With Robbie Samuels, a virtual event design consultant, a professional speaker, TEDx speaker, Harvard Business Review contributor, who has been featured in numerous leading business publications and business books, an Executive Zoom Producer, who helps organizations strategically move their in-person events online with less stress and greater participant engagement, is an out transgender owner of Robbie Samuels LLC, a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. Recognized as a “networking expert” by Harvard Business Review Ascend, Forbes, Lifehacker, and Inc, and as an “industry expert in the field of digital event design” by JDC Events, Robbie’s goal is to help you make the most of your virtual event experiences. 

He is a Certified Virtual Convener and Certified Virtual Presenter. His event clients are national and statewide advocacy organizations, including Feeding America and California WIC Association. He is also the author of three books “Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events,” “Small List, Big Results: Launch a Successful Offer No Matter the Size of Your Email List,” and “Croissants vs. Bagels: Strategic, Effective, and Inclusive Networking at Conferences.” Collectively they have received over 650 Amazon reviews and reached #1 best seller in 29 categories across four countries. 

During our conversation, Robbie shares the secrets and tips around mastering virtual events, including strategies in designing more transformative, engaging, and inclusive online experiences, incorporating purpose-first design to create sessions, enhancing virtual presentations by utilizing improved online facilitation techniques, designing breakout rooms that foster intentional engagement, and applying these online facilitation and event design concepts to any virtual platform.

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Takeaways & quotes you don’t want to miss:

  • “Events are about content and connection.”
  • The importance of fully exploring all the possibilities of online instead of replicating what is in-person.
  • Where does Zoom come in terms of transformation?
  • Time and exposure to other humans is transformational.

“When people are coming into your event, they are thinking, feeling, and doing one thing. When they get to the end (of your time together), they’re going to be thinking, feeling, and doing another thing — in between is the transformation.”

-Robbie Samuels

Check out these highlights:

  • 06:29 Robbie talks about his career before COVID hits, and he transitioned during the pandemic.
  • 16:11 The power of purpose-first design and quality facilitation in organizing a virtual event.
  • 26:00 How do we approach the transformational piece so we can certainly achieve an outcome and not give an information dump to the people?
  • 33:08 One of the things Robbie has learned to do as a trainer.

How to get in touch with Robbie on Social Media:

You can also contact Robbie by visiting his website here.

Special gift to the audience: Get all the free bonus resource library content for “Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events without buying the book at www.breakoutofboredom.com.

Imperfect Show Notes

We are happy to offer these imperfect show notes to make this podcast more accessible to those who are hearing impaired or those who prefer reading over listening. While we would love to offer more polished show notes, we are currently offering an automated transcription (which likely includes errors, but hopefully will still deliver great value), below:

GGGB Intro  00:00

Coming up today on Guts, Grit and Great Business®…

Robbie Samuels  00:06

When people are coming into your events, they are thinking of feeling enter doing one thing. And when they get to the end of your time together, they’re going to be thinking, feeling and are doing. Another thing in between is the transformation. And so we should get on the same page. There are multiple cooks in the kitchen, planning this meeting or this event. Let’s make sure everyone’s put out their cards on the table. So we are very clear on what we’re trying to achieve.

GGGB Intro  00:36

The adventure of entrepreneurship and building a life and business you love, preferably at the same time is not for the faint of heart. That’s why Heather Pearce Campbell is bringing you a dose of guts, grit and great business stories that will inspire and motivate you to create what you want in your business and life. Welcome to the Guts, Grit and Great Business® podcast where endurance is required. Now, here’s your host, The Legal Website Warrior®, Heather Pearce Campbell.

Heather Pearce Campbell  01:10

Alrighty, welcome. I am Heather Pearce Campbell, The Legal Website Warrior®. I’m an attorney and legal coach based here in Seattle, Washington, serving online information entrepreneurs throughout the US and the world. Welcome to another episode of Guts, Grit and Great Business®. I am super excited to bring you my friend, Robbie Samuels. Hi, Robbie.

Robbie Samuels  01:38

Hey, thanks for having me on.

Heather Pearce Campbell  01:39

So good to connect again. It’s been…I’m trying to think how we first got introduced. I’m pretty sure it was through a mutual friend. Small pond.

Robbie Samuels  01:50

Oh, was it Michael Roderick?

Heather Pearce Campbell  01:52

Yeah, this Michael? Totally.

Robbie Samuels  01:54

He’s introduced me to so many amazing people. I met him through Dorie Clark. And then I like doubled my network after that.

Heather Pearce Campbell  02:02

Don’t we love people like that? I know, Michael’s great. And if I remember correctly, I think you may be helped co-hosts like some online zoom meetings for him or something, which is how you and I first connect

Robbie Samuels  02:15

He and Jason Van orden hosts this really awesome networking event called Generous Entrepreneurs and Media, which you’ll find at generousentrepreneursandmedia.com. So free once a month, networking social for podcast hosts, and folks who would like to be podcast guests. And yeah, it’s one of the few that I highly recommend. And as a person who produces those kinds of virtual events…

Heather Pearce Campbell  02:36

That’s a big stamp of approval.

Robbie Samuels  02:38

And I want to know, I know exactly how I want to get there and the cabbie goes the wrong way. And I’m like, What are you doing? So when I get on someone else’s stuff, and they do a good job hosting, but really Jason and Michael are just fantastic guys.

Heather Pearce Campbell  02:51

They are. I know both of them. And now I’m wondering, yeah, did Michael introduce me to Jason or vice versa? Anyways, small world, they are fabulous humans. If you’re listening, Robbie just gave them both a big stamp of approval and you’ll learn in a minute what Robbie’s expertise is, but producing online events is in the bucket. And so for people that do it well, I’m sure that kind of thing really stands out to you. For those of you that don’t know Robbie, Robbie Samuels is an event design consultant and executive Zoom producer recognized as a networking expert by NPR, PCMA, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Lifehacker, and Inc. He has also been recognized as an expert in virtual event design by JDC Events. He is a Certified Virtual Convener and Certified Virtual Presenter. His event clients are national and statewide advocacy organizations, including Feeding America and California WIC Association. He is the author of three books “Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events,” “Small List, Big Results: Launch a Successful Offer No Matter the Size of Your Email List,” and “Croissants vs. Bagels: Strategic, Effective, and Inclusive Networking at Conferences.” Collectively they have received over 400 Amazon reviews and reached #1 in numerous international paid categories. He is a professional speaker, TEDx speaker, Harvard Business Review contributor, and has been featured in numerous leading business publications and business books. Since 2016 he has hosted the On the Schmooze podcast and, since 2020, #NoMoreBadZoom Virtual Happy Hours. He is an out transgender owner of Robbie Samuels LLC, a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. Robbie, I am so happy to have you here today.

Robbie Samuels  04:59

Thank you and I have update for you that was written before my third book was published, it is now over 650 Amazon reviews, it is reached in the number one best seller in 29 categories across four countries. So my last book is currently at 223 reviews. And at number one best selling categories.

Heather Pearce Campbell  05:20

That’s amazing. Huge congratulations. And I know you and I connected again during that process, right? So I’ve been able to watch some of that unfold. We were joking before we went live about this podcast and I said, Yeah, I had two babies during COVID, the podcast baby and a puppy. Robbie said that somebody had kind of feedback to him a recap that Robbie wrote two of those three books during COVID. Right.

Robbie Samuels  05:48

Yeah, they said, Wow. And here’s Robbie, to speak with us. And Robbie wrote two books during the pandemic. And I just sat there going, I watch.

Heather Pearce Campbell  05:58

Yeah, right. While everybody else was watching Netflix, what was that like? Cat show, Lion Tiger show on Netflix. I know Robbie was writing books. That’s so awesome. Well, I would love for you because I think that there was a really poignant thing that happened in your career ahead of COVID, right? Or, I mean, it was happening. And then you had to really transition when COVID hit because of how relevant right this all became, do you want to share that piece of your story.

