By Charlotte Hochman. Photography: Michele Caleffi | Reading Time: 7 minutes
This is the third part of the People Spaces Online series. Part 1 explores how to Create the space, Part 2 how to Convene the right people to the event, and Part 3 looks at how to best Contribute.
In the last 10 years, our work with Wow!Labs has made us discover that creating spaces and cultures that know how to innovate and collaborate in practice rests on variables. These variables make the spaces successful across contexts and cultures. We’re now exploring with our partners and clients how what we learned creating physical environments can create richer interactions online.
Everything happening online- we thought this was going to last a few months. But we’re still waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Excellent news: you are the light at the end of the tunnel. Just learn to show up differently in the events you join online. Learn to be more present, to have richer interactions, and to be more fully yourself. Online events and communities are here to stay. It’s time they found out who you really are.
So the news is that richer, fuller-bodied experiences are within reach in digital events in which you take part. To a large extent, it’s a matter of how you show up, or learn to show up more intentionally, to these knocks on the doors of your precious attention.
The benefits of fully showing up
Research shows that while learning online, participants who perceive other participants as fully present to the event actually benefit more from other people’s ideas. This is fascinating. Believing that others show up fully online makes us more receptive to their points of view. This begs the question: how can we learn to benefit more from each other’s ideas… and for our ideas to have more influence on others even during remote events?
When we do manage to be fully present, the benefits are obvious. You may have experienced some of these yourself on rare occasions, like when connecting with a loved one remotely. Technology then becomes transparent: what seemed like an initial barrier in fact becomes invisible, and we invest our full energy on the people present and the experience at hand. Higher-quality relationships emerge. This breaks isolation and brings connection, an essential ingredient in well-being. But let’s be honest: it’s rare in professional occasions.
Apart from better learning and increased well-being, there’s another reason to fully show up: your power is increased. These spaces and events need crucial input at the moment in determining which way they go and which conversations they push. You, as the unique sum of your own experiences, are just what they need. Become powerful: show up fully as yourself in these new spaces, to help them evolve. Transition from consumer to co-designer.
Here’s how to significantly build your influence as a participant in online spaces and events.
#1 – Take responsibility for how you show up
- It takes intention
Many of us have learned this the hard way, but it’s a fact: the way we behave, interact, think and feel in our daily life does not translate well literally on screen. The way to be present to others is not the same face-to-face and online. To be aware and interpret correctly other people’s thoughts, emotions and intentions, we have to make a conscious effort to decipher codes that are largely unknown to us. A large part of the journey to fully showing up on screen is to become conscious of the specific effort this requires as opposed to face-to-face interactions.
- It takes practice
Truly showing up online is a result of understanding, trying out and adjusting what does and what doesn’t work for you online. The feeling of “transparency” may not be achieved at first: there may be anxiety or reluctance, or focus on the technology rather than the experience. Watch, practice: what happens when someone raises their voice at a certain point? Uses their body language in a certain way? How do you react to these signs? How about you try and see how people react, in their own subtle ways?
Only experience will turn technology into an ally for you to show up fully as the person you want to be.
#2 – Read the room (who’s at the party?)
- Be aware of who’s there
Once in a space or an event, look at who’s there: be aware of other people present in the space. Don’t think this is only precious data for the organizers. It should be precious to you too, as important as when you walk into a party: who’s there? Look at who you can play with. Who are these people in these small boxes looking at you? Look at who they are with a technical eye, learning to recognize how people are different from each other and how you can use that to your benefit. You can learn about them from their name, location or organization (many people rename themselves in events to include one of these). You can easily look them up on LinkedIn as soon as something catches your attention about them or how they contribute. Be conscious of the unique points of view around the table, and which may be close or far from where you stand in terms of experience, worldview, desire to get things done. Higher-quality relationships will emerge from this stance. This is a place from which you can build collaborations, friendships and projects.
- Have a say in who’s where
Are there voices missing around the table? Fix it! You have unique access to the different communities you’re a part of. If a point of view is under-represented, be the bridge you want to see between worlds. Build that link proactively: extend an invitation, send a link, mention it in a conversation and see if the bait works. If you see no bridge, YOU are the bridge. It won’t be fixed overnight, but you’re a big part of the solution in diversifying the spaces you take part in.
#3 – Strike when it’s right (watch out world, here you come!)
- You are your unique point of view. Put it out there.
Be intentional in taking part in events and spaces that you think you can help to evolve just by who you are. Integrate new groups. Events and spaces are remarkably open at the moment, but may not find you. You need to find them. Make people hear what you believe they need to hear “from the inside”, from someone at their table: you, when you show up.
Are you a unique, or rare, representative of a characteristic or point of view? If so, build trust. They have been missing the power of your point of view. This is a powerful place to be you.
And if are you always the mainstream in the situations or events you take part in, you probably should think about putting yourself in situations where you’re a minority: you’ll learn like you’ve never learned before!
- What a nudge might look like
So what do you do when you’re at a point where how you think can influence the way things are led? The options are limitless. Express those thoughts that resonate most strongly with your own truths. Put out your boldest ideas out there in one form or another. You can for, one thing, chat with the organizers or speakers directly with a gentle but firm tone, to make them evolve on any point you feel relevant. I recently caught myself chatting with a speaker directly during a high-profile webinar to let him know that I found the illustrations on his slidedeck offensive: the drawings of women were stereotypical. I felt this was a representation of gender norms that wasn’t worthy of the great business point he was making, and I let him know. He was… surprised, but thanked me. People are more open to feedback at the moment, so make sure you are providing nudges. Show up and be fully yourself. The systems you’re a part of need it.
* * *
Don’t waste your time passively attending events online. Invest your time actively shaping and contributing to what’s happening there. The places where you show up online should be shaped by your viewpoint. That’s what this period may hold for you: the moment where you learn to be fully you, online. Speak your truth. Create in your own image. The world needs it.
I’ll see you there.
Charlotte Hochman is the Executive Director of Wow!Labs, accelerating innovation for companies, cities and universities in emergent situations. She has founded incubators and designed curriculums for leading institutions. Charlotte is a Fulbright scholar, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD, Designer-in-Residence at CCA in San Francisco, a BMW Foundation Responsible Leader, and a panelist at Obama’s Presidential Summit. Discover her work and access her guide "People spaces: How to create, convene and take part meaningfully in new spaces online”.