Virtual interactions are testing our Sitzfleisch

Banu Kannu, co-founder of uncommon conferences, on how to make for meaningful gatherings in 2021.

It’s fair to say most of us spent 2020 largely on our bottoms, moving only to swap swivel chair for sofa.

The German term Sitzfleisch literally translates to ‘sitting flesh’ (or buttocks) – but it can also refer to one’s endurance or ability to see something through to the end. How would you rate your Sitzfleisch on that last Zoom or Teams encounter?

Odds are, you were muted, invisible and multi-tasking. Nicht gut.

We tell ourselves it’s the only way to cope with this new reality of living online, but we also know it’s not the way to problem-solve or drive change in behaviours, mindsets or policies. We know the implementation of IMO 2050 regulations haven’t been postponed to 2052 (not yet, anyway) and we know the need for company strategy setting hasn’t disappeared because we’re all working from home. Still, we hide behind our mute buttons.

Webinars too often tick a corporate or commercial box, with little regard for you, the weary Zoomed out invitee

The problem, however, isn’t with the platform, or that our tolerance for screen time is decreasing by the day.

If we believe in the reason for being summoned and we’re shown how our participation results in change or a useful outcome, we’d be there; cameras on, mics on, energy ON.

Instead, we’re sent the same tired agenda; enduring a meeting that painfully trudges its way through each team member, with little to no debate or useful discussion. Or, we get a webinar invitation with a predictable line-up; whose definition of ‘engagement’ is a stream of mundane questions typed into the chat bar. It’s clear to anyone on the receiving end of these invitations that little thought has gone into them – they are merely ticking a corporate or commercial box, with little regard for you, the weary Zoomed out invitee.

Instead, here is where I suggest meeting or virtual event hosts start in 2021:

  • Are you facing a challenge or issue that needs addressing by a group of people?
  • Is it urgent enough to get their immediate attention?
  • Is there underlying tension in the situation or possible solutions?
  • Is it something they can work on, together, in real time?
  • If you answer yes to most of these questions, I guarantee you’ll deliver a virtual interaction that will break world records in sitzfleisch.

I’m tired of articles that promise hot tips for ‘better engagement’ or ‘increased time spent’ at virtual events. They miss the point of the meeting or event being merely a means to an end. They conveniently turn the issue of function into one of form. If you have a strong enough reason for gathering and your participants can see, feel and use the outcomes of your meeting, you won’t have to worry about their commitment. I’ve experienced this first-hand, as an organiser but also as a participant.

So this year, instead of racing to find dates or the trendiest new platform for your virtual meetings and events, first have a good, hard think about what it is you want to get out of them and how that can only be achieved by utilising each and every person who joins.

May we all have the sitzfleisch to see us through 2021.

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