Robbie Samuels  06:29

So for over a decade before the pandemic, I was striving to become recognized the networking expert. Half that time I was employed, organizing fundraising events, but teaching and doing speaking engagements on the side. I then left my day job at the end of 2014 and went into full time entrepreneurship, subsequently publishing a podcast on the schmooze in 2016-2017. My first book came out croissants versus bagels. Then in 2018, my group coaching program went from a pilot to a full program 2019 I was reading for Harvard Business Review. And I had the opportunity to do a TEDx talk about one of my stickiest networking tips. That TEDx talk came out in January 2020. I am poised to be an overnight success. 10 years in the making. March 2020, nobody cares about I can laugh about it now. Nobody cares. The skills and experience I have brought and learned over the last decade and I had to find a new way to show up and share value. And so that became my mantra show up and share value. And I led to me writing a blog post on Thursday, March 12 2029 ways to network in a pandemic. And that night, I’m looking at the list thinking I should do one of these right away. And number three was the host of Virtual Happy Hour. And I wrote to a private group on part of on Facebook, Hey, would anyone come. And that’s how I ended up hosting my first Virtual Happy Hour on Friday, March 13 2020 5pm. Eastern, I did not do any research ahead of time to find out was the right time of day, the week or anything. But I ended up hosting that weekly for two years. And now I host the No More Bad Zoom Virtual Happy Hour, it came branded a month later, I host that No More Bad Zoom Virtual Happy Hour on the first Friday of the month. And I host a content and connection club mastermind weekly, on all the other Fridays. So, you know, unbeknownst to me, that was the beginning of an amazing transformation of my business. Eight months later, I had a thriving six figure business based on all new revenue streams I had created in April, I announced the pilot of a four week training, become more confident company using Zoom. Three months later, that was a certification program. By the summer and fall organizations were hiring me to bring their events online with less stress and greater participant engagement. And I now subcontract to some of the people that I’ve certified. And they have now our zoom producers to help me support my event clients. And I work with speakers to help them design more transformative, engaging, and inclusive online experiences. And that’s what led me to publish this. The third book, which is the culmination of everything I’ve learned three years. The second book, you mentioned, spoilers, big results came out because everyone kept saying, Robbie, how did you do that in the middle of a pandemic? Well, the answer briefly is I’m a Business Growth Strategy coach, and I was coaching clients in that very difficult time on behalf of a company. And then they asked me to take on a cohort of 120 students who were going through an online course about how to launch an online course, which is very meta. So I had a ton of people, dozens of people, hundreds of people that I was talking to, and that’s where I was able to make such a big shift in like four weeks I went from I had never, never really thought about zoom as a platform beyond hosting for podcasts and then I’m the expert. So that’s why I wrote the second book, The show the people how to build an audience before they try to sell anything.

Heather Pearce Campbell  09:58

Hmm, so good. There’s some things I want to like dive into and what you just mentioned. One, I feel like in some ways we had parallel lives going on. So, March like I’m in Seattle, right, which was ground zero for COVID. And I, when that hit and things shut down here so early ahead of the rest of the country, I think it was like March 3, I sent out a newsletter that said, like, hey, small business owners, you know, from a legal perspective, legal and protection scenario, like here’s what this could mean for your business, here’s what you need to be doing. And then immediately, maybe the next week, a couple of weeks later launched, my weekly Ask Me Anything live that ran for like a year, year and a half, I can’t remember if it was a year that it went weekly, or a year and a half, and then I converted it to monthly. But the big push was to get people online, in their businesses get their online businesses protected, right, really parallel conversations, and learn a lot by going live in a zoom to my list every single week, the year of the pandemic.

Robbie Samuels  11:04

I was so busy that year. I worked every day from April to November, except for Father’s Day and Thanksgiving. And I joke that Thanksgiving doesn’t count because I said I worked every day that ends and why and Thanksgiving doesn’t so but I mean I the only thing that helped me know that a week had passed was this Friday event. We even did Christmas in New Year’s together, it landed on a Friday. This was a committed group people, we had 50-60 people coming every week at the time, there was nothing else really going on. It was just this amazing community. And while I never charged for it, it helped me understand that I had a skill that I could market and that I could help people.

Heather Pearce Campbell  11:41

Well, there were a couple things that I love that you said one was about increasing engagement and participation. Right? How many zooms have we all sat through where it’s just like, you know, just not enough of that. And whether it’s, you know, third party event being put on with a bunch of speakers like, regardless of what it was right? I feel like we all have things to learn in that department. So I want to ask you more about that. And then the second thing, and I really love this and having reviewed your recent book and read a huge chunk of it, like I was probably one of those folks like you sent out in your email, like, Oh, this is my strategy is to reengage my connections, right with this book and having them participate in the book launch. And just like you described, like I started reading it for purposes of giving you a review, and then I kept reading it. Yeah, right. It was super fun. And then you just tackle some really important topics related to the use of zoom that not everybody is willing to talk about, or or really knows how to talk about or has the skills to talk about right? Like, like, how do we create more inclusive online spaces, including in our Zoom Room, right? Even from the standