Kassy LaBorie is a Master Virtual Classroom Trainer and the Original Virtual Training Hero, on a mission to rid the world of boring slide reading lectures and passive live online participants! Kassy discusses the importance of purposeful engagement and challenges leaders to continually ask themselves, “What did I just say or do that you could have said or done?” Listen to Kassy’s tips for the best ways to lead engaging virtual meetings as she shares insights from her latest book, INTERACT & ENGAGE! 75+ Activities For Virtual Training, Meetings, And Webinars.
About the Guest:
Kassy LaBorie is the principal consultant at Kassy LaBorie Consulting, LLC. She is a speaker, instructional designer, classroom facilitator, and author who specializes in virtual learning, teams and live online technology. Kassy is passionate about helping organizations, learning teams, and training professionals successfully move to the virtual environment.
In her previous role at Dale Carnegie Training, she was the director of virtual training services, a consultancy that partners with organizations to help them develop successful online training strategies. Kassy also served as the product design architect responsible for developing the company’s live online training product and experience. Prior to this, she was an independent master virtual trainer, a Microsoft software trainer, and a senior trainer at WebEx, where she helped build and deliver training at the WebEx University.
Kassy is the co-author of Interact and Engage! 75+ Activities for Virtual Training, Meetings, and Webinars (ATD Press 2022) and Producing Virtual Training, Meetings, and Webinars (ATD Press 2021). A frequent speaker at industry conferences since 2006, she has presented at Training Magazine events including their yearly conference and Online Learning Conferences, Chief Learning Officer symposiums, The Virtual Learning Show, ATD’s TechKnowledge and International Conference & Exposition, as well as many local ATD Chapter events.
For more information about Kassy, visit her website: www.KassyConsulting.com
Download related free resources including “Virtual Meeting Checklist” and “Virtual Meeting Icebreakers” available from host Debra Dinnocenzo at https://virtualworkswell.com/resources/free-resources/
About the Host:
Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues. Debra is a dynamic keynote speaker, innovative educator, impactful coach, seasoned executive, and successful author. She is the co-author of the recently released book, REMOTE LEADERSHIP – Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams, as well as several other books on remote and virtual teams.
Since publishing her first book on telecommuting in 1999, Debra has been a pioneer in the shift to virtual work and remote leadership. Few practitioners in the field have the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience that distinguishes Debra in the hybrid workplace and remote leadership space. As a nationally recognized expert in remote workplace and distance leadership, Debra has spoken widely on related topics, and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course offered by Duquesne University. Previously, Debra was a teleworking executive and has worked from her home office for more than two decades.
Schedule a call with Debra HERE.
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Welcome to the remote leadership Podcast. I'm Deborah Dinnocenzo and I'll be your host and guide as we explore new challenges and proven keys to success for leaders and teams who must get results from a distance. For more than two decades, I've helped organizations and leaders successfully go virtual. Now that we're all on a trajectory toward the next normal of work from anywhere and hybrid teams, I'm excited to share with you the insights and expertise that 1000s of leaders and teams have acquired through my books, coaching, training, and presentations. Join me to learn tips, techniques and skills that leaders and teams in your organization can implement now to achieve effectiveness in our evolving remote workplace. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the remote leadership podcast. I am thrilled today to have with us a Kassy Laborie. And Kassy is the principal consultant at Kassy Laborie consulting. And she's a speaker and instructional designer, a classroom facilitator, and has also been involved in virtual teams up close and personal. And so we're going to talk today about engagement and best ways to facilitate engagement and team meetings as well as learning events. Kassy is also an author. And she specializes in virtual learning teams and live online technology of Kassy has written a book called interact and engage. And I know she'll be sharing a lot of great information from both her book and her experience. So Kassy, welcome. And thank you so much for joining me today.Kassy Laborie:
Well, thanks so much for having me, Debra. It's a pleasure to be here today.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Well, I'm looking forward to this because I've touched on in previous podcasts issues around engagement and virtual presence. And so I believe our listeners would love to hear from you since you are deep into this. The what are the key components in the best ways for for leaders and team members to be engaged and to facilitate engagement and to support each other in engagement in all of these virtual and remote meetings that we're doing now?Kassy Laborie:
It's such a big question. And what's amazing to me, Deborah, is that it's the same question that we've had all these years you and I've been doing virtual meetings and an online training since the late 90s, haven't we?Debra Dinnocenzo:
We have we've been around, we've been around the block several times by now.Kassy Laborie:
And it's amazing to me how it's still just as challenging today as it was then to engage people, even though the technology is leaps and bounds, easier to use, and more accessible. But but but the the idea that people are just going to be engaged, or I'm going to do certain things that will make them engaged, still escapes so many people. And it makes you think about you know, like, what's what's wrong, you know, what were you gonnaDebra Dinnocenzo:
say? Right? I was, I was very surprised coming out of COVID, when we did a survey of leaders in terms of what their challenges are, as we were shifting more to hybrid work. They're still asking for training on on remote meetings, which, you know, we had a pretty intense introduction, maybe not the best way to train up for that, during COVID. We just did a ton of it. And so people are still yearning for best ways to use these really great technologies. And you're right, we've come a long way with technology. If we think back to when you and I first started in this business, you know, it was like dial up modems. And here we are nowKassy Laborie:
on the webcam, you were sure to break everything. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So you know, our ability to do these meetings and include people from around the planet so easily and to time shift, delivery of content and all of those things. So people are still struggling. Leaders particularly want to do this and do it well. So in your experience in the work that you're doing with with organizations and with leaders, you know, share with us what what you're coaching them to do to do this? Well,Kassy Laborie:
I think we need to examine what our definitions of engagement are. The I think I think that's probably one of the biggest things that's in the way What does engagement mean? And it amazes me today that it's still the case that many people think if I get on a camera and talk, then they're going to listen to me. They need this in So they're gonna listen to me lead this meeting or run this training, you know, or do this webinar. But the truth is, we need to focus on. I think, personally, and this is what I'm coaching people on every day, we need to focus on what the purpose of you being on that camera or in that online meeting, any meeting for that matter? What is the purpose? What does your audience need to do with what you're sharing. And if we could focus on what people need to do with that information that, whatever it is, if we can focus on that, and then and then design what we do towards that, we're going to have such a better outcome than then let me just tell you everything I just learned, or let me just tell you the world, according to me, you know, as much as I might want that people don't really care. They care about the world, according to them. And so I need to hear that that's the big challenge. What does an engagement mean? And let's look at our definition of what you're having people do? And is it their definition of engagement? Or is it yours? That's another thing. And then the other part of it is the technology and just the recognition that just because we are looking at each other on a camera, doesn't mean that that's working for people, you know, and we need to look at what options we have in the technology that are aligned with what people need to do as a result of spending time there.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Absolutely. So I love that you kind of start with purpose. And in our virtual meeting guidelines, which I've mentioned in previous podcasts. It's the first the first step is purpose and importance. What is the purpose of this meeting this discussion, even if it's just one on one? And why is it important? And it's not really just important to the person leading the meeting? You really, you're right, you have to position that in terms of why it's important to those who are listening, which are their solid states engagement.Kassy Laborie:
I have a mantra, I have a mantra that I tried to live by in my work. And that mantra is, what did I just say? Or do that I could have let you say or do? Why did I read that slide to you? Yeah, I would rather you know, here's what I do, I'll bring up a slide that has some points on it. And, you know, yeah, I follow all the PowerPoint rules, whatever for the visuals, and it's got some points on it. So why though you do not need me to read the slide to you, what is going to be of interest to you is why I'm sharing it and what it means to the greater purpose of why we we've gathered. And so what I'll do is set the stage for whatever those points are, you know, what you'll see on your screen in a moment, are three key points for whatever thing, take a moment to review those for yourself. Once you've read them, click on whatever, you know, raise hand or whatever we have available to let me know you're done reading. And then once the majority of the people have done that, then I'll say alright, let's discuss which ones do you want to discuss, but a checkmark next to it, raise your hand to talk, I've numbered them type the number in the chat, whatever, I'm going to continue to use the features of the platform to my advantage, right, you know, in person, I would just lean on nonverbal communication. And so online, I'm going to lean on using the features to replace nonverbal communication, and have it be about you and for you connected to the greater purpose of why we're meeting in the first place. You don't need me to tell you, and guess what, if you needed me to tell you, I could just record it. Right? And I could do it in five minutes and send it to you. And then you could watch that. And then we'll have another meeting on what you saw when you watched it. And then there's a whole set of things on what why people don't watch things. But that's another meeting.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Or even worse, I could send you an email with those points in it. And you wouldn't read Yeah, really very non dynamic communication. So I love all these new technologies that I think are replacing or helping us overcome some of the obstacles that we complained about for years when we started remote work. And all we had was I always call them the bat phones, those those teleconference phones that would sit in the middle of the conference room. And that was all we had, and we didn't have even nonverbals that you could pick up from people through through video. point about so many people tend to turn their cameras off and curious about what your viewpoint is on that and what your experiences with how that diminishes engagement and how do we encourage people to leverage the visual component of these remote meetings and learning events?Kassy Laborie:
That is such a hot topic there?Debra Dinnocenzo:
It is. I know aKassy Laborie:
lot of different ins and outs with this but the first thing that comes to mind for me I love reading works by Brene Brown because she speaks of, you know, empathy vulnerability, kindness, understanding. And I very much have that approach. I, I believe in our world today that a webcam or that being on camera is, has been normalized. And so much so that people are expecting us to be on camera. What concerns me kind of a little, though is that, you know, taking it back to the beginnings of being an online meetings in the late 90s, people thought if only we were on camera, then we'd be surely to be engaged with the truth. Did right. And we thought, can we just fix that? So then, but the thing is, is just because people are sitting there staring at you on their camera does not mean that they are engaged. And it goes back to our purpose, what are people doing? What are you having them do participate in us as a result of spending time with you, whether that's a meeting, a training, or a webinar, or whatever it is. And so this idea of the camera, I think that in our world today, if you're the leader of the meeting, you're the presenter, you need to be on camera, because we need to connect with you. And we need to trust you. And we have to see you as somebody who's credible and that we respect enough to be able to learn from listen to be led by and, and so you need to figure out how to be good on the camera and be as natural as possible. In the world that I live, you know, with with learning and development does every single attendee need to be on the camera all day long to prove that they learned it? I don't think so. I think actually, really, it's not really proof, it's just proof of they were on camera. And what I like to do as a learning leader, is make sure that the instructional design of our my programs and what I'm delivering and when I'm teaching people to deliver is is is aligned with objectives. And people have opportunities to prove it. And yes, our networking is going to grow, our communication skills are going to grow, our ability to connect with each other remotely grows when we can be on camera. But I also think that we have to have an empathetic approach, where it's, we're on camera all the time now. And one of the things that I'll do in my classes, and meetings is, I'd like for you to be on camera, it's I want I'd also like for you to be comfortable, and happy today. And if you need to go off camera for a moment, that's okay, let's make a commitment to each other that when you speak, you'll come on camera. And then if you need to go off for a moment, that's also okay to write and commit to contribute. AndDebra Dinnocenzo:
if your cat's walking across your keyboard, it might be a good idea to turn the camera off,Kassy Laborie:
maybe I don't know, if I'm a big cat fan. I do like the cats. But you know, there's things that would require people going off camera, I'm nursing mothers, for example, let's just let them have privacy for absolutely, right. There's things that are normal and wonderful that we're able to do today in different ways. And so I think it goes back to Brene, brown, you know, the empathetic approach, that we're all doing our best and bringing our best and I find that if people know that that's my perspective, then they want to live up to that themselves. And, and coming at it from an understanding empathetic place really encourages people. And there's a there's interesting research that's going to keep coming out about all of us being on camera all the time, and I'm just gonna keep my eye on it. And for now, I'm just going to try to lead with kindness and understanding.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Well, and you know, for some organizations that are really geographically dispersed, there's, there's intense amount of, of screen time. And that does take its toll. There's no question about that. You know, I found a lot of people complaining throughout COVID, about all these meetings, and I've always reminded them, you know, we complained about meetings when we were in the office, too.Kassy Laborie:
Yeah, there's no doubt that the camera, you know, it's going to help us build relationships easier. If you are not going to be on camera, then guess what, you got to step up your chat game, you're gonna have to step up your annotation game, you better take the lead in the breakout, you better be submitting all the answers first, right what I'm saying because otherwise, if you're just on the camera, we're like, oh, so and so's engaged. They're on camera, whetherDebra Dinnocenzo:
you're you're raising some interesting points about the capability. This is the other thing I found. We're not leveraging all the capability of the technologies to encourage engagement. So there's, there's chatting and there is breakouts to go into small groups come back and report that really I find facilitates much more engagement. It's much harder to to not talk in a three person breakout project. Yeah.Kassy Laborie:
And like, I mean, you don't need to, we need to lead by example, that you can get into a meeting and be like, please use the chat when you feel free to use it. No, you have to pose the question and say, let's all answer in the chat. normalize the chat as part of the conversation. And then you have to you have to lead by example. I've been part of that.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So it's like polling, polling tools, tools like polling to get people to respond to things. And I also love the idea of and it's one of the things they talk about virtual meeting guidelines is you don't have to As the leader of the meeting, you don't have to do everything. But you can, you know, ask someone else to manage the agenda and ask somebody else to be the timekeeper. And, and take different topics and ask different people in the meeting to facilitate those topics. So there are a lot of ways to encourage engagement. And, and to get people involved more where they really want to be engaged. You also mentioned, you know, the notion of empathy and building trust. And this is so important, because in my viewpoint, one of the key components of trust is familiarity. People have heard me talk about this in previous podcasts, you know, people really have to feel like they know each other too. And then, of course, there are other components as well, like reliability and follow through and integrity. But really Familiarity is a major component of, of trust. And I think when we are looking at each other, seeing each other, we have a face with a name, remember yours, we said to our family, we could have a face with a name or in the voice. And now we do and you still know we have it. Exactly, exactly. SoKassy Laborie:
you know, it's like, it's more than that, too, right? Like, it starts with that. But we have to allow people to share too, like one of my favorite things to do is to have people change their virtual background to their pet or their child for just a moment, you know, something that says, or maybe a recent vacation. And, you know, what that does is it takes the pressure off being on the camera and puts it puts the focus on the background. And then you're getting to learn something about the person, you know, within the proper settings, of course, but you know, sharing about yourself in in ways that allow people to connect so important, so important, and then letting them do it too, you know, and in ways that are authentic and not contrived, as well. And I think that we need to learn to let go of some of the control. You know, that I think I see this a lot with people using the zooms and the teams and things. You know, in a moment, we'll be sending a chat. Well, why are we waiting a moment? Let's just send a chat likeDebra Dinnocenzo:
the chat, right? Well, one of the things I used to do when I did live face to face training, which you know, a lot of training is all day long, right? People cannot keep their mind completely on what's happening in a meeting for eight hours, it's just that the mind doesn't work that way. So I would always start by saying, Okay, now, we know this for a fact, we're going to tune out all of us every now and then. And we're going to go someplace, it might be your favorite place, it might be a family member that's unwell that you're concerned about. It might be, you know, the trip you're planning to take this weekend, and I let people share where they're where their mind is gonna go when they're when they tune out for a few seconds. And that's a way also for people to get to know each other, which happened a lot in the early part of the pandemic, I saw so many beaters doing fabulous things, in terms of really connecting because we really were worried about each other then Right? Where we were having a collective near near death experience. Yeah,Kassy Laborie:
we were very much more like coming at it from a human approach. And now we're kind of like, yes, yes. Right.Debra Dinnocenzo:
If only we could recapture some of that and continue to integrate that along with all of the other overwhelming stuff that people have. And there's not enough hours in the day. Yes, but remember, what how powerful what was when people really were connecting at a human level? And asking, how are you? How's everyone in your family? It's, it's so important. Yeah,Kassy Laborie:
it is as simple as that. And you know, and you can, and you could manage that within the context of what your meeting purposes, you know, just kind of letting people share. And I think one of the beautiful things about being online is that we can concurrently respond. Whereas in person, a lot of times it would be one at a time. And so you know, you don't have time for that. But But online, we can all respond with feedback, or backgrounds or chat or something that's just very quick, that kind. And I'd love your point about having helped to my, the second book that I published was on producing virtual training, meetings and webinars, and it's around the concept of all the production tasks, and the idea of having a producer or a partner to help you run things and manage things. And even if you don't have a person dedicated to that, just having people be like, the person who's going to lead on the chat. You know, I'm gonna have I'm gonna have Rachel help me lead on chat. If I miss something. Rachel's got us, everybody, you know, and people tend to like to have those kinds of responsibilities. They tend to, they want to be involved because sitting and listening isn't working.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Right. And Rachel's much more engaged, if she is watching the chat and helping with that. And just think about, you know, we're recording this now and we're We're on, we're on Zoom, if I had to be watching a chat at the same time, it would be distracting, it would feel a little bit more overwhelming. And so I think that's where people get hung up on the technology. And they don't have to put so let somebody else put the poll up, not try to manage all of that themselves. Which gets me to a point I always try to make two leaders is that they don't have to do everything all the time. Anyway.Kassy Laborie:
I know anyway, even in person, what else happens is that what I have where I'm at in my career today is that if chats are not coming through, I'm the exact opposite of what you just said, I'm distracted, because there are none. Right? So for me, I've turned that corner. I turned it a long time ago, where when I am presenting in person, I'm sort of wishing there was a chat projected on the wall for me. Yeah, I was trained to read your nonverbal communication is like, trying to be Sherlock Holmes. You know, I don't know what that means. But if you type it in the chat, I know what you meant. you typed it. And so it's, it can feel distracting at first. But with help and assistance like that, you can learn to get used to it. And it becomes how you've replaced that nonverbal communication and how you keep yourself from being a talking head that people aren't listening to. If you're a person presenting a meeting, leading a webinar or doing an online training, and you're not watching the chat, you are a talking head that is missing out on what people are saying and doing. Is it your job to control it? Yeah, to a certain extent, you're the leader. Right? So you need to be controlling it and watching it so that it's part of what's happening, because otherwise you are missing out. And that is why you're not connected to people.Debra Dinnocenzo:
And as in that reminds me that and I do try to remind leaders about this, that they need to welcome chats that are happening throughout the meeting, right? Some people are attending, they also need to be mindful of cultural differences. And, you know, some people, I'm still on still on Zoom events were in different kinds of meetings where someone will say, What do you know, just raise your hand, if you have a question somebody else, somebody will say, How do I raise my hand? Or they're notKassy Laborie:
going to? I can interrupt you, there's so unlikely the only reason that they would is because they're comfortable. Everyone else is doing it, you've modeled it, you're actually responding to because that's another thing. They may say please raise your hand if and then they never see it.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yes, yes, yes, yes, you're right. You have to be watching for that stuff. Or have somebody on the meeting that's watching for hand raises, and somebody else that's monitoring the chat, and somebody else is leading a different part of the meeting.Kassy Laborie:
And if they're doing white people, Sorry, can't have somebody separate answering the chat. And I'm just my talking head. Right? Right, that still isn't very engaging, that's the presenter is disconnected and somebody other person in the chats, the one that's connected. So it has to be things built in place, if you do have help, where you're saying, Hey, Rachel, what's going on in the chat? What are some of the themes that you've noticed? So you can stop and pull that in and include it in your messaging?Debra Dinnocenzo:
Or you've agreed that you've agreed that Rachel is going to interrupt and say, Hey, there's a really important question here. I think we need to clarify this. And make it really more as dynamic as it would be, because that's what would happen if we were face to face, or you would see that confused. Look, right. AndKassy Laborie:
so now we have to just make it happen. And I actually think that, you know, after all these years of being online, I think we're, we're more productive online than we are in person. We assume a whole lot of things in person. And we assume that we're really great when we're in person. And I think we get to start fresh coming online. It's holding us to higher and more specific objectives and standards. We're being held accountable. We can't get away with doughnuts anymore. Russia No, or the networking lunch that's about to happen. People can just press that X. Yeah. So now I have to do something that's going to be more valuable. And I got to pay attention to you or otherwise, you're out. Yep.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So it sounds like we're concluding here a big part of engagement and having engagement be done. Well, is using the technology? Well,Kassy Laborie:
I think it starts with defining what engagement means to you. And then yeah, you got to use the technology to enhance that. It's why I put together interactive engage my book is like a cookbook, if you will, it's recipes for all sorts of different activities so that you don't have to be the one talking the whole time wondering, they say hope is not a strategy, right, wondering and hoping that people are engaged? Well, if you implement activities, the engagement, the proof will be there. The proof of the engagement is in the chat. It's in the poll response. It's in the debrief of the breakout. So yeah, you're right. We have to learn the technology that we have to use it and to use it with purpose connected to why we're gathering together in the first place.Debra Dinnocenzo:
And that you know, there's a good reminder here for leaders because I'm fearful that leaders will hear this and say, Oh, now I really need to sit down and think about what does engagement mean? And that would be the wrong way to do that. You know, ask your team have a group a discussion form that formulate that together, what do we want engagement to mean for us as a team?Kassy Laborie:
Go back to the mantra, what did I just say? Or do that you could have said or done? Ask them? Yeah, what do they want? What do they think? How do they want to do it? What way? Are they going to get there? It's like, it's like leading by example, leading by inspiring and enabling people. You don't have to have the answer, we have to form the path and open the doors so they can find the answers. And we just need to be clear on where we're headed. Right, which is here, how should we get there?Debra Dinnocenzo:
Right, that's what leaders the essence of leadership, really. So Cassie, um, so it sounds like there's some great resources in your book. So please share with us how people can access your book, and your website and learn more about the resources that you offer to the world.Kassy Laborie:
Well, thank you so much for having me today. And for asking, my my book is called interact and engage. And there are over 75 activity examples for meetings, or webinars and for virtual training. And you can get a hold of the book on Amazon. And I've also got information about that book, as well as the one I wrote about the production side of things as well, at my website, and my website is just Kassyconsulting.comDebra Dinnocenzo:
. Okay, great. And that's Kassy with the K Kassyconsulting.com. And we'll have that in the notes for the podcast as well. So this has been really great, very informative, and some great reminders for leaders and teams about the importance of engagement and starting with purpose and understanding, really, what does engagement mean, and what do we want it to mean for us as a team? And then, yeah, and there are many, many ways to facilitate this. And so I hope people will access your book and learn about those, what 75 ways I'm looking forward to learning more about them as well. So anyway, so thank you, thank you for joining us and sharing your experience and your insights and, and I appreciate it very much. And this has been delightful.Kassy Laborie:
Thank you. Likewise.