How To Host Virtual Events Like We’re Human

Robbie Samuels

Today’s conversation fits under the P of People

If you’re a regular here, you know that I’m organizing the conversations around the 7Ps of the Humane Marketing Mandala.
(If you’re new here and don’t know what I’m talking about you can download your 1page marketing plan with the Humane Marketing version of the 7 Ps of Marketing at It comes with 7 email prompts to really help you reflect on these different Ps).

So, we’re talking about the P of people or H of Humans. Only 5 years ago, if I said ‘People’ you probably pictured a room full of people, or you and your clients or you and your friends going for a walk.

Today, in the business context, a lot of the People stuff happens online, on Zoom.

I’ve been working online for many years before the pandemic, so it wasn’t a big change for me. I remember putting up a bonus free webinar to help teachers get acquinted with Zoom in the early months of the pandemic.

Well, now everyone is Zooming. But not everyone does it well.

Just the other week I watched a really quite uncomfortable Zoom call (or a teams call in that case) in a corporate setting where only the manager who was talking was on video, everyone else was hiding behind the screen. When he asked questions, there were long uncomfortable silences.

I’ve myself had to really learn and still learning how facilitate groups on Zoom like our Humane Marketing Circle while giving everyone a chance to speak, and still keep the intimacy in breakout rooms.

That’s why I’m really excited to be able to learn from today’s guest, Robbie Samuels.

Robbie has been recognized as a networking expert by NPR, PCMA, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Inc, and as an expert in virtual event design by JDC Events. As a virtual event design consultant and executive Zoom producer, he helps organizations bring their events online with less stress and greater participant engagement. He is the author of three books, including his latest, ​​”Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events.” Since 2016, he has hosted the On the Schmooze podcast and, since March 2020, #NoMoreBadZoom Virtual Happy Hour.

"When events became synonymous with the virtual events, I knew we needed to figure out a way to make that possible virtually." – @robbiesamuels @sarahsantacroce #humanemarketing Share on X

In today’s episode, Robbie and I talk about:

  • How to host virtual events that feel like we’re human
  • How to facilitate bigger groups
  • Create valuable breakout rooms
  • How to make sure everyone gets a turn to speak
  • How to create a feeling of community between participants
  • Best practices to make calls engaging and fun
  • And so much more

Robbie’s Resources

Robbie’s Website

30+ Zoom Strategy Videos + #NoMoreBadZoom Settings Checklist

On The Schmooze

Find Robbie on Facebook

Find Robbie on LinkedIn

Find Robbie on Twitter

Sarah’s Resources

(FREE) Sarah’s One Page Marketing Plan

(FREE) Sarah Suggests Newsletter

(FREE) The Humane Business Manifesto

(FREE) Gentle Confidence Mini-Course

Marketing Like We’re Human – Sarah’s book

The Humane Marketing Circle

Authentic & Fair Pricing Mini-Course

Podcast Show Notes

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Email Sarah at

Thanks for listening!

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Imperfect Transcript of the show

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Ep 160

Ep 160

[00:00:00] Sarah: Hello, humane marketers. Welcome back to the Humane Marketing Podcast, the place to be for the generation of marketers that cares. This is a show where we talk about running your business in a way that feels good to you, is aligned with your values, and also resonates with today’s conscious customers because it’s humane, ethical, and non-pushy.

[00:00:23] I’m Sarah z Croce, your hippie turn business coach for quietly rebellious entrepreneurs and marketing impact by. Mama Bear of the Humane Marketing Circle and renegade author of marketing like we’re human and selling like we’re human. If after listening to the show for a while, you are ready to move on to the next level and start implementing and would welcome a community of like-minded, quietly rebellious entrepreneurs who discuss with transparency.

[00:00:52] Works and what doesn’t work in business, then we’d love to welcome you in our humane marketing circle. If you’re picturing your [00:01:00] typical Facebook group, let me paint a new picture for you. This is a closed community of like-minded entrepreneurs from all over the world who come together once per month in a Zoom circle workshop to hold each other accountable and build their business.

[00:01:15] Sustainable way we share with transparency and vulnerability, what works for us and what doesn’t work, so that you can figure out what works for you instead of keep throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks. Find out more at, and if you prefer one-on-one support from me.

[00:01:37] My humane business Coaching could be just what you need, whether it’s for your marketing, sales, general, business building, or help. Idea like writing a book. I’d love to share my brain and my heart with you together with my almost 15 years business experience and help you grow a sustainable business that is joyful and sustainable.

[00:01:58] If you love this [00:02:00] podcast, wait until I show you my mama bear qualities as my one-on-one client can find out slash. And finally, if you are a Marketing Impact pioneer and would like to bring Humane Marketing to your organization, have a look at my offers and workshops on my

[00:02:33] Hi, friends. Welcome back. Today’s conversation fits under the P of people. If you’re a regular here, you know that I’m appreciating you and that I’m organizing the conversations around the seven Ps. Of the Humane Marketing Mandala, and if you’re new here, I appreciate you just as much, and maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about, but you can download your one page marketing plan with the [00:03:00] humane marketing version of the seven Ps of slash.

[00:03:06] One page, the number one, then the word page, and this comes with seven email prompts to really help you reflect on these different Ps and kind of question all your assumptions around them. So we’re talking about the P of people or the. Age of humans today, and you know, only five years ago if I said people, you probably pictured their room full of people or you and your clients, or you and your friends going for a walk.

[00:03:38] But today, in the business context, a lot of the people stuff happens online on Zoom right now, I’ve been working online for many. Before the pandemic, so it wasn’t a big change for me, but I remember putting up a bonus free webinar to help teachers get acquainted with Zoom in the early months of the pandemic because [00:04:00] none of the teachers knew how to use Zoom.

[00:04:02] Of course. So everyone is zooming today, but not everyone does it well. Um, just the other week I watched a really quite uncomfortable zoom call or a teams call in that case, in a corporate setting where. Only the manager who was talking was on video, and everyone else was kind of hiding behind the screen.

[00:04:25] And when he asked questions, there were like these long, uncomfortable silences and nobody answered. Not saying that silence is bad, silence is good, but in this case, if everybody’s hidden behind their camera, then the poor manager obviously doesn’t know what they’re doing if they’re even still there. So anyway.

[00:04:46] Had to really learn, and I’m still learning myself how to facilitate groups on Zoom, like the ones in our humane marketing circle, while giving everyone a chance to speak [00:05:00] and still keep the intimacy in breakout rooms. So, yeah, I learned a lot over the last two years and that’s why I’m super excited to be able to learn even more from today’s guest, Robbie Samuels.

[00:05:14] Robbie is a recognized networking expert and an expert in virtual event design. As a virtual event design consultant and executive Zoom producer, he helps organizations bring their events online with less stress and greater per participant engagement. He’s the author of three books, including his latest.

[00:05:36] Break out of boredom, low tech solutions for highly engaging Zoom events. Since 2016, he has hosted the Amish Schmooze Podcast and since March, 2020, the no more bad Zoom virtual happy hour. . So in this episode with Robbie, we talked about how to host virtual events that feel like we’re [00:06:00] human, how to facilitate bigger groups, how to create valuable breakout rooms, how to make sure everyone gets a turn to speak, how to create a feeling of community between participants.

[00:06:14] Best practices to make calls engaging and fun and so much more. As you will probably be able to tell, I really took this kind of like a, a mini coaching session for myself, and again, we’re really applying this in our humane marketing circle. It’s intimate, it’s engaging everybody. Uh, turn or a chance to speak.

[00:06:39] So if that’s something you are curious about, do have a look at It’s our community of humane marketers or entrepreneurs who want to market their business their way. We meet twice per month in an online setting. Right now it’s Zoom, but [00:07:00] we’ll actually change over to our own private live room on k.

[00:07:05] Have a look at the details at And with that, let’s welcome Robbie. Hey Robbie. So good to see you speak to you today. Yeah, thanks for having me here. Yeah, I’m excited. Uh, it’s one of those topics, right, that five years ago we probably wouldn’t be sitting on a call together, or at least not for that.

[00:07:29] Probably more for networking, uh, because that’s, that was your thing in the past or probably still is, but, but yeah, you kind of pivoted with the, with the pandemic and all. But yeah, I, I kind of. Dove right into it. So welcome to the Humane Marketing Podcast. I love you. You, I love to have you here. Why don’t you take us a little bit into the past, but not too much, because we really wanna talk about, you know, zoom calls, group calls, [00:08:00] facilitation online, and all of that, which is the topic of your latest book as well.

[00:08:05] So take us a little bit to the past and then to, to the.

[00:08:09] Robbie: Well, Sarah, um, I spent over 10 years before the pandemic working to be recognized as a networking expert with a focus on networking at conferences, and that included writing a, my first book, launching a podcast. , um, creating a group coaching program, writing for Howard Business Review, doing a TEDx talk.

[00:08:28] I was poised to be an overnight success 10 years in the making. Uh, my TEDx talk came out January, 2020, and by March, 2020 nobody cared. , it was sort of a, uh, not a very relevant topic to be an expert in around in-person networking because all in-person conferences and events really, Vanished. So I was trying to figure out how to show up and add value, and I wrote nine Ways to Network in a Pandemic as a, as a blog post on March 12th, 2020.

[00:08:57] And one of those ways was to host [00:09:00] a virtual happy hour, which I did on March 13th. Unbeknownst to me that really launched a whole new thriving six figure business, uh, with all kinds of new revenue streams and really impacted a lot of other people’s. I mean, it impacted my life, but the ripple effect is, has been extraordinary.

[00:09:17] And by the end of the year, I was supporting organizations of bringing their events online with less stress and greater participant engagement. And as you mentioned, I am about to release on the three anniversary of that first virtual Happy hour, my third book, which is Break Out of Boredom, low Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Event.

[00:09:37] Sarah: Wonderful. Wow, what a comeback. Kudos to you. It must have been quite a dark night of the soul. I, I imagine that just kind of like realizing, oh my God, now what?

[00:09:49] Robbie: Well, I mean, I, I accepted what was happening on March 9th because I had been paying attention to the news and mm-hmm. sort of was watching this come starting.

[00:09:57] You saw this probably in January, just kinda like, [00:10:00] yeah. I was watching it kind of, kind of encroach our, our shores mm-hmm. and get closer and closer, so, I think I came to terms with it, uh, but I didn’t know what to do next, and I don’t like feeling that, I mean, I, I’m a person of action, so that feeling of being stuck.

[00:10:14] But I was very fortunate because on uh, that Wednesday of that week, which is the 11th, I met with my peer mastermind and they gave me a kick in the pants and said, you don’t think of networking as something that only happens in person. You have been building a global network for five years, virtually.

[00:10:31] Why don’t you go help people? And that got me outta my own way, and that’s what led me to. Um, basically that night I started working on the nine ways list and, uh, published it the next day it got, you know, a good response cause it was very timely and I said, okay, I need to do one of these things. And I just looked at the list and it was [8:00] PM on a Thursday night , which is why the event is held five o’clock on a Friday cuz it was the next open spot that I could imagine calling a happy [00:11:00] hour.

[00:11:00] And I didn’t intend it to be a global network. A global event, but 36 countries have been represented amongst the members. Nice. Who attended I, and I’m still hosting it. Right? I’m still hosting that event. No more bad. Three years later.

[00:11:13] Sarah: Wow. Yeah. Yeah. It’s really it. It kind of demonstrates this idea of that you are not.

[00:11:21] You know, you’re, you’re not kind of pushed into a niche, and that’s where you are stuck for the rest of your life. There’s a common thread to your message, right? And whether it is networking in person or now networking online and doing online meetings, Your concept or your approach to it is still the same?

[00:11:41] Uh, it reminds me of my dark night of the soul where I got, you know, into a trademark mess where someone, um, was basically blocking me of using gentle marketing, which was the term I used before. And for like about two weeks, I was stuck a bit longer, Robbie, for about two weeks. I was like, well, now what?

[00:11:59] [00:12:00] You know, how, how do I get out of this? And everything, everything I built, the books I published and, and two years of work and all of that. But then I realized, people told me as well, it’s, well, it’s not about a word. You know, you still have the community, you still have the concept, and, and so it’s just mm-hmm.

[00:12:17] It’s great to hear those stories, I think. Right. For listeners as well to realize, well, you know, you can rebound. and, and start something new and it’s still gonna be you and it’s still giving you your approach, but, you know, just slightly different topic. So, so yeah, let’s talk about this slightly different topic because, uh, as you, I think, uh, in one of the videos I watched from you, you said, you know, at the beginning you didn’t even know you had breakout rooms, came with your free Zoom account.

[00:12:48] And so yeah, that’s how we all felt at the beginning of the pandemic. Been working online for years and years. So I knew Zoom, but it’s true that a lot of people had like no idea [00:13:00] how to, you know, for me as well, breakout rooms was not a thing that I was using. So nowadays obviously everybody is zooming or, or teams or whatever they’re using.

[00:13:10] So how do you s how have you seen this evolve? Like what would you say in general? is the kind of the state of the online meetings now. Mm-hmm. . Do most people use them to their advantage and you know that it’s really great. All these Zoom meetings we have, or do you hear kind of the opposite?

[00:13:33] Robbie: Well, just to go back to your earlier point, the through line for me is that events are about content and connection.

[00:13:39] Right. People were leaving their house and getting on planes to travel to conferences, not just for the information they would learn, but for the people they would meet. Right. And so when events became synonymous with the virtual events, I knew we needed to figure out a way to make that possible virtually.

[00:13:57] Now, prior to the pandemic, An [00:14:00] online program, which was typically a webinar platform where you couldn’t see participants and participants couldn’t see each other. Right. It was 45 minutes of death by PowerPoint, followed by ineffectual Q and A on moderating chat . Oh God. Yeah. So I think we’ve come a long way in what our expectations are, but I also think it depends on the industry.

[00:14:19] Because I still know, you know, I’ve, I’ve been invited to do some programming virtually for the employee resource group of like a bank or a law firm or financial sector. And like, they tend to be blown away by what I’m doing because they’re using it in a very, Minimalist approach to how they use whatever platform they’re using.

[00:14:42] They’re just like turning on their camera and that’s it. And

[00:14:46] Sarah: if that, because I’ve assisted to some of the meetings my husband has to kind of survive through and yeah, nobody is on camera like. .

[00:14:55] Robbie: That’s just it. So, so I think that it really is a range. I can’t answer like one way, but I [00:15:00] also don’t focus personally on corporate space or the workforce.

[00:15:03] Mm-hmm. , I’m my book and my approach is really focusing on the presenters who have between 60 and 90 minutes to offer value to a one-time audience. now, and a lot of this can be therefore applied if you are teaching, uh, a course or a class, this is, you know, or even like a, a weekly team meeting, you can apply a lot of this to that.

[00:15:25] But I think there’s, there’s a few more restrictions. So, for instance, I don’t recommend using third party. Tools like Mentee Meter and Jamboard, which I love. But if you only have 60, 75, 90 minutes, you might lose people because if they don’t, if they’re not familiar and you don’t know if they’re familiar cuz you don’t know the audience super well, you might lose them.

[00:15:45] And, and if, if it’s about engagement, you’re gonna get 70 to 90% of people to responding to a Zoom poll. And you might get 30 to 50% actually answering. , one of these third party polls. Mm-hmm. . And so [00:16:00] yes, it’s fancy, yes, it’s cool , but if the end result is fewer people actually taking action and people feeling a little bit confused about something, that’s not where we want people to be.

[00:16:11] So I also, I really focus a lot in the book and in the work that I do on some principles around purpose first design and also quality facilitation. So I’m, I’m specifically focusing on the Zoom. As far as the technology, but those other pieces around facilitation and purpose first design are applicable to any medium, including in person.

[00:16:36] Mm-hmm. . So I think there’s a strong Venn diagram because I also do in-person event design consulting, and I’ve been doing that a long time. And then back to doing that again now that people are backed in person. So to me there’s a big overlap. How you design an in-person workshop or presentation for 90 minutes and online, but then there’s the outliers that you have to consider for both.

[00:16:58] So I think that there’s a lot of [00:17:00] potential. I’ve done incredible programming. I’ve got some great stories in the book about some really cool outcomes we’ve achieved by bringing people together across geographies to have really in depth conversations about important topics. . I also think that people’s tolerance for the sort of boring approach, , is they really don’t have any, like, I think people are zoomed out and zoom fatigue.

[00:17:24] That’s why I call it breakout of boredom. And, and by, by the way, breakout rooms, I went from not knowing I had access to, you know, , I dunno, my book’s like 60 some odd thousand words and like 10,000 words. Almost 20% is about breakout rooms. So,

[00:17:40] Sarah: yeah. So let’s go there. Um, I, I wanna really have you walk us through kind of some of these, you know, yes, they’re technicalities, but I think the way you explain them is always comes back to purpose.

[00:17:54] You know, like what is. , what’s the common [00:18:00] purpose for, uh, us to be on this call? That’s how I understood it, um, when I went through this checklist that you’ll share with us at the end. So let’s start with the waiting room, right? Um, that’s usually our first experience when we go on to a Zoom meeting. So how, if we are, if my listeners are hosting a group, uh, zoom.

[00:18:24] what are some of the things that can be done? Let’s just take Zoom as an example, can be done to already kind of give people this feeling of I belong, or this is, I’m a, I’m on in the right group here. Sure. Like what

[00:18:39] Robbie: can we do? Well, for starters, if you’re having a group meeting, stop using your personal meeting room because, uh, you, if you write, if you create a meeting, a specific meeting for.

[00:18:53] Group, then the name of that meeting will be what appears in the waiting room. Um, so that’ll assure people. But you can [00:19:00] also have different settings. So if you use a different link, you could set it so that participants are muted upon entry. Mm-hmm. . Now for why one-on-one calls, I do use my personal meeting ID and I don’t mute people because if it’s just two of us, I, I don’t need you to be muted.

[00:19:18] It’s actually kind of an inconvenience for you to be. Right, because people start talking and I have to point out to them like, don’t forget to unmute . Yeah, the usual, you’re muted . Yeah. So then the other thing I would say for waiting rooms, you can customize it beyond that. And there’s a bunch of different options.

[00:19:33] A lot of what I’m gonna be sharing is under, and then you go to settings, which is on the left side menu, and you can just start from the top. And actually really close to the top is waiting rooms. So there’s some really cool customi customization, uh, including you can embed a video, you can put an image, you can put text.

[00:19:50] Um, I sometimes have texts just says, , take a breath. You know, like, yeah. Take a, take a moment to yourself. Mm-hmm. before you come in. Yeah. But you need [00:20:00] to know that whatever you put for your customization will be what people see for all of your meetings. For that one account. So Okay. If you make a special video for like a big event you’re doing, you have to then remember, put a note on your calendar to switch it back to whatever.

[00:20:14] You’re more general, so you can

[00:20:16] Sarah: customized each waiting room separately for each meeting. It’s just one you

[00:20:21] Robbie: can, but you’d have to like keep going back in and remembering to switch it on and off. Right.

[00:20:25] Sarah: Okay. Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. Yeah. Okay, great. So, uh, one question. Can people chat already in the waiting room?

[00:20:33] I don’t think so. Right.

[00:20:35] Robbie: Uh, they can’t, uh, right now the host can communicate with people in the waiting room. Uh, and I think that they’re gonna come out with a feature where the waiting room can then respond back to the host individually. Okay. Um, they, you cannot change your name, for instance, in the waiting.

[00:20:53] but the host can change your name. So there’s some new features that are coming out. Okay. Um, but I also wanna go back to, [00:21:00] you mentioned purpose first design, and I, I address it as well. So I want you to think about, as people are coming into your session, they’re going to be thinking, feeling, and you’re doing.

[00:21:11] one thing. At the end of their time together, they’re gonna be thinking, feeling, and or doing something else. And then in between is the transformation, right? So if you really spend some time thinking about where they’re starting and where you want them to end up, that will help you decide. The structure flow, what exercises, what kind of content, how much time to spend on things, what to put in the waiting room, whether or not to have a breakout room.

[00:21:38] If so, what kind of question? What kind of, what is the goal of, even for a breakout room, like what’s the purpose of a breakout room? Is it around networking? Is it for them to discuss something? Is it for them to share? Is for them to feel like they belong. Like once you understand the sort of really primary focus of each piece of it and how it fits in with that overall goal, it’s gonna help you design a much better [00:22:00] quality experience for your participants.

[00:22:02] So that’s the purpose first design piece. And then the facilitation is just to stop confusing people by saying the incorrect thing. Like go ahead and raise your hand in chat. Never been a raised hand button in chat. I’ve heard that phrase a lot. Or pointing down and like pointing, uh, pointing here and saying, go to reactions when that’s not where it is.

[00:22:28] Reactions on your side is on he over here. So if I, if I go to tell you like, um, oh, go ahead and go ahead and, uh, go to the top right of your screen and click. I’m not pointing at the right side of your screen. . This is the right side of your screen. So that’s cold mirroring . Mm-hmm. And if you were on a stage physically, you would, you would know that, right?

[00:22:51] Like you would know that if you pointed to your left, they’re gonna see it on the right. But when we’re doing this virtually, people kind of forgot all about that. So that just [00:23:00] hurts our brains. It makes our brains work a little extra hard. And that’s part of that zoom fatigue is confusing instructions.

[00:23:07] Um, The person who spends a lot of time saying, um, all right, let’s see. I’m gonna try to share my slides. Let’s see. Oh, the file’s not open. And then they like, share their desktop. And you watch them like go through everything on their desktop. You’re like, uhhuh, as they like narrate every step. That’s, we can all get 5% better every time we zoom.

[00:23:30] Yeah. Whether we’re participating, whether we’re hosting, whether we’re speaking. Just aim to get that little bit better. .

[00:23:37] Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. There’s so many small details that we need to learn, right? That, that now it’s this extra layer. And actually in some of the videos you, you mentioned it’s really helpful to a first, have an extra, um, screen that you can, you know, have one just dedicated screen for your PowerPoint presentation, for example.

[00:23:58] Mm-hmm. , uh, [00:24:00] and even, uh, an extra person, like someone who helps you, you know, read through their questions in a q and a setting, or, yeah, just like there’s so many things that we have to manage that, or we haven’t even started talking about breakout rooms. But yeah, there’s a lot of things going on that it, it really is sometimes helpful to have a, an extra person.

[00:24:22] Robbie: Mm-hmm. , I think if, um, if you have more than 20 people, , I think it’s, it starts to be a, for most people, that’s where it makes sense to start thinking about having a second person. Right. But that second person, um, could be like a fellow. Uh, I, I know for instance, I know speakers who sh who support each other.

[00:24:42] Right. Will they take turns? Like one will moderate chat for one person’s program and then the other one will go back and moderate chat for the other person’s program? Yeah. Awesome. You can train an assistant or, uh, an. or you know, a VA or even a member of your community to manage chat and manage the q and a [00:25:00] and manage, you know, all of that.

[00:25:01] So yeah, it, it, it, and then, but it scales up because, you know, I, I train people on to be Zoom producers, and so Zoom producer would do all the tech, not just the chat. They would handle any technical issues that. You know, community has getting in, getting their sound to work. And then they would also, uh, manage breakout rooms and sharing slides if you need them to, any, anything needed.

[00:25:27] Uh, as well as managing chat. And then there’s the executive sort of, uh, event design, virtual event design that I do where I’m really providing the strategy ahead of time, training the speakers and how to look good, all that stuff. So it, there’s layer. . But I would say starting with having a. Understanding of what does a good Q and A even look like?

[00:25:50] Mm-hmm. , and then what kind of support you might need to pull that off. If you’ve only got six or seven people in a room, I think you’re, you’re fine on your own. Fine. Yeah. But you still have to know that [00:26:00] while I’m doing my best to look at the camera, there’s something happening in chat. So I have sort of techniques where I ask people to write their question and chat, but to write the word question in all caps before their question.

[00:26:13] So I’m more likely to. To see it. I also increase the font size by to 150% of the original font size in chat, which makes it a lot easier to catch when things are happening, um, off to side. So these are all little things that over time one thing becomes easier. Then you add on something else. So I’m not saying everyone has to do everything all at once.

[00:26:36] That’s the 5% part. Um, so I actually have a, a program called The 5% Advantage, and it’s the, I launched it in May of 2020 and um, my wife was like, why would anyone wanna get 5% better ? And I said, no, no, every time it’s about like continual improvement. , it’s, it, it’s amazing, like how much faster you will improve if you aim to just [00:27:00] keep getting a little bit better each time.

[00:27:03] Sarah: I like that. Um, I do wanna ask you about breakout rooms cuz that’s I think one of the things that Yeah, a lot of, uh, these. Programs, um, now include right now that we’ve gotten used to being on camera on Zoom, where it’s not just like a webinar style anymore. And so one of the things you mentioned, um, is this idea of having clear instructions and, and I think I.

[00:27:28] Really, I probably get better 5% every time I do it, but it’s true that it’s so essential to give clear instructions before sending people off into breakout rooms. Cuz you, you explained, you know the situation where people find themselves in the breakout room and they’re like, Uh, anyone know what we have to do?

[00:27:48] And, you know, they just start chatting about who they are and, and all of that. So, what’s kind of like best practices about giving clear instructions, uh, for these breakout

[00:27:58] Robbie: rooms? So start back [00:28:00] with the purpose first design. What is the goal of the session? The, the breakout part of this session? Um, if it’s a quick icebreaker, then you can do either two people for five minutes or three for six.

[00:28:11] If you can open more. I don’t know, 10, 15 rooms. I would say three for. minutes is better cuz it’s less likely that someone’s gonna get stuck in a room by themself because of the internet. Um, failing one person. Um, but that would be like a quick icebreaker question. So they’re just, they’re literally just going around for a moment to say hello to each other.

[00:28:30] Uh, you might do three or four people for 10 minutes. To similarities, how people go around and answer a question. Um, each person gets a couple of minutes and then that goes all the way up to, you know, a discussion where people might get, you know, it might be five or six people for 15 minutes where people really all answer a quick question, but then they dive into.

[00:28:49] thoughts about that question a little bit more. So what happens is that if you just sort of throw people in a room without any clear question, uh, someone will [00:29:00] eventually unmute. Like at first they’re all gonna like, look at each other. Like, what do we do here? The person who’s most comfortable, um, most privileged , uh, probably has been around this community the longest is, is gonna be the one who unmutes and they may not relinquish the microphone and it might become just a.

[00:29:19] A whole session of one person talking and now you’re in the main room and you’re like, awesome People are engaged. They’re having so much fun. But that’s, that’s like checkbox engagement. Like in reality, one person had the mic for the whole time. So what I wanted to say is intentional engagement is that we provide not only a question that is specific, one question, not lots, don’t ask the choose from three and all that, but you also provide an answer.

[00:29:46] So you say, , you know, what’s your biggest win of the week? Here’s mine to get you thinking. Here’s mine that you then put the question that you just said as the prompt in chat, and you say, if you need [00:30:00] to, you can open up chat and see the question. And let’s go alphabetically. Let’s go alphabetically by last name.

[00:30:07] So if your last name’s closest to a, you’ll go first. We’ll go in that order. And if you don’t have a last name showing, go ahead and add it. Or you’re going first. Hmm. And that way they get in their brains have already been thinking about the question. , when you tell your answer, you’re sharing a story and stories ignite stories in other people’s brains.

[00:30:27] Mm-hmm. . So when I tell you my big win of the week, you start thinking about, well, what’s my big win of the week? Mm-hmm. . So you’re already a little bit primed to participate, and then you find out the order and you realize. . Ooh, there’s a good chance I’m gonna be going first. , like my last name’s close to a, and you’re like, oh.

[00:30:43] So you really are mentally repaired to unmute and jump in. Now some people get kind of cutesy about the order and they do like longest and short hair or colors of shirts or birthdays. All of those are kind of distracting. Take some time to discuss. [00:31:00] Leading. I mean I’ve been in so many sessions like that, that we end up talking about horoscopes cuz we were asked to like go in the order of our birthdays, right?

[00:31:09] So I generally, I say like alphabetical or, or reverse alphabetical by, um, first name or last name. And if you really think a particular order would be helpful, for instance, maybe people for most experience at least experience with something you can say when you get into the breakout rooms, go to chat and put in the.

[00:31:27] Of years you have with this, and we’ll use that to organize, you know, most experienced, at least experience. But, um, but all that structure is actually, um, it helps people feel like they belong. And I actually think that thoughtful structure is about inclusion. It’s about people feeling not just invited, but welcomed into a conversation.

[00:31:49] It tells shy people and introverted people and newcomer. and people who maybe you speak a language that’s different than the dominant language being used, it tells [00:32:00] them exactly what the rules are. There’s no like in crowd knows how to ask questions or how to unmute. Everybody knows everything. So I think we, we, um, we as hosts and facilitators sometime like relinquish our role by saying, you all figure it out, but just like an in-person event, like people thrown together at a bar.

[00:32:24] Often find the people they wanna meet. But when you structure an event at a bar and you’ve got name tags and people who are welcoming, you’ve got activities, you have people in, you know, interacting and engaging with each other. , that little bit of structure is what leads people to find each other, not just the randomness.

[00:32:41] And I think online we need the similar structure to help people really find value in those breakout room discussions and wanna stay in touch. Everybody wants to find their people. Nobody wants to feel like they’re the only one in the room having this challenged problem, identity, whatever it is. So I, I love [00:33:00] breakout rooms for that reason.

[00:33:00] I think it provides so much community building. and then you bring them back. And I think an important part of, of breakout rooms is thinking about what kind of debrief. And by default, a lot of times the debrief is just how people use the raised hand feature. Um, or worse, worse than that would be go ahead and unmute if you have anything to say.

[00:33:20] I’m like in person. You would never be like, all right folks, just start talking . It’s just so weird that we do that online all the time. Um, so I would say alternate between sometimes having people raise their hand, which is self nominat. Sometimes have people write things in chat sometimes, uh, have them write things in chat, but wait to hit enter until you tell them.

[00:33:39] I call that a, uh, waterfall debrief. Um, sometimes I have people nominate someone in chat mm-hmm. . So like, who shared a really great win, nominate them and let’s, uh, get them to share with all of us. Um, there’s just so many ways. To bring lots of voices in, not always the same. Like I’m an outgoing extrovert.

[00:33:56] I, Sarah, I will raise my hand, answer a question, not knowing what the question [00:34:00] even was. , like, I’m like, sure. Mm-hmm. . But then you have people like me dominated in conversations the whole time. So the structure allows someone else to grab the mic or to be invited to grab the mic if they choose.

[00:34:12] Sarah: Yeah. Thank you.

[00:34:13] I’m grabbing the, I’m grabbing the mic. I’m the introvert in the room. . Um, yeah. So many good things. Two, no, I’m just gonna kind of reiterate the main takeaways for me. So first of all, yeah, the clear instructions when you send people into the breakout room and, and also what I really loved is, and what we haven’t been doing in my Humane Marketing Circle community is defining ahead of time who goes first.

[00:34:43] I think that is a big aha for me to really say. . Yeah. Take away that awkwardness like, you know, do you wanna go first? No, you go first. So it’s like, okay. It’s already clear who goes first. What my community recently asked me is actually to have two [00:35:00] minutes of reflection before they go into a breakout room so that they can.

[00:35:05] Kind of think about because we kind of go deep into the, in, in the breakout rooms. But the other thing I learned right now from you is to, for them to already have my answer, um, so that it, like you said, it’s a story, right? So they come in with a story, um, And I love that. One thing you didn’t mention, uh, that I’m doing, and you’ll tell me what you think about that is.

[00:35:30] So I usually, for now, I don’t go into the breakout rooms just because I, I don’t have another person to help me manage it. So I’m the one sending the messages into the breakout rooms saying, okay, it’s time to switch next person, you know. The three or four minutes to talk. Do you use that? Is that a good practice or do you

[00:35:50] Robbie: Yeah, so, um, there’s a couple things that I didn’t, I didn’t mention that.

[00:35:54] Made me think about. One is there’s a, there’s a setting when you, there’s an option when you set up the breakout [00:36:00] rooms that will put a countdown clock on the top. Right? Right. So it’s really helpful to turn that on Uhhuh because then when everyone gets in, they know they have 10 minutes and they know how much time is remaining.

[00:36:10] Um, helps ’em divide the time up equally. It helps them. Wrap their conversation up and at the end of that 10 minutes, my recommendation is to change. To be a 15 second countdown clock is default. 60 minutes. 60 seconds. Mm-hmm. But if you’re watching the time countdown, and then suddenly you have a minute, there’s this moment of almost walk awkward walk.

[00:36:29] Awkward is when you say a big goodbye to someone at a restaurant and then discover we’re both going in the same direction to your cars . That’s. in person, but similarly, like you get to this point where everyone’s like, all right, great, see you. Oh, 60 seconds. And then some people leave. Some people are like, oh, I have a whole nother thing.

[00:36:47] I think I can squeeze in 60. Like it just, you know. So you’re the

[00:36:51] Sarah: countdown. It’s better to have less time

[00:36:53] Robbie: actually. Like Yeah, just get like, okay, we’re wrapping up, we’re coming back like we had, you got your 10 minutes, [00:37:00] then come back. Or to tell people, I mean, I guess if you wanted ’em to keep the 60 seconds, you can say, It’s gonna be, you know, I guess just give people clear instructions.

[00:37:08] Yeah. Um, and then, yes, there’s a couple of ways to broadcast into the rooms. One is text only, and I, that’s like walking by with a sign. Like if you were at an in-person event, you’d be walking by with a sign that said two minutes. You know, and you wouldn’t say anything. You would just walk by and try to catch.

[00:37:24] Not everyone would see it. You might be holding the sign behind some people’s heads. Right. It’s a very small font at the top. Then they have broadcast. and that is a lot more jarring if you wanted to use it. I think you need to tell people in advance, um, that you’re going to say switch because it’s a voice

[00:37:42] Sarah: outta nowhere.

[00:37:42] I never used it cuz I thought like, that is so odd if all of a sudden

[00:37:46] Robbie: they hear my voice. Now, if you only had two people and it was very clearly like, you know, pairing and then switch, I could see cuz again would you in person like ring a bell and call out. Okay folks switch like [00:38:00] if you would. Think about like, yes, it’s disruptive.

[00:38:04] Now the problem is if you, if you have three people you don’t know when they switched, like it’s not as exact as science. And then there’s also a way to broadcast an image, a video, or um, like a slides, like anything you can put on your screen, you can broadcast that. , um, that would be interesting to do if you had facilitators in the rooms and you wanted everyone to go through this content at the same pace.

[00:38:26] You would be advancing the slides based on a certain increment of time. Facilitators would then be sort of taking questions, um, and. You would know that all the rooms were kind of moving through the content at the same pace, at the same amount of time for q and a at the end, and you’d be managing that.

[00:38:44] They wouldn’t be able to forward it, they wouldn’t be able to annotate on it. But it is a way to like share the question. Again, it’s disruptive in the sense that suddenly there’s this thing on their screen mm-hmm. , um, that’s, that’s blocking some of them. Although they’re, it’s funny because the people are gonna be, uh, actually [00:39:00] over here in the image over here if they have a side by side set up.

[00:39:03] So, but, um, but generally, yeah, the broadcast messaging, I would say like a two minute warning is usually really useful, like a halfway through two minutes left. But, um, the countdown clock up here is, is really, really helpful for most. .

[00:39:17] Sarah: Yeah, I’ll start using that. I haven’t used that. I didn’t know it existed.

[00:39:20] And, and so thanks to your checklist, I now know where it is. So, so, um, yeah, we’re coming to the end and, and so let’s not forget to mention your checklist, but we started with the beginning. We went through the, you know, breakout rooms and all of that. And you said in the design, it’s so important to also think.

[00:39:40] you know, how are we gonna end this? So what is a good ending? What is, do you use any rituals or, um, yeah. You mentioned pictures, I think in one of the tips as well where you kind of take a screenshot of everybody. What are some good ideas for ending

[00:39:56] Robbie: calls? Well, I think a lot of times calls end [00:40:00] with, well, we don’t really have any time for anymore questions.

[00:40:04] Like, and that’s it. So if it’s a presentation, I think it’s really smart to. like two minutes. The end where you say, you know, oh, okay. Let me just, um, you know, those were great questions. Lemme just share some closing thoughts and then you have like the reiteration of your main point. Not, not new information, but like, it could be a reiteration of your main point.

[00:40:26] It could be call to action or here are some next steps, or Here’s what’s coming up. , but you make sure that the, you know, if you’re hosting, you give the mic back to the speaker, you thank them, you let them have two minutes, and then you take it back and say like, thank you. Here’s what’s happening next. So we just, you wanna think about having kind of a close, um, that isn’t just, you know, wa wa we’re out of time and, um, and, and gets people thinking about what do they do with this next, I, I like to do something I call calendaring, connecting, collaborating, and I do this both [00:41:00] in person.

[00:41:01] as well as online when I design calendaring. Connecting, collaborating. So calendaring is you ask everyone to take a minute to think about one thing they can do in the next two weeks that they will help them move forward on this topic. And you say, great, now that you have that idea, open your calendar on your phone and find a time in the next two weeks that you’re gonna be able to do that.

[00:41:22] And like, look at your notes from today and. Connecting is if you’re not quite sure what to do or you need some help, uh, look around to the people that you’ve been meeting with today and in breakout rooms and me and other. Here are some other people and resources. These are the people that you can sup, get support from.

[00:41:39] Write down their names. Make sure that in those two weeks you also reach out to some of them and say hello and build a connection or deepen a connection. And then collaboration is that we’re not doing any of this alone. I’d love to know. What happens next? Um, you know, lean into each other together. We’re gonna build great things.

[00:41:56] So, you know, this is your community. And I think that [00:42:00] particularly if, if your goal is to move people from inspiration to action, having that kind of ritualistic closure is helpful because, You know, some people will take tons of notes, but it’s, it’s useless without a plan. And others are just listening and not taking notes and so they, they also don’t have a plan.

[00:42:17] And so building some time in, and that could be 10 minutes, that could be a, a, you can really draw that out if you wanted to, or it could be something you do kind of quickly.

[00:42:26] Sarah: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. I love that. And I love that. , you know, we allow ourselves to have time for that. Uh, and that really needs to be planned into the whole Yes.

[00:42:37] Uh, meeting. Right. Oftentimes, like you said, you kind of find yourself just rushed at the end and it’s just like,

[00:42:43] Robbie: okay, bye. Best content is more. Yeah. I think too often we try to cram a lot in, I wrote my first book in order to stop doing two hour programs. Mm-hmm. , like I had been doing this two hour talk for years and years and years, and I thought if I had a book, , I could say, oh, and you [00:43:00] can read more about that in my book and not have to say every single word.

[00:43:04] And so similarly today, like we’re not, I haven’t, I mean, literally, I almost, you know, 20% of the book is on breakout Ri, so we, we scratch the surface of it, but it gets people the information to realize that there is a new way and then they can go investigate and DIY on their own or seek out support if they need it.

[00:43:22] But yeah, I, I, there’s a lot of.

[00:43:25] Sarah: Yeah. And since you said less content is more. Right. I think also, uh, a point you made is like, don’t, don’t hide behind the slides. Mm-hmm. , especially if, if we’re talking about community calls and, and not, you know, some kind of corporate settings. So definitely, yeah. That’s one big one for me.

[00:43:46] It’s like yeah, the, whenever you can show up on the camera and not behind the slide. Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. Wonderful. Well, please do share, uh, again, the name of your [00:44:00] book and that, uh, p d f that people can download and look at your videos to go and dive deeper.

[00:44:07] Robbie: Yeah. So, um, the book is called Break Out of Boredom, low Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events.

[00:44:14] Uh, it is gonna be published, uh, later this week. So I’m gonna just tell you if you go to breakout of , um, after March 5th or sixth, the, the link will be live and ready to go. Um, building a huge launch team right now, so reach out. If you’re interested in being part of that, I’d love a review and the videos that you’re mentioning, it sounds like you’ve done a good job diving into them.

[00:44:38] they’re slash videos, and they’re also some of the bonus content. So the book has a lot of free bonus content and the videos, which are 30. Strategy videos and my no more bad zoom settings checklist. Those are, um, one of, I think 10 or 11 resources that are, um, sort of bonus content [00:45:00] that goes with the book, though, all that’s available at the breakout of

[00:45:05] Sarah: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Robbie. I always have one last question that I ask all my gifts and that is, what are you grateful for today or

[00:45:13] Robbie: this. , my wife , she’s amazing. Uh, she actually recently got laid off and wasn’t feeling well. And yet, despite both those challenges, has been an incredible support.

[00:45:24] I’ve had a very busy, uh, couple of months getting ready for this book, writing and launching at the same time. Um, and she holds our family together and our house together. And she, when we got married, said, you know, , you have higher earning potential than I do cuz you’re entrepreneurial. And I said you may regret them saying that

[00:45:44] And here we are. Um, it’s true. I I am, I’ve got a business cuz I had someone who really believed in me and makes space for what I’m trying to create. So it’s, you all need to thank her because I’ve been able to do a lot of good for a lot of people, [00:46:00] uh, because there’s someone in my life who believes in, what’s her name, Robbie.

[00:46:03] Sarah: Her name is. Hi Jess. I hope you’re listening to this . Wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to to meet here. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you. So much you could I info this conversation right? I hope you took some notes. Uh, please find out more about Robbie and his And if you didn’t take notes, go over to uh, find his slash videos for his 30 plus Zoom strategy videos and checklists.

[00:46:37] Uh, his podcast where I’ll be a guest on soon as well, I is called on the schmooze, and you can find it on the And his book, uh, again, is called Break Out of Boredom, low Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events. And if you’re looking for others who think like you, then why not join us in the Humane Marketing Circle?

[00:46:58] Find out more [00:47:00] at As I mentioned before, we meet twice monthly on Zoom right now, and our calls are definitely non boring and highly engaging because everyone is heard and seen. So again, Circle. You find the show notes of this slash 60 and 60 episodes.

[00:47:27] Wow, I can’t believe it. On this beautiful page, you’ll also find a series of free offers, such as my Saturday newsletter, the Humane Business Manifesto, and the free gentle confidence mini course, as well as my two books, marketing like we’re human and selling like we’re human, and. Audiobook fan. Uh, this is just a reminder that marketing like we’re human is now also available in audio format on Audible or anywhere else where you get your audiobooks.

[00:47:58] Of course, read by [00:48:00] yours. Truly. Thank you so much for listening and being part of a generation of marketers who cares for yourself, your clients, and the planet. We are change makers before we are marketers, so go be the change you want to see in the. Speak soon.

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