How to Make Sure Your Next Meeting Online Doesn’t Send People to Sleep! – Warwick Merry

How to Make Sure Your Next Meeting Online Doesn’t Send People to Sleep! – Warwick Merry

In the last eighteen months online meetings and events have been part of everyday life for most people in business.  After a few months, Zoom fatigue set in and a lot of people found themselves more exhausted by online meetings than they had ever experienced in face to face environments.

It’s hard to keep the energy up when the meetings you have seem endless and boring.

Enter this episode’s guest Warwick Merry.  

With over 10 years in IT, two degrees, and a passion for improv, singing and acting, Warwick Merry’s world of hosting live events changed in 2020 when COVID struck!  

With an end to live events, Warwick shifted his business online.  

With 20 plus years’ experience hosting conferences and events combined with his performance background and understanding “studio” environments, Warwick KNOWS what it takes to get and keep audiences engaged “through the lens” of technology.

In our conversation, I chat with Warwick about what you can do to make your events or everyday meetings productive and professional whilst keeping your audience engaged.

To find out more about Warwick, visit www.warwickmerry.com

Transcription

Donna Hanson: Hello and welcome to this Expert Insights episode I’m Donna Hanson in this expert insights episode we speak with online event host producer and MC Warwick Merry. Warwick is a certified speaking professional CSP a certified virtual presenter CVP and past national president of professional speakers Association of Australia. He has evolved into an online host an online event producer and MC Warwick also spent over 10 years working in IT industry so he knows how important it is to take advantage of the benefits technology offers we’re not letting it take advantage of you. He’s got two business degrees of Bachelor applied science in computing and a Bachelor of Business accounting. He worked for an IT outsourcing and consulting company and in 1999 Warren took advantage of an opportunity and started his own business. Merry mentality where he worked with organizations on cultural change team activation and started his keynote speaking Korea. Fast forward 20 years and now he has a different business and different life I always chuckle. When I say that, and a different modality for presenting along the way works discovered his passion for hosting events and has become known as one of the top 10 professional MCS in Australia.

In 2020 the world of wine events change due to the covid-19 virus. He’s worked with theatre improv and singing meant that he had the background knowledge on what it took to create a good studio environment. As well as what it took to engage an audience through the lens. His mighty history man. He became adept in a common conference platforms, very quickly, and his clients loved that he could help them design and build sessions run the technology and host it as well as baby online MC a true all in one experience. So let me welcome Warwick Merry. Hi, Merry. Welcome.

Warwick Merry: Super happy to be here. That’s one heck of an introduction. I’m always having flashbacks after going back to that.

Donna Hanson: What’s its quite heavy? I know, Aside from this, you and I are really good mates and you know we both have like a mutual admiration society for the things each other is doing in the adaptations. We’ve all had to make as a result of coven so um. Let’s get this show on the road Warwick and you have a pretty impressive background. I’m sure there are so many organizations around the world really struggling with the shift online from in person events. What have you noticed?

Warwick Merry: It’s really interesting to me technology like fire is a brilliant tool, but a poor master. And too often, people go over the technology does that without saying, No, no, you got to drive it. So sometimes they are at the limit of the technology or they don’t know enough about it. So they might have an older computer and they go, oh, we’ll just use this particular software really commonly zoom and they’re like, well, how come I can’t do all these things, but your computer’s not powerful enough or you don’t have the right camera setup or the right sounds that are, but you haven’t there is some few subtle things that you need to do. And then there’s the whole your behaviours are different your behaviours are set up for face to face. Then he changed for online. So there’s lots of little things you’ve got to do to get all your ducks in a row.

Donna Hanson: Oh, absolutely. And I’m sure we’re going to come up with some really great insights ideas and conversation as we go along in our short time together today. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some interesting and pretty big mistakes. Presenting online and you’ve only got to look at some of the people that are being drawn in as experts in television in particular that backdrops and all that sort of stuff for
and I think there was one that did the rounds with a guy on the BBC and
one of these kids came into his office as he was doing a live interview and the wife’s come in and she’s crawling on the floor and grab the child and drag the child out and shut the door thinking, nobody could see what’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen people make when presenting online.

Warwick Merry: I love that footage. I love that footage for so many reasons. One of the main things I love about it is it shows that we are now ready for authenticity. Because the reaction wasn’t. Oh my god. How unprofessional. Is that the reaction was oh yeah. Been there, done that, know what that’s like. Like the number I have a saying that it’s not a real zoom call until you see a cat’s behind because the number of times you see a cat walk in front but for that. It’s really authenticity and that was had that diet and he’s old family come back on for an interview afterwards to talk about that situation. So what I think is real. What I love about this technology is we are allowed to be ourselves. We don’t have to try me sometimes. And you’ll see that if you look at news anchors, how they used to be, to have are now there are a lot more relaxed and lot more you know, at home, even just the quality of footage that they’re using on TV new services. It is so low, like this they’re out of sync the words that in the voice don’t match, they don’t care anymore to zoom call people know, or it’s Skype or whatever. It’s more acceptable and there’s been a lot of mistakes and some of the basic mistakes are people not considering what their background is, or understanding that their cameras on just recently woman, for whatever reason, took a laptop to the toilet.

