agenda and Build Energy at the Same Time
Aug 6: Power Dynamics & Leadership in Cooperative Groups
Aug 13: Stump the Chumps: Q&A Session with Laird and Ma'ikwe about Cooperative Group Dynamics

What's different is that I'll be talking to my laptop rather than a roomful of faces, and I wonder how that will go.

As I have two hours set aside for each webinar, I think the time will naturally divide into two segments: 60-75 minutes of presentation, followed by 45-60 minutes of Q&A. The big question mark for me will be operating without the visual cues about how my presentation is landing with the audience (my laptop never smiles or even looks confused). Fortunately, Ma'ikwe will by monitoring comments and questions, funneling them to me as appropriate, so I won't have to be tracking chat boxes or hand waving graphics while working through my presentation outline (whew).

In the next couple weeks I'll prepare by walking through each of my presentations, looking for natural places to pause and ask questions of the audience, so that I'll be better able to gauge how well my points are getting across, adjusting as needed.

While we'll be offering electronic downloads of the webinars for people who miss the live presentations (look for this offering on the Ecovillage Education US website), the people joining us on Wednesday afternoons will get the greatest value, as they'll be able to pose their questions on the spot.

While I love working directly with people in the room, venturing into the electronic future seems inevitable. Not only does this give prospective clients a taste of who I am and what I can deliver, it bridges distance and eliminates commuting. What I'll be offering here is a small taste of the online instructional possibilities being offered by MOOCs: massive open online courses, where many people can get access to information inexpensively, and is already impacting university enrollment.

The difference in this case is that the number of webinar participants will be small enough that each can reasonably expect to get personal questions addressed. If this were being offered to 1000 people at once (in a real MOOC) that wouldn't be the case. While there's no question that being electronically connected is not the same as being in the same room, the exchange requires a much smaller investment of time and money and it's good to be experimenting with this medium. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes and having some fun with it.

I hope some of you will join us on the 2nd.

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