I think one of the biggest questions we all had to tackle this past year was how to engage people virtually. Whether it be virtual team meetings, e-classrooms, or cyber seminars… we had to adapt.
I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on this past year, thinking about what worked and what didn’t. And though I can’t say that I answered the big question or not, I did find some tools that worked.
One of the things I discovered right away was that our virtual world offers new opportunities to connect across the globe. I experienced that firsthand when I opened an email from a foreign affairs officer with the U.S. Department of State. It was a request from the U.S. Embassy in Morocco…. Yes, you read that right… Morocco!!! She found me through my LinkedIn Learning courses and asked me to speak to a group of female leaders in two 90-minute workshop sessions about my favorite topic: mentorship.
Immediately, I was excited! But also daunted with the task of engaging an audience that was not only virtual, but also international. One of the first things I realized was how important it was for me to create a community among the participants before the workshops even began. My thoughts immediately jumped to Facebook.
Now, I know our world has drifted away from Facebook in recent times, but it still can be very powerful when used the right way. I have found a lot of utility with using Facebook groups. They allow us to build a private community, where members can engage with each other and use social media to build rapport – without even meeting in person. I decided to give it a try.
All of the workshop participants were invited to a private Facebook group. I asked each participant to record and post a 1-minute introduction video. I found it really special to see what each member chose to share in her allotted 1 minute. We were able to learn a good amount about each other in that first impression. And in fact, by the time we all met for the Zoom workshop, we felt so much more comfortable than I have ever experienced in an online workshop.
For example, I learned that one of the women was working in a village outside of Marrakesh and was celebrating National Environment Day by helping kids to plant trees.… One woman was inspired by her parents… And another woman was studying abroad in the U.S. That familiarity bred a really strong community among us and allowed the women to feel more comfortable engaging with each other.
The workshop was two days and we had a day in between to process the information. I used our Facebook group to learn more about the participant’s applications of the materials from day one. For example, I asked the women to share what type of mentoring programs they were planning on developing. I was also able to share additional resources that occurred to me while teaching and addressed their questions. After the workshop, most of the participants connected with me on LinkedIn. A few of them even shared their post-workshop reflections in a LinkedIn post – where I was able to read what aspects really resonated with them. So cool!
I have prided myself all these years as a professor and keynote speaker on my ability to create a safe, comfortable and engaging space among my students or audience. However, being able to pull it off virtually, with some amazing women in Morocco, wow! That was a new one for me.
So here are my final thoughts on how to use social media to build rapport: use Facebook to break the ice before a workshop, and use LinkedIn to stay in professional touch after. Change is tough… but it forces us to be more innovative!!! Try new things, see what works, and adapt, adapt, adapt.
For more information on how to design mentoring programs, be a successful mentor/mentee, or manage others, please view my LinkedIn Learning courses below: