When success can become a drama… if you don’t have (very) skilled friends.
Everything started with covid-19. Before it I was happily training dozens of teachers all over Italy with a method I invented called “Eradicate the chaos from your classroom”. It is easy, simple to implement and… more important it works! Participants which used it were happy: the buzzword increased and I was traveling all weekends to do my job.
Than the covid outbreak came and everything stopped.
Obviously, like everybody, I started pivoting to webinars. And I did what everybody did: horrible webinars… I hated them myself. They were stressful to me more than for participants. So I started looking around for alternatives.
In this search during midsummer 2020 I met the Remote Together Community by Judy Rees & Steve Mc Cann. I bought their basic course watched it four – 4 – times and immediately started implementing it with my online events. In less than one month I did more than 10 events with their WETC methodology: Web Events That Connect. I was enthusiastic about it. Finally, I was moving away from the horror webinars’story we all know.
Then a terrible thing suddenly happened to me: it’s called success!
This summer I met Valentina Petri, a bestselling author with a large fanbase on Facebook, and had the silly idea to propose her online meeting with true interactive participation for people. And she answered: yes, what a great idea!
Then things started rolling very quickly.
I am not joking. Success can be truly panicking if it is about starting from scratch an online event in which 531 people subscribes in less than a week and you are not trained enough.
Even if you’re doing great with your first events it’s a completely different thing to manage 30 people meeting vs 500 people one.
To be honest I didn’t know how to start (and starting an event well it is very important). So I wrote this message to the Remote Together community:
Hi everyone this is the first time that I ask this group for a request for help. Basically, a beautiful thing is happening to me that is causing me to panic.
An unexpected event has arrived: the black swan that changes all the cards on the table and prompted me to write to this community.
Next Monday I organized what I thought was a small thing: an event with a best-selling author in Italy. She is delighted to participate in this “Web Event That Connect” to present her new book – aimed precisely at teachers – and made a post on FB.
People started sharing it and… I had to upgrade to my zoom account, it is a concrete possibility to overcome 1000’s Zoom limit for the meeting.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
I asked to the community: What is the MOST IMPORTANT THING to pay attention to those who find themselves having to organize extra-large events just after having learned how to manage events of up to 30 people?
I asked and the community answered. What a feeling to belong to such a powerful tribe.
Mark Kilby and Judy Rees started answering (over the weekend!) while I was reviewing templates, emails to participants, and building up a (very) small team to support me live.
Ah, and in the meanwhile life of course keeps on going on as nothing was happening around me. Do you know the feeling?
The absolute urge coming from your wife asking you in the not-so-sweet-way-she-only-knows to run to the shop and buy aubergines and wine and fresh and special mozzarella for the Saturday night Pizza&Pasta party she’s organizing with our “dear” friends! No need to specify, not one of them even barely interested in WETC. Just in pizza and pasta as you can see in the images.
In the meanwhile subscribers to the BIG ONE keep increasing, up to 531. All subscribers and registrants to Zoom.
While my author got a bit panicked, I got excited. When the community feedbacks started coming, little by little I started thinking I could manage it.
So I decided to hire one co-host to manage break-out rooms for me. (Obviously one with a close-to-zero experience in Zoom meetings, just to add some hot chili pepper to the sauce).
THE IDEA WHICH SAVED MY LIFE
So I got an Idea. And I sent one VERY dictatorial email to all participants on the day of the event. The message was basically saying the truth: “We are too many, we are happy but we can’t help you with any technical issues. Help yourself. The event is free so do your best to be present online and good luck”.
As a result, I got zero emails asking for tech support, just a couple of people canceling because they couldn’t have a webcam on as I asked.
In the end, there were 205 participants attending live.
THE MISTAKES TO LEARN SOMETHING FROM
What went wrong?
- I was stressed and too worried about all the technical pieces having to work together. Generally, I’ve no problem with public speaking. After several years of experience, I’m fluent and able to catch the feeling of the room BUT I was too stressed. And I started doing “mmhm, hmm” for too long during the presentation. I hated myself watching the replay, because I know I can do much better. This is the number 1 thing I want to improve in the future.
- I didn’t manage sharing time with participants too well. Some got too much time while others weren’t able to speak at all. This has to improve.
- I started using Mentimeter as a tool to manage interactivity but people were distracted and started using autonomously the chat so I switched to this one on the run. Not a very smooth choice, I’ve to say.
WHAT WENT WELL?
Most of the event for most of the people was very enjoyable.
I was aware of the mistakes while I was doing with them. But people didn’t notice because for ALL of them it was the first time that they participated in an event like that.
Do you know the thing?
When you offer a coke to people use to drink only water they like it. But only because they didn’t know Champagne exists (ask Judy & Steve for this regarding the WETC online experience).
So people were happy and me too. I survived very well indeed.
The day after I started wondering: WHAT I CAN GIVE BACK TO SUCH A COMMUNITY?
One small thing I think I’ve to give back.
WETC is based on a very basic human need: connection. Translating this in the online meeting thing: this is the need to be listen and seen by other humans.
So we’ve got the WETC recipe proposed by Rees McCann. Study it, experiment with it, do as many mistakes as you can in the shortest time (that means: organize and manage as many events you can. The time to build up the new work environment after covid-19 is NOW). And learn from your mistakes.
BUT WETC is just a tile of a process that begins when people subscribe to your event.
From that moment, THEY WANT TO HEAR from you.
So this is what I propose:
- Build up a sign-up privacy proof system with a double-opt-in and strong autoresponder technology. For people just starting growing their email list, Aweber is great for this.
- Write to people BEFORE the event in order to make them feel they’re in strong hands and they do not have to worry about anything IF they do their homework. This means to respect the conduct code as suggested to me by Mark Kilby. This establishes a feeling of safeness for participants, at the same time establishing your authority as the leader of the event (you!). Be extremely clear about what they need to do. That is mainly, the necessity of being able to speak and be seen. And be very clear that they will not get the same help they get during a 30 people classroom event because they’re too many. They will understand and this will save your life.
- PRAY IF YOU WILL AND RUN YOUR EVENT AT YOUR BEST
Is this the end?
Not at all. The learning process starts right now.
And the day after the event I sent them a survey asking all the questions you can have in mind about what they think went wrong during the event. I used Typeform that is a survey tool designed just to listen in a human way to the answering people. Please stay away from Google Forms if you want to collect the authentic voice of your audience.
ASK WELL TO YOUR PARTICIPANTS AND THEY WILL TELL YOU what you need to improve and in the meanwhile, they tell you what has gone well without asking. They’ll tell you what they felt about your event. It’s a deep feeling to read their words. You could feel tears growing inside yourself for the emotion that comes from such authentic feedbacks.
IN THE END: WHAT DID I GET FROM THE EVENT?
A lot, but the main result to me is this post you’re reading right now. I know my business English is poor and that’s why I resisted many years to start a blog in English.
As a way to share the happiness about the discovery of such a method like WETC and return a small part of what I got from the Remote Together community, I took the challenge and… here we are. Please correct my mistakes in the comments. I would love to improve.
I published my first post on my first blog in English. Wow!
Full of mistakes as you can read, but even another great starting point to learn.
And… is this the end? Not at all. I already have got my next challenge:
Setting up a full hybrid event in Rome by the end of the next month.
I hope to be panicking again because of success.
It is a (very) nice feeling indeed.
Not with your help guys… 🙂
Thank you a lot
I need to add a very personal Thank you to Valentina Petri the author of the book “Portami il Diario” it’s about teaching with love. And it deserves to be read. I really hope it will be translated into English asap. And then my tribe: the Great Matteo Bortolini co-host of this event, all the Homeless Book guys who are always by my side in the new challenges I propose to them, Matteo Pezzi a photographer with a human touch, who was at the dinner on saturday night before the event and reviewed this post. And Roberto Pasini who made the pizza and helped me set up this fancy website.