I’m a fan of House of Cards now in it’s second season. Kevin Spacey’s character Francis, the lead role, frequently turns to the screen and interacts with the viewers – sharing with the audience what is really going on for him. For instance in the Season 2 opening episode, he is getting sworn into a new office and all background noise is suspended while ‘Francis’ looks straight at the screen and says “One heartbeat away from the presidency and not a single vote cast in my name. Democracy is SO overrated.”
The show draws me in on many levels but when Francis looks at the screen I feel that he is seeing me. Forget that there are millions of other viewers that he is looking at – in that one moment – he is talking to me. The notion here is the he somehow creates ‘connection’ between the audience and himself. Forget that he is a less than savory character, there’s something in his candor that keeps me on his side.
So what can we learn from House of Cards about connecting with a virtual audience?
First, transparency creates connection to others. The more honest a person is, the more likeable we find that individual. Transparency creates a bridge where we can connect. I’m not talking about sharing all your personal news but I am saying to be genuine: be yourself. Authenticity goes a long way.
The second thing – look directly at your participants and give them a sense of who you are. Whether you opt to use a camera or a photograph of yourself – the more we see you, the more connected we feel. The absence of your image increases the likelihood of disengagement.
Finally, we all want to be seen. In fact, I believe it is a fundamental human need. I like it when Francis ‘sees’ me. I also know that my virtual participants respond well when they are ‘seen.’ Seeing someone virtually requires the facilitator to connect without that image that we just said was so important. So, how do we do that as virtual facilitator?
1) We hold the belief and the mindset that we are here to serve our participants. It’s about them, not about us as facilitator. We take the training where they need it to go. We adapt to their needs over our scheduled agenda.
2) Attune to voices – not just the words but also the emotion that is being conveyed. Is it resistance? Is it curiosity? Is it nervousness? When we attune at that level, we begin to see the individuals within the group.
3) Find the personalities behind the named icons. Is there someone always raising their hand? Always clapping? Always disagreeing? What does that tell us about this individual? From there, how can I as facilitator connect with them, just as I would in a classroom.
So if you haven’t already – check out House of Cards! And if you’re teaching virtually, see how you can start creating a deeper connection with your participants. I’d love to hear how it goes!