At a school and has since resigned from the school and it’s just there are some crazy mistakes and we talk. I used to be. You know when you’re in a live event or hey, don’t forget, and turn your microphone off if you go to the toilet. Well now, because your microphone. Your phone and your cameras, you find people take it everywhere. So we’re seeing more that we probably don’t necessarily need to see or people forget their microphones on and they say some inappropriate things there are so many issues. So basically its they just haven’t got the basics. Right. And typically, anything that goes wrong is all about the basics and making sure you get those right

Donna Hanson: So one of the things that I’ve heard of is screen sharing and people sharing things on the screen. You know structures in a group environment they’re sharing them a document or something and then maybe pull you know without thinking that they’re still sharing the screen going on to something else that that might not be something that people want one big scene.

Warwick Merry: Yeah, for sure. And it can be something as simple as your personal email and just knowing you know what your full email addresses or who’s been sending you emails, the recent American elections. Because they using Smart TV. Sometimes I had different ads come down and an ad drop down on a new service for Porn Hub like so there’s some weird stuff that goes on. But yeah, it really is.

Again, it’s making sure you understand how to use the technology and that you’re using it appropriately and you’re in control of it. And also when you make a mistake ego upsets made a mistake and you move on. Don’t let it flow you

Donna Hanson: Or define who you are on online or, yeah. Yeah, it’s like you make a wrong turn in the car, you go, well, I’ll go back and I’ll do that again, you know, so, isn’t it, that’s good. It’s being aware of some of those simple things and just being a little more observation or just all a bit more for that you don’t necessarily need to do with you in a physical meeting.

Warwick Merry: Very much so. And I heard a saying many, many years ago and I have a funny feeling it’s copyrighted. And so forgive me to whoever wrote a speech. Title, but it’s like elephants don’t bit but mosquitoes can kill and what better meaning of that is if there’s a massive issue like if your computer goes down, you’re going to know it, and you’re going to do everything you can to fix it. It’s all the little things. So all the little mistakes that you’re making that that will add up. So you want to try and have processes and I know you and I are both into processes and checklists and stuff. When I’m producing an event for client. I have a checklist, even if it’s just me in the control panel with all my computers. I have a checklist, even if its silly things like turn on the lights, because sometimes I forget. I’ve got three different lights that I use. And if I miss one of them. The looks not right. And I have sometimes if it’s a really bright day and I’ve got natural light coming in the window. I forget to put on the overhead light. You never cloud comes across. And I don’t have that on. It’s really noticeable. So it’s just simple things. And once you’ve got all those ducks in a row you’re less likely to have issues with it.

Donna Hanson: And I think you make a really good point. We often ashamed that everything we’re doing on the line is automatic and that we should be able to adapt and adjust. But like any sort of process. That you go through, you learn to drive a car, there’s a sequence of things. And after a while, it becomes habitual this sort of thing may eventually become habitual to people, but like anything if you don’t do something for a little while, even if it’s 2448 hours, you know, the software can change you know you’ve got in your office or whatever. So checklist is really helpful.

Warwick Merry: On the number of times of for some reason. And it happens sometimes with my audio and video is that it just doesn’t work out, or one or two, and I can’t for the life of me work out what it is. So I have to turn it off and then turn it on again and then it works but it’s and
it’s just this is technology. And so part of my process now is the big before everything I turn it all off. And I turned it all on. So, at the very least, it’s clearing out buffers its current fixing because I run quite a complex system, it just it just gives me a reset point that I can work from. And look, it doesn’t just happen to the, the smallest single operator happens to the big boys. I was hosting an event recently.
For a big organization that had paid big money for big outside AV company. And halfway through the mainstreaming unit which they paid tens of thousands of dollars for just decided, yeah. I think it’s time to reboot and just rebooted itself. And you could hear the squeals coming from the other room where the organizers were sitting, but we had you know we had prepared for that and we’re able to recover from that and move on. And if anything where I want to use it to edit a character of the event. So it was okay. And this is what happens is you’ve got a plan for it to not work, but it is understanding, it’s going to happen. It’s not if it’s going to happen. It’s when it’s going to happen.

Donna Hanson: Well, that’s sort of things happening in a live environment. Don’t say

Warwick Merry: Oh for sure all the time, God, the number of times that you know the overhead projector doesn’t work, or their microphone doesn’t work, or their lifestyle work or something goes wrong or something falls from the ceiling or, you know, what Happens?

Donna Hanson: You just a little sidebar, because you just got me thinking as you were talking about restarting everything, um, I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing people. I’m a stickler for being early. So if I go to a physical meaning I’m always there 5 or 10 minutes beforehand because you know I’m worried about got the right location, do I know where to park or, you know, what’s, what your approach to getting online is. How much earlier than a start time do you think it’s important you know I mean I know it’s a little different. As an MC but you know how much, how much early. Do you think people should get online to meetings or should they just come in? Why don’t the time

Warwick Merry: I love the concept and I’ve been living this all my life I’ve inherited from my father and it drives my wife crazy I rushed to wait so I’m the kind of guy who likes to be there nice and early, just in case. And that has served me well so many times. I’ll be going to the airport. Once I got a flat tire on the way and it took me 12 minutes to change that tire because I told myself about it. What it meant was because I had that buffer. I could still get there with plenty of time. And I wasn’t worrying about it and the kind of guy who drives on the top half of a fuel tank. By that I mean is, once it gets the half full. That’s when I fill it up. I don’t wait for fumes.

So when it comes to online events when I’m the host. I’m pretty much online. An hour beforehand 45 minutes if I’m a guest speaker or something. I’m typically they’re 15 to 20 minutes before it depends if it’s just me on camera. And I’ve been using my systems. I know it works.
So maybe 15 minutes, but if I want to test my slides and tested everything I’m doing its maybe half an hour so that that’s what it’s it depends on the size of the event as well so but 15 minutes minimum is, you know, and even for this morning, you know, getting ready for this recording, I was good to go. Beforehand, at least 10 minutes and before I jumped on

Donna Hanson: That’s good advice. Um, you know, as I’m sure you’ve seen the people that come into a meeting. And they coming in right on the time or just after and see embarrassment and the fostering they go through or, you know, they’ve missed out on a whole lot of information and they feel compelled to get you to fill them in.

Warwick Merry: Yeah, yeah. And look at, and I know for a lot of my events. It’s not only on my they’re half an hour, an hour earlier it’s I run a tech rehearsal two or three days beforehand. Because I want to, I want to know that I’ve got everything covered I want my clients and my speakers to know that. And even if I’m telling them information they already know. I don’t care. I’d much prefer to repeat it then have them not know and rock up on the day and go right so you’re sharing my slides I am I’m going to be slides for you.

And you know that’s embarrassing when that happens, and it can happen.
Or they’ll turn up and I don’t know how to share screen and then I’ve seen people do that as well. Although try and share it, but their computers updated. It’s a different version of Word or I use keynote and how do I look at myself and, you know, so there’s so many issues so
technical rehearsals are brilliant to just iron out those chunks and sometimes multiple technical rehearsals and then that way. Everyone’s happy. And it’s all about everyone being calm, because there’s enough stuff going on without anyone getting all fired up and technology if anyone’s not comfortable with technology. Technology just really riles people. And so it’s just a matter of just make sure everyone’s comfy.

Donna Hanson: Yeah, look I’m exactly the same when I’m hosting something for a client will always do a dress rehearsal. The week prior and allows them to be on, you know, half an hour beforehand if we, we’ve got a training program with clients that will usually be I’ll be online at our prior and make sure that our team members are online about 45 minutes beforehand. We asked people to come on 15 minutes earlier. All this is designed to make people feel relaxed and comfortable and I’m guessing from a meeting type perspective. If it’s a platform that you’re familiar with, then it’s like, it’s your team meetings that are regular in and out. And you’ll develop your own protocol around, you know what’s accepted and what’s not. So, you know, it’s about creating an expectation that you know, if its 10 o’clock, it means that everybody is in and ready to go at 10 o’clock. Not that we’re starting to log in at 10 o’clock.

And just being a bit more considerate about amazing timings and things like that. Because even though you can switch meetings with the click of a button in a physical sense, if you will, moving from meeting room to meeting room, you have to allow some time in between.

Warwick Merry: Very much so. And this is the thing. It’s, I’m a real stickler for starting on time timing is so important and so it’s just it’s a very simple boundary and people know with my stuff. I start on time. I might give them one or two minutes. To just final people coming in, but I will have started, I will be talking. It’s not dead air waiting, it’s me talking to them and saying hey we’ve got a couple more people coming online chat chat chat chat chat…… And if there’s, you know, no one likes back to back meetings and so it is that whole, like, hey, we only have meetings on the hour max is 45 minutes. So there is that 15 minutes to check your email. Check your messages have a drink water in water out. What are you going to do?

So these having that respect for your delegates or respect for people on the session. So that they have time for that. And in the same way that during if you got an all-day session. You’re going to have breaks threat and sometimes there are five minute break that I just stand up stretch move around. Get your body moving and other times as high as lunch go outside stand on the ground somewhere, get some fresh air, blah, blah, blah. So it is just understanding what your audience need. And what’s going to help them get the optimum value out of the session. You’ll running both physically, emotionally, mentally, and making sure you build that into what you’re doing and just because we can, doesn’t mean we should like just because we can do back to back meetings and change at the drop of a hat and be in different countries, doesn’t mean we should

Donna Hanson: Absolutely. So what are some tips that you, you could share to make advance or even a simple online meeting more engaging and more sort of, you know,

Warwick Merry: So I’m going to start with what I call the Holy Trinity all of the three things. You got to get right. You’ve got to get these right and I’m going to start and then they are in an order of importance and some spare they’re coming in reverse order important. So number one is you got to get your composition right so for example, if you look at my composition. By that I mean how I’ve made up the shot. So I’ve got this book bookcase over here that it’s just, it’s only in about a third
my head’s near the top of the screen with a slight gap in it, and I am Central. So that’s I’ve composed it. So this something. It’s a bit interesting but not too much. Now my over the last 12 months, this has changed. Massively. I used to have a big bookshelf there that was full time and I’d see people sort of going at this time to read my bookshelf.
I’ve put a bit of colour light behind me, that I can change just for a bit of interest. And it also helps define around its backlighting so defines around my shoulders. And around the back of my head. So it’s just it’s a bit better look. So that’s the composition. So the couple of things you want to be aware of. One is the rule of thirds, so anyone can just go to YouTube and look for Rule of Thirds video and you’ll see the screen is in these rule of thirds and you just want to make sure you’re occupying so if I sit here.

That’s okay. But if I’m sitting here with my head dead centre down like that. It just looks a bit weird. So, it is about on I’m going to stand up. Here we go. Oh, that’s one thing I don’t like is when I lean forward my bald patch shows don’t like that. So get your composition right that’s the first one of the Holy Trinity. The second one is get your lighting right so again, there’s a thing. Just Google it three point lighting and so I’ve got lighting directly above me. I’m in a studio aka spare bedroom has an older style house with an external libel, not a, not a, what do they call them.

Warwick Merry: Instead lights.

Donna Hanson: Lights. Yeah.

Warwick Merry: Yeah, not a down line and so I’ve got a diffuse that just as a normal light show which a diffuser is. So it has a nice spread on the ceiling. I had the light behind me and I’ve got a great being LED light in that corner and I have the window on this side and I have a second set of lights, because I do quite a bit of work out of the US and sometimes Europe and so when it’s not for me. I have that light set up in to replace the window. So you get your getting a little bit of shading. So it’s not full line, but you’re just its well-lit. You can see me clearly I’m not I don’t have a light behind me. So I look like I’m a criminal, though, does my identity known, you know, being backlit. So that’s it. And the third, the third and the most important is get your sound right. You got to get your sound right. So I use a shotgun mic, which is just in front of me. And so, it picks up my sound pretty well.

Donna Hanson: It up and just show us

Warwick Merry: I’ll do one better. This is the little microphone. Now this is a spare because I have to. These are road video Mike me this one I got from my phone. They specifically designed for phones but within adaptive cable. I go 3.5 mil one That would be my head of marketing and hindered by this is one of the joys of and it used to be people who don’t let people hear your dog back but now it’s just everyone. Oh yeah, you’ve got a dog. It’s amazing you have got to go here’s my dog and they pick up the dog and it’s all wonderful I say yes. So this microphone which pretty much, it does not filter out the dog, as you know, but it’s picking up most of my voice here. So a little shotgun mic is great.

Now a lot of people ask me, what’s this microphone? It’s not about the microphone. It’s about the room. So if you’re in a polished floorboards or tiled office. No microphone is going to stop the echo, you’re going to get. So I’ve got a carpeted floor. I’ve got some sound. Absorbing tiles phone tiles on my walls around behind me. It’s very behind the camera and I have to be honest, I have my cupboard door open, because that’s where my clothes are in there. Because that’s a nice sound down there as well. And so that just stops a bit of the echo that can happen. So then get those three things right and that’s a really nice foundation the other thing that’s really going to it. So those three things again. Number one is your shot composition. Get that right and also make sure it’s stable. I’ve got a Mano pod that holds my camera but haven’t solid stable so sharp composition. Number two is get your lighting. Right. And number three is your sound and that’s the most important get your sound right. It’s worth taking time to get your sound right. If your visions, a little bit off. Will put up with it, but it just sounds off we’ll hang out. It’s that simple. So, those, those that holy trinity. And the other thing that really helps you engage look down the barrel of the camera.

You’ve got look smack down the barrel of the camera. Now, when you’re on an online session. Often it’s easy to try and look at the people and you’ll do this. And but when I’m looking at the people are not engaging with you. So you’ve got to train yourself to look at the camera and we’re looking straight down, and rightly eyes because that’s how you connect with people, even though I’m not actually looking at you, but I’m looking at you.

Donna Hanson: Yep. Yep. Okay. And so if people are in like a business environment. They just need a meaning, etc. These are still things that that you can address. So it might be as simple as when you position your laptop or the camera of your computer so that you have the natural light coming in so that you will live because there’s nothing worse than you looking at somebody you explaining something in meaning or client page and you just, you know, one half of the person’s face is sort of in darkness, it’s hard to read.

Warwick Merry: Yeah, basically what you’re after is no distractions and that’s what getting the composition and the lighting and the sound is all about. It’s not going to make you a better presenter, but it’ll give you less distractions and that’s what it’s about presenting. There’s a whole other realm of being a better presenter. But there’s, it’s about getting rid of the distractions and the same way you want to look down the barrel of the camera, but you need a camera at eye level.

So you’re not sort of looking down, you know, the number of times people will just leave their laptop on the desk. And people are looking down. So you’re seeing more chins than ever before and more nasal hair, then you really had the desire to see. So, it is about getting really many of those distractions, making it effortless and it’s all about making it easy. I love that concept of make it easy, make it easy to watch make it enjoyable to watch make it so you know all these things won’t make you better. But it’ll take away the barriers.

Donna Hanson: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so really good information there. But what benefits. Apart from the obvious. Do you see of online versus in person events, are there any things that you can do in person that you simply can’t do one more.

Warwick Merry: Look there’s horses for courses. And don’t get me wrong, I love a face to face events in there. There’s the, the energy in the room is amazing and meeting with people is fantastic but there are certain things that you can’t do. And at the moment. There’s a certain level of safety that you can’t guarantee it Australia’s fairly good, but other places, not so much. And so this online is really with us for some time, geography, no longer becomes an issue. Because you can go anywhere, all you ladies power and as a relatively good internet connection.

And so sometimes that can be challenged, depending where you live, but those the foundation. What I like about online delivery is that it’s to me more intimate because if I’m addressing a room of 300 I’m really only talking to the first three rows, maybe four and anyone beyond that is either in the dark, and I can’t see them or they’re just a small head way down the back but when I’m presenting to 300 people online. We’re all face to face. We’re all we’re all got the same rights. We’ve all at the same perspective. And I can flick through my screen and I have mine. I use zoom the most of all my technologies for meeting.

And I look at 50 at a time so I can flick through and I do and I interact with people and I use their names and I play with them in a way, you cannot do online so it cannot do face to face. So these far more intimate in that manner. And it is also more of a challenge because you’re not in the room, getting all the energy. So, therefore, you’re getting you know the room, getting the energy. So you’ve got to provide more energy. And so really what you’re doing is presenting alone, if that makes sense. So
it really looks at how do you use and contribute that energy or how do you get energy back from some of the other people who are there so that’s the kind of things that you got to really look at doing so.

Yay for me. I love it because it helps me engaged in a way and it was scaled that to do face to face is challenging. And it’s look and there’s the hippie grainy part of me that loves it for environmental reasons in that I’m not using up, you know, the carbon footprint of airplanes and driving the car and all that kind of stuff.

I’m, you know, good to go. My transit times 15 seconds from here to the kitchen. You know, there’s all these really cool things like that. So yeah, it’s here to stay. And also, you know, I love the fact that, you know, one of my major clients now is based in the US and they love working with me so geographies really removed as an issue.

Donna Hanson: Hmm. Absolutely. The only analogy I can think of that sort of made sense to me was the fact that it’s live television and when you are presenting online to a group of people. It’s like having a studio audience as you would a TV show. And then when you’re presenting and you’re not getting the energy

it’s a bit like presenting in an empty studios. So you might be doing like some of the sports panel shows on the news, the news doesn’t have a studio audience with if the whole. Yes, yes, clapping about all that they don’t have a studio audience, but it’s, it’s about extension awaiting who you are and spending your energy and your personality through the cameras so that you know, you’re, you’re really making an impact you know in much the same way as somebody in a meeting room just slouching in the chair has one impact to somebody who’s sort of leaning forward and listening to what somebody saying in a traditional meeting room so

Warwick Merry: Yeah, look. One of my underlying tenants when it comes to presenting regardless of your modality is you have to be yourself amplified. Now this day and age, we want that authenticity and, I believe, rightly so, I think, you know, people want your stories that I don’t want you to get up there and just say, how good am I, because we don’t care. So we, but we want yourself amplified. So we want your personality and so you can do that very well digitally and face to face.

But it is a different approach and my thing is for those who are effective. The most effective and delivering online. It’s not about creating a TV show. Because we now have audiences. Let’s face it, most people when you watch telly. You’re watching your TV with your phone in your hand. And you’re seeing something. Come on, and you go, Oh, who’s that actor. I’ve seen them before you after IMDB, or you’re watching face looking at Facebook or Printers or something as you’re watching telly. And, you know, never be able to go out with their friends. I spend half their time with their phone. And part of that is because they want to be involved. And so therefore we have an audience who don’t want to have it done to them, then when I’m done with them.

And technology allows that because you can be in this. Let’s say you’re using zoom, but you can use all these other services where you can be taking polls doing surveys sharing videos, blah blah blah outside where you are. And so you can use that kind of technology. So they’re involved in it. So even if it’s a pre-recorded session. You can involve the audience and I’d strongly encourage you to do that. That will be so much more effective and so much more enjoyable.

As you say, you know, panels can be really great because there’s energy for example now between you and I and that is I will do transfer through the medium of video that people will pick up on. So you can share that so
it really is, again, how we create something that’s going to be delivering value that keeps people excited about what we’re talking about. And can I can actually do something with.

Donna Hanson: That brings them to the next question, which I think we’ve sort of danced about a bit what elements of video meetings and video advance do you think people underestimate from that online versus in person perspective.

Warwick Merry: To me is one of the most undervalued elements is the chat box. To so many speakers on oh no don’t use the chat box. I find it distracting. So yeah, but it’s not about you. It’s for me the chat box is this is like, you know, when you go to a face to face, and you sitting next to a friend. And you’ll be just doing comments to each other or you’ll be writing notes so you’ll be, you know, and often it’s not related to what’s going on.

But it helps you recall it or it just locks it in the or, you know, if the present is so boring and It’s just like they need to do that. They’re not, they’re boring or you need to be engaged in something so the chat box is fantastic. And I always encourage people use the chat box. In fact, when I start my sessions I was almost started in the chat box to get people using it. Just so that I feel I have permission and I’m a demon in the chat box so I love writing many, many, many comments in the checkbox and I have to control myself because a bit carried away.

Because it’s another way of interacting with what’s going on, whether you’re asking a question or referring it to someone else or cracking a joke about what’s happening.mIt’s a very humanistic thing. So I like it. And as long as it’s respectful, you know, heckling although if you’re running online comedy session. Maybe it was appropriate, but it’s, you know, horse of God, but I really liked the chat box. I find that is valuable because you if you’re not letting them use the chat box. They’re going to go to Facebook Messenger WhatsApp or something else and be chatting anyway because that’s possible.
So getting make them part of it and the relational in every recording afterwards. So you can go back and address some of the questions.

Donna Hanson: I know I love window am doing particularly webinars, where you know that there’s a lot of information being impacted, but you want that collaborative paste the chats, great, you know, I’ll ask people, where they’re from, put where they are geographically and I usually joke about how I don’t mean what room in the house are you when you know it from a geographical perspective where I you lived why are you in, you know, what’s the weather like, you know, just things like that that make people feel like, you know, this is about me being part of this experience, and it’s not about you telling us whatever it is that you’re going to be sharing with us, but it’s a dialogue, it’s communication.

Warwick Merry: Yeah and that gets back to what I said before, you know, they want it to be done the wisdom and not to them. So the other tool that I think is really powerful is breakout rooms. Or if the software you’re using doesn’t have breakout rooms, but it allows you to have smaller rooms or functions or networking tables or whatever it is.
They’re brilliant and I use breakout rooms extensively when I do a lot of my work and I like to keep them to nice small groups, I’m talking four or five that way everyone gets a chance. If you got seven or eight two or three people can just sit back and so I want everyone involved. So three or four seems to work really well.

And often, I’ll find is people come back and I’ll give them 10 minutes or something and they come back and I go there wasn’t enough time will having such a good conversation and I’m happy to leave them wanting more.
Versus going I’m stuck in the main room with the blog just telling me all these stories.

Donna Hanson: Yeah, and I don’t talk about that. What I’ve noticed with breakout rooms is total focus when you do have like three or four, there’s no Oh, who’s that walking past or is that somebody with some food. I really need to drink.mThere’s more dedicated attention then and it’s some he just sits in and you far more present, I think, then you are in a physical sense. So that’s something I really noticed that the
interactions, and the relationships that people build in breakout rooms seem to be much more powerful than men may have been in a physical sense

Warwick Merry: Very much so. And because often, you know, people say, Oh, my God. Well, I’m event for the networking and you end up talking to your friends anyway because it’s just a bit scary to break into the network.
But here you get dumped in a room with three other people you don’t know who they are. So you’re forced to do it. And what I found is people will be in the main room, but they want the camera off because they’re shy but in a breakout room, they’ll put the camera on and they’ll engage and so they’re, they’re enabling to do them because the technology has this wonderful thing have you feel a bit of a distance. So I’m not actually, physically in your face so I can actually open up more and so people are engaging and saying things and chatting and men is that they would never do face to face. It’s sort of like, you know, you get these keyboard warriors who go into Facebook and say stuff that would they never do it face to face. There is this level of anonymity that the technology provides that people love and it allows them to actually share more and I believe connect faster. We’ve had some wonderful results on some of the work that we’ve done with people truly connecting one of my clients. We’ve been running a session once a month for 12 months here in Victoria and these guys have never met each other and we did the final breakout last week actually. And there were tears from everyone because they felt so connected to people, even though they’d never met each other face to face. So this is the power of what the technology can do for us when it’s used appropriately. Yeah.

Donna Hanson: Yeah, so, um, you know, we’re running out of time. And I know that you and I, we could easily talk for hours. Well, what do you think moving forward will be different about events and I guess online meetings, from now on,

Warwick Merry: Yeah, for sure. So There’s this ideal of face to face meetings that people are going, can’t wait to get back to normal. That is no longer normal. Normal is now what we’re doing. So that’s going to have a face to face will happen, but I don’t think we’re going to have the massive face to face meetings of the thousands of delegates for some state for some time, we’re not going to have the internationals that we had for some time. Some airlines have said that they don’t foresee going to the UK or the USA until 2022 so you know that’s really going to stop things online will continue. We’ve really embraced online. And it’s really worked well for some, not for others. But for most it’s worked pretty well. So we’ll continue to do that kind of thing. The technology is getting better zoom had a massive grab on the market and more and more competitors are coming out, but it’s going to be hard to top of zoom because it is so easy to use it that ease of use it. Click bang works, talk to anyone about the Microsoft Teams or WebEx or GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar they just a bit clunky. And so, you know, zoom really is the King of the Mountain on that. But there are some specific other events coming on.
The one that there’s going to be a big focus on is hybrid. Now, I’m not a fan of hybrid. To me, it’s like Frankenstein’s monster, you get the worst of face to face, and an online shelf together. There are so much about hybrid that doesn’t work, and there are so many pitfalls. If you do it well and you spend the money and you have the big support, it can be gold. But if you’re trying to do it on the cheap. It’s an absolute mess. So I would caution you, you know, get some advice and I’m having to give some advice on what the pitfalls will be and sound is one of them, sending you can’t just, I will take a laptop.

Warwick Merry: And just shoved it, it just doesn’t work like there is so many issues that happen so because you want everyone to have an equal
experience. Another issue for events, these sponsors digitally, we haven’t been able to provide the same level of value that we can face to face. And what we’re trying to do is go what do we used to have. Well, let’s use computers to do that. So we mock up these digital booths and you click here for the video and click here to talk to a person, but the joy of sponsors at an event was you could just walk past and start a conversation about something. And if you didn’t want to talk, you can keep going. Whereas online. You know, if you click speak to a person they’re going to try and sell you something. And we hate to be sold to so we have to come up with a way where we can better support our sponsors and help them get good value for money.

Donna Hanson: Now, I know you’ve done production as well as MC and host online events. What does that involve when you say you do production?

Warwick Merry: So for me, what that means is there’s the briefing with the initial client, it’s looking at what’s the flow. And he’s looking at and giving advice on, you know, because you know you have a natural energy for an event where you’ll start with not maximum energy because you don’t want to come and go. Hey everybody you know, and scare they all off, but you’ll have a bit of something and then you’ll serve, maybe a li bit then you lift it right up and they let it blow, and then you want to end on a high. So this managing the flow of who your speakers, what your topics are particularly if there’s internals because it let’s just say the internal finance team you’re presenting, you’re not going to do that straight after lunch because people go to sleep. So you’re going to work at what’s the flow. You’ve then got to look at what is it that’s going to be the best way to convey that information is it PowerPoint is video, is it, how do we, if it’s so for example I’m producing an award ceremony in a couple of days. So it’s like, well, this is all about your team, we need to make it about your team, let’s have a short burst of introduction and video which shows how amazing it is photos of your team.

Let’s celebrate use them some PowerPoint to hold the spots. Then we’ll go to the CEO, we can spotlight multiple people as they’re being talked about. So everyone gets to see them. Doing that kind of thing. So a lot of button pressing it’s that combination of the AV team. As well as the host just making it all sort of run smoothly and then recording everything and, if appropriate, doing a bit of edits on the recording to get like a highlights thing at the end of it.

Donna Hanson: So it’s like being a movie producer and having a story isn’t? Where you know you talk about what’s the outcome that people want and it might be recognizing people because it’s an award ceremony, so
you know, what are the elements and being able to look at it objectively from the outside because we all know how easy it is for me outside looking in to go, hey, what about this, this and this and to somebody, though. Well, I need any of that.

Warwick Merry: And that’s it. And because I’ve now done so many live awards and then so many or live events in an online event. I have a better idea of what’s possible. And I also know what’s possible within the budget that you have. So it becomes that, how do we get the best value for money to showcase what we want. But also have an engaging, you know, we don’t want it to be so whiz bang theory that people are just sitting at home going. Can I press. Fast forward on this one.

Donna Hanson: I’ll read it. Oh yeah. That brings me to the next question. So we’ve talked about production and said, that, you know, and probably a lot of people watching this might be thinking about more larger scale conference events or you know, etc. Why should people consider having a facilitator or production person or an MC to support their events. While it might seem obvious to those big conferences. What are your thoughts about having production support or facilitator for internal meetings and dance team meetings, etc? In this new environment.

Warwick Merry: Look, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Now often. For example, if you’re a sales manager and you’re doing a weekly sales team meeting. Chances are high, you’re not going to need someone else to, you know, help pull it all together. But if you’re doing a six monthly sales boost rara having an external person can bring in an extra level of energy it can bring that you’re not getting yourself 10 going as the sales manager. Again, here we go. Other guy. These the same old thing that so it just, it just lifts up a little bit.

And doing some of those the simple things that can be done main that you’re able to just add a bit of polish to it. So it just raises the bar a little bit and adds that professionalism or depth that you’re looking for. Having said that, I’m always a fan of having a host. Host is someone who’s just in control of everything that’s going on. And they are the focal point for it. And if something isn’t right. They fix it or they stole until it’s fixed and away they go. So it just means that we, no matter what else is going on. We know the host has everything under control. And if something goes wrong, or the speakers pretty boring or whatever or they’re too excited the host will get us back to normal. If that makes sense.
Because you know there’s some of those speakers would go off on there in your face and then you shouting and worry and they’re like, and that might be great, but if you’ve got the head of finance. Coming up next, or, you know, something like that. You need to be able to be calm down and let your energy drop to be able to get been beyond that same level to be able to go to the next. The next element. So it really is having that Captain of the pipeline, who just guide you. Where you going, and even emergency happens can pick up and run with it.

Donna Hanson: Yeah. So I also think, you know, based on what you’re saying is a level of reassurance that somebody called me back.

Warwick Merry: And I very much

Donna Hanson: On what it is that maybe to focus on

Warwick Merry: And a lot of the time for these events that the CEO or the sales manager or whatever they want to be seen to be part of a team. They want to be schmoozing and enjoying the connection with their team so it enables them to just do that and let someone else run the show. Now if you are going to do it internally, you need to have someone who is running the show. It may be the CEO, it may be the funny guy from accounts. But you’re going to make sure they know what they’re doing. And then they mitigate any of the risks that might happen.

Donna Hanson: Wow, there is so much that people should and could and need to consider about this new world moving forward. The ones that we’ve sort of been thrust into and we’ve just barely scratched the surface. So if anybody watching or video or listening to the podcast version of this was interested in exploring a conversation with you. Maybe they’re contemplating a hybrid event and wants somebody to talk them out of it or they want some help, producing an event where should they go first Warwick

Warwick Merry: Look, the best thing to do is just hit to warwickmerry.com
And I’m happy to have a conversation with them. And it’s really interesting you say that be talked out of a hybrid event I had someone call me. And talk about this hybrid event that we’re doing. And I said, and I just said how much and I said, I need to ask you a few questions first also drill down a few questions. And they said, well, we’ve spoken to three people and the others just said yes, you’re the first one who asked questions. Trying to find out what we’re trying to achieve and told us some of the problems that we were going to have a now that you’ve mentioned them yet. This is really going to not work for us. So they’ve now changed their mind and again because I only do about 50 people and I’m like, Why don’t you just get 50 people in a room get a bigger room so you make coven requirements or whatever. But there’s no value in sending them to three different parts of the state.

Donna Hanson: Hmm. Wow. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time today and few insights on virtual events and mailings it’s been great to get some information insights from you at thank you so much everyone for joining us for this expert insights episode. Until next time, this is Australian productivity and technology expert Donna Hansen have an amazing week

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