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[fusion_dropcap boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”” class=”” id=”” color=”” text_color=””]K[/fusion_dropcap]eeping attendees engaged on Zoom is a real challenge, but according to this improv comedian and marketer, it’s totally possible. You just need to have a bag of tricks and “work a little harder.”
Here’s my interview with this fascinating trainer and speaker.
CHUCK: I’m spending a little bit of time this evening with Kathy Klotz-Guest. I’m glad to have her as my guest, and I’d like for Kathy go ahead and introduce herself. So, Kathy, take it away.
KATHY: I am a guest, Kathy Klotz-Guest. My background … I came out of marketing. And I also have many, many decades of doing comedy. So, my business, Keeping It Human, brings the two together. And my goal is to work with businesses to help them inject improv and comedy principles — not just trying to be funny — so that they can actually have better team cohesion, come up with new ideas, do more creative, better communication. That’s my goal.
CHUCK: So, what kinds of clients do you work with?
KATHY: The type of clients I typically work with are bigger businesses. I’m out here in Silicon Valley, so I tend to work with a lot of tech companies, but not exclusively. So, it tends to be sort of teams — teams within companies.
CHUCK: OK. And, pre-COVID, let’s walk through what a typical presentation would have been like. How many people would have been there? Would you have done it on premises at the client’s facility? That kind of thing.
KATHY: Yeah, pre-COVID, typically I was in-person. I’m an in-person speaker, workshop person. So, a lot of the work that I would do — not all, but a big chunk of the work — was in-person because there is a live energy that I get. Especially because a lot of the work that I do is interactive improv exercises. So, it’s really about harnessing that energy, and people love learning in a very experiential, safe way. So, that was it.
Now, a lot of it, of course, is delivered via Zoom. And some stuff, I was already doing beforehand via Zoom, like coaching and things like that. But nowadays, a lot of stuff has moved — a lot of my business has moved online, yeah.
CHUCK: Interesting. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how folks in your position who are speakers, teachers — we see a lot on TV about athletes who are having to deal with the fact that they may not be able to be in stadiums in front of 64,000 raving fans. The Seattle Seahawks actually calls their fans the “12th Man.”
So, what was the experience like — you’re saying you already were doing some training online and on Zoom. But what has the experience been like going from in-person, analog, one-on-one trainings and experiences where you literally have feedback right in the room contemporaneously to — let’s say, on Zoom in particular — that you can get back at someone raising their hand with a gesture. Or saying, “Hey Kathy” and asking for something in chat. How do you deal with that lack of response?
[bctt tweet=”You can still have really good responses online … you have to be very mindful of #Zoomfatigue, so my rule of thumb is about every five to six minutes, I break things up. I think the bar’s raised. You just have to work a little harder. #ZoomPro @kathyklotzguest” username=”onlinevidmaster”]
KATHY: Well, you can still have really good responses online. You have to work a little harder. So, to get everybody together, there are a lot of things you can do. You have to be very mindful of Zoom fatigue, so I have to — my rule of thumb is about every five to six minutes, I kind of break things up. So, there’s a lot of things you can do, and I think the bar’s raised. You just have to work a little harder.
So, for example, I might, at the very beginning, use polls and ask questions. And give me a one-word answer in the chat room, or change your name in the Zoom bar. Change your name to one word of how you feel today. Just something really low. And then, I’ll increase that. I’ll gradually elevate that level of interactivity to breakout rooms. There is a breakout room feature, and I’ll get people in conversation. So, pair up, and I’ll put you in a breakout room. Or maybe groups like five and they discuss a topic. And then when the time’s up, they come back to the lobby, to the main meeting.
So, there’s a lot of ways to do it. I do think we’re in a world now where the burden’s on us, as speakers, to actually start to make that happen. Yeah.
CHUCK: Yeah. I’m hearing a lot about Zoom fatigue, and the tips that I’m hearing about are all around the types of things that you were just talking about, but I’d love to have you expand a little bit more on that. People are forgetting that participants really do need to go to the bathroom, that they would like to get a drink of water, that they would like some basic things.
CHUCK: So, one of my colleagues does work for local governments, and she has talked about how they’ll just hole up and do a nine-hour meeting.
CHUCK: And I don’t know that they have training to do a nine-hour meeting. And I also don’t know — and I may be wrong about this — but that when they do an in-person meeting that may go all day, there’s just natural breaks that might happen every couple of hours, max. Like, “Hey, let’s just take a 10-minute break. Everybody be back here.” So, people know to do that, but I don’t know that they know to set things up like that online.
KATHY: Probably not, and you do have to work with the flow of human energy. What you’re dealing with — the biggest issue that we’re dealing with, especially for me as a facilitator and somebody who comes from an improv background, is that I’m trained to follow the energy. Keep the energy high. When the energy dips, get it back up again, and follow the natural order of human energy.
And I think a lot of times, I think too many Zoom presentations focus on communicating one way. And I think you have to build — you have to spend a little bit more time doing the prep work to really make sure that your presentation is as interactive as it can be. I understand people are probably sitting in Zoom calls all day. They’re sitting. They’re not standing. They’re not walking around, which means you’re going to have to go out of your way to build all these great moments. You can even use silly things like stretch breaks and have people stand or do something physical.
But really, I think the biggest issue with designing these types of interactions is really thinking about the flow of human energy throughout the day and being mindful of that. I would do the same thing if I were doing — if I were preparing for the in-person facilitation, or workshop, or speaking engagement, I’m always thinking about where do I build the energy all over the day.
So, it is no different that way, but I have to make sure I build that extra pop in there. But I would say the best way for people to think about it is, think about the time of day they’re doing it, think about what that person maybe has come from, what are they needing. Think about your audience’s flow of energy, and see if you can design with that in mind. And I know it’s asking us to think really differently online, but I think we have to.
And the dividend’s pretty high. If we do that, I think we can really — we can have a very good engagement with Zoom. And how can we play with things? Don’t be afraid to try things. Adapt. You might fail — that’s OK. Try different things, and you’ll figure out what works best. I just really encourage people to take the meetings up a notch because I think people do that fatigue, and you’re going to have to make it real for them in a world where all their meetings now, or probably 90% are this way.
CHUCK: Interesting. So, that flow of human energy expression is really interesting to me. I guess at a high level, human energy lags early in the morning. After a big lunch is not a great time to be hitting people with a really monstrous load of information and expecting a lot of feedback, right?
CHUCK: So, what are some of those sort of top-level things that you experienced and learned about human energy flow?
KATHY: Yeah, so, a lot of it comes from just my work, my over two decades on an improv stage. And you feel the energy in the room. It ebbs and flows. When you get high energy, you get high energy back. So, you have to work a little harder. You’re going to get peak energy if you have those meetings in the morning. You’re going to get peak energy. That’s when people are usually refreshed. They’re not exhausted yet. Get them with the higher energy.
If after lunch, like you said, people have just had their meal. So, you probably — you don’t want to be just spewing a bunch of information. Get them up and doing something. It’s OK. You’re not giving them strenuous exercise. Have them do an activity. Even just getting them talking and not sitting there will get them engaged. But once that energy dips, your job is to kind of restart that energy curve. That’s your job. You have to get that energy back up.
So, think about that, and think about maybe end of day. End of day, people are fried. If you’re doing a meeting at the end of the day, how can you give less information and give them more of an experience where they’re talking to each other. They’re laughing. They’re playful.
So, I’ve always looked at — if I was doing a keynote, or talk, or workshop in the morning, I know that I have peak energy. At the end of the day, many people are tired. So, I give them a little extra peak energy, and I have them in group discussions so they can laugh, and they’re not sitting there like a robot listening, which nobody wants to do at 4:00 in the afternoon.
CHUCK: Alright. Yeah, in sales, I’ve heard for years that the last time you want to try to sell somebody something is 4:30 on a Monday, which is only second-worst to 4:30 on a Friday.
CHUCK: So, for one thing, I appreciate you showing up at this time for me on a Friday evening. I’m trying to stay awake. No, I’m not, I’m doing great!
But people on Mondays, at the end of the day, people are thinking, “I hate my job. I want to get home. I need a drink. I’m out of here.” So, right. It’s not a great time.
KATHY: Obviously not. If you’re just mindful of those little things, I think it really helps. It really makes a difference. And you kind of see — the energy — you see people, they’re still low energy, it means you have to give them more energy. You’ve got to ramp up their energy.
When they have high energy, then you’re doing the right things. More of that. Then you know, “OK, all of that.” Because whatever exercise I have them doing, they’re having a great time and their energy is high. When their energy starts to dip, they’re kind of winding down from an activity. Then you know to move onto something else.
So, if you follow the energy in the room, that has never failed me. But you just have to be able to read the energy in the room. Not just looking at your slides. You’ve got to read the energy level in the room.
CHUCK: Yeah. I can see how that would be much easier in-person. I kind of picture you on a stage with 100 attendees sitting in chairs. And when you start to see them going like this [gesturing], or they’re looking at their watches or getting out their phones, how do you translate that reading to online? I mean, we’ve got these little tiny Zoom boxes of people that — you can’t really see enough without getting right up on your screen to see. So, what kind of cues do you look for in a Zoom meeting?
KATHY: So, in a Zoom, if you can put them on Gallery View, that’s really, really helpful. Sometimes, you have a large group of people. You can’t see everybody’s face. So, some days, you will not be able to see everybody’s face. I just did a thing this morning — it’s hot here. It’s like, 100 degrees. But this morning, I was on point, and I had about 100 attendees. I couldn’t see all their faces. But what I do try to do is, as much as I can see the Gallery View, I can see body language. I can start to adapt. And I see people leaning into their chairs listening and taking notes that I know they’re with me.
The other thing I naturally do, as I said earlier — and I think it’s really important — is about every five minutes, do something different. “Hey, OK everybody, if this meeting is rocking or not, let me know. Give me one word in the chat about what’s happened to you.” Or, “Hey, how about a poll?” Do a poll. Do something that forces them to respond and interact, and to listen. So, about every five minutes, that’s my rule of thumb, and I always do.
CHUCK: Wow, every five minutes.
CHUCK: That’s seems frequent, but I can see how that would keep things moving.
KATHY: You kind of have to, in a Zoom world. I think it’s very — it’s just too easy for people to — if they’ve been sitting all day. But it can be low-key stuff, do you know what I mean? Just have them engage in a very low-key way. Write a word. Write a word in the chat about how you’re feeling right now. Get them laughing.
CHUCK: So, let’s go back to the breakout rooms for just a second. I haven’t experimented very much with those yet. So, as a facilitator, do you feel like you need a backup producer type of person who is helping you? That’s one question. And then the second one is, do you need a facilitator in each room to help keep things moving?
KATHY: So, if you’ve got a small group, I think you can do it yourself. If you have the luxury of having a producer or somebody else, definitely do that, and I think that’s a great question because the answer is yes.
The bigger your scale, the bigger that audience — you’re going to want to have somebody else to help you manage it because people might be writing things in chat, for example. You can’t scan it if you’re explaining something to your audience. You’re going to need somebody with you — to set up the breakout rooms and help people who might need help with the breakout rooms.
[bctt tweet=”As a #Zoom facilitator, @kathyklotzguest recommends that you ask someone to assist if you will have more than 20 attendees in a meeting. #ZoomPro” username=”onlinevidmaster”]
So, I definitely think if it’s a ten-person or less meeting, probably you’re OK. Twenty person, you’re probably OK. Anything more than that, it doesn’t hurt to have somebody else helping you.
CHUCK: Gotcha. OK, so the second part of that was about having a facilitator in each breakout room. How would you manage it? Let’s say you do have a producer. You’ve got 30 people or 50 people, and you send them into five different rooms. Do you give all of them the same exercise, typically, to do while they’re in there and then report back? Or how do you typically do that?
KATHY: You can do it a couple of different ways, and I’ve done it all. You can do the same activity. You can have them choose the room they want to be in based on the activity. Room 1 is this activity, Room 2 is this other one. You may get asymmetrical numbers because maybe some are more popular than others. But there’s a lot of ways you can do it.
And then, you set up a time — like, OK, 15 minutes from this activity. And then, at the end of the breakout room, everybody’s funneled back to the lobby, to the main meeting.
You don’t have to have a facilitator in every room, but you should have somebody — before you go to breakout — just let them know, “Hey, when you get into your breakout room, choose very quickly — don’t waste a lot of time — who is going to be the notetaker, and keep it moving.” You’ve got five people in breakout room, you want somebody to be managing time in each of those breakout rooms. So, just to ask for a volunteer for somebody to be the timeclock.
CHUCK: Yeah. I’ve participated in those in the analog world, and they’re terrific. You get a room with 50-60 people in it and you can go into different corners. We used to do exercises with the big Post-It Note pads. I don’t know that we always had somebody keeping track of the time, but we did have somebody who was the notetaker. And then, when the facilitator brought everybody back together, we would put our big Post-It Notes up on the walls, and there would be a speaker that would go around the room. So, does that kind of experience work on Zoom? Is that how you pull things together, in some cases?
KATHY: Yes, in a bigger sense. However, the way that breakout rooms work, you have to set them up separately. They’re completely — you’re funneled to different parts, and you can’t hear each other’s conversations, by design. So, essentially what you’re doing is creating these sub-rooms that act independently. You can preassign people to rooms. You can preassign certain people to rooms and they always go to the same rooms. Or you can make it so that people have the ability to go to different rooms, in and out, as they want to. That takes a different level of management, and so having some help with that is very, very — I think a really important idea.
So, you can have them stay. If I were going to do anything longer than an hour, I’ll typically give them the ability to wander in and out of the rooms because each of those rooms is maybe going to be a different topic, and they like to hear different topics.
CHUCK: I see.
KATHY: So, you have to decide, as a facilitator, if you’re going to preassign them to rooms, or give them the ability to self-select and move around. That’s a different level of having somebody else help you with it.
CHUCK: I didn’t realize — so that’s just sort of a permission thing you set.
KATHY: Yes, it’s a permission thing you have to set. And it really is helpful if you’re going to have a big group, like I say, having somebody else to help you with that. But it’s only available on the paid version of Zoom. You can’t get in on the free version.
CHUCK: Yeah. We’re working on that.
KATHY: They get you.
CHUCK: They do. And very intelligently, too, I think.
CHUCK: I signed up as an early adopter on Zoom, and did run into that 40-minute cutoff a few times. That is, honestly, that’s exactly what was the incentive for me to move up to the Pro Plan, which I am extremely glad I did. I use Zoom a lot now. We’re actually developing a Zoom training for organizations.
KATHY: That’s awesome.
I think with the paid Zoom, you have a lot more latitude to move around and set up some really cool stuff.
CHUCK: Yeah, and you’re basically looking at $15 or $16 a month.
KATHY: It’s not that bad.
CHUCK: It’s not bad at all. And we created a Zoom training for an arts park in Maryland.
KATHY: Oh, nice.
CHUCK: The organization bought licenses for a number of the art instructors, and did so as an organization.
And as part of another organization, I got invited to use my own Zoom account because they thought it was a perk, basically, for me to have a Pro account through the organization. It says a lot, I think, for an organization to be handing out the tools that people need to really be able to effectively work at home, and then continue the branding of that organization, and maintain communication with clients and each other.
KATHY: Yeah, I think that’s great. Are you finding your trainings — are they Zoom trainings, per se?
CHUCK: Yeah, a lot of what we’re teaching is around best practices. So, lighting — I noticed that your camera angle is the way it’s supposed to be. Your lighting is really good in this shot. What we don’t like is the dreaded “up the nose” shot, or the one where the top of the head is the only thing that’s showing and you can hear the person talking, but you can’t even see their mouth moving.
KATHY: [laughter] Yeah.
CHUCK: So, we always recommend that when you start your meeting, that you use the preview screen to see what you look like so you’re not off-center, or not even in the shot.
CHUCK: And then also, I always — we haven’t really worked on this in the training yet — but I just have to look away when people pick their phone up or computer up and go on one of those death-defying walks through their house. We had a client the other day who took us on one of those walks, and I had vertigo by the time she sat down. And of course, when she sat down, there she was again not really well placed in the shot.
KATHY: There she was, yeah. Yeah, that’s not good. That’s not good.
I think the hardest part about the Zoom stuff — at least that I see — is really just exploring and seeing how things work because the bells and whistles with the Pro plan, with the breakout rooms — they’re magnificent. But when I first started them, there’s all kinds of “gotchas.” You have to play with it and sometimes, the technology wouldn’t work. We didn’t set it up the right way and it was like, oops.
So, I think one of the things that I try to do is whenever I’m going to use something different, I’ll actually do a dry run and just get some people on the other end, and like, let’s see what breaks, and let’s figure out how to fix it.
CHUCK: Ah, I gotcha. So, with your clients — you’re saying you’ll get your clients into a little ten- or fifteen-minute preview, walk-through with them.
KATHY: Just a little walk-through. And we’ve seen where the holes are. And sometimes, if not with clients, I’ll just get friends of mine. I’ll say, “Let’s set up a Zoom call, and I want to see if this breakout room thing works.” And then we’ll try it and then, if it doesn’t work, it’s like, OK, that’s good. Now I know how to fix that before the actual facilitation thing that we’re going to try to do.
It is tricky because the more — bigger, like, I had 400 people on a Zoom call. It was insane. It was stupid. It was nuts last week.
KATHY: And it was just too much. It was just too much. And it kind of limits you if you don’t have a person to help you with — the producer to make sure the breakout rooms stuff goes smoothly.
The nice part about it though, Chuck, is that if you haven’t played with the breakout rooms is that you can set them all to end at the same time so that once the conversation’s over, they get a timer notification. They get a little message above in each breakout room that says, “You have 10 minutes left to wrap up this breakout room.” And then, at the end of it, it automatically rolls everybody back to the main lobby. Everybody’s at the same place. So, there are some really cool things you can do with that kind of stuff.
CHUCK: Wow. Well, this has been terrific, Kathy. You’re just full of tips and tricks. I really, really appreciate it. You’ve given me — I mean, I’ve done a deep dive on Zoom, and I just find — like you’re saying, it’s sort of like Photoshop or Illustrator. There’s just — you wind up using the 10 or 15% that you know over and over and over again and then, when somebody shows you something else, your first reaction is, “Wow, I had no idea it could do that. “ And then suddenly, you adopt that as part of your toolbox.
KATHY: Totally. And the one thing I will tell you that I haven’t really done much of that I’m starting to explore is whiteboards. There is a whiteboard ability for people to then go in and work together as a whiteboard, and to share ideas on a whiteboard. So, if you’re running a meeting — and I haven’t’ done that, and there’s a really good plugin called Miro. And I don’t know if you’ve used it, but it’s supposed to be cool — I just got it, and I have not played with it as much as I’d like to. But it’s supposed to be the best one out there for doing any kind of whiteboard activity.
CHUCK: That does sound familiar. There’s the annotation feature that I’ve heard about, but haven’t used yet. There are a lot of tools. And of course, when people were starting to shy away from Zoom because of the Zoom-bombing stuff that was going on, my position — and I’m glad I stuck with this — is don’t go anywhere because Zoom has gone from like, 10 million to 300 million people as an installed base in a matter of 60 days, or whatever it is. And they have the world’s biggest incentive to fix this. I get the Zoom blog, and they are on a 90-day quest to get to — and they actually have achieved now — a 256-bit end-to-end encryption.
So, with that in place, and the fact that we have waiting rooms so that we can keep bad guys out, or at least try to recognize somebody in a waiting room and stick them back in there if they’re disruptive or something, or remove them, I think we have all the tools we need.
KATHY: Yeah, that’s really good. Zoom has fixed a lot of those things, which is really great — the security thing. But you still, every once in a while — like, I do a lot of comedy Zooms too, and somebody will sneak in. I don’t know how they get the password, but they get it, and you’ve got to boot them out of the lobby or the waiting room, or whatever. But it’s getting better. Security’s getting a lot better.
CHUCK: That’s great.
KATHY: I hope this is helpful.
CHUCK: Kathy, thank you so much for being with me this afternoon. I really appreciate it. You’ve given me a lot of great tips. Anything else you’d like to add, or questions you’d like to ask?
KATHY: Honestly, I think the really big insight for me — the “a-ha” moment of shifting from in-person to this — the biggest thing is really map out that flow. Give the time if you’re going to do a meeting and you want it to be interactive — really think about the human factors, which we don’t enough. If all you’re going to do is present…well, you could do that, but you could do so much more on Zoom. So maybe take that little extra time and play with some of these different features. And really use it to its potential.
CHUCK: That’s great. Actually, you just reminded me of a brand new thing that just came out yesterday from Rev.com — you know about that transcription service?
KATHY: I have heard of it, yes.
CHUCK: Yeah, well basically, I could put this recording up in the cloud and then send a link to Rev.com, and for about $1.25 a minute, they’ll transcribe it with either AI for less or with humans. Well, those people just came out yesterday with a live captioning feature for Zoom. They figured out an AI way that overlays on Zoom somehow. I just got the email, and I’m like “Whaaat?” So basically, it will allow people to read captions while you’re speaking so that — it addresses people who have a hearing disability, among other things, and brings another level of communication to the platform.
KATHY: That’s really cool. Wow. I hadn’t really thought about that, but they should be thinking about it. And part the evolution is thinking about being more inclusive for people who need that. That’s very cool.
CHUCK: Well, enjoy San Francisco. I see the Golden Arches behind you. Or the Golden Gate Bridge — not the Golden Arches.
CHUCK: It’s different. It’s dinnertime out here, so.
KATHY: That’s right.
CHUCK: Anyway, I really do appreciate your time, Kathy, and I look forward to chatting with you again.
KATHY: My pleasure. Thank you.
A former Silicon Valley marketing executive and a trained improviser for over 20 years, Kathy Klotz-Guest, MA, MBA, combines her business team management and comedy backgrounds to help people, teams, and brands be more human, creative, and joyful every day. Trained at ComedySportz and at LA’s Second City, she has been featured in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Inc.com named her book, “Stop Boring Me!” a CMO must-read. Her company – Keeping it Human, Inc. – provides speaking consulting, and play-based experiential workshops to ignite collaborative creativity and storytelling results. She still performs and teaches.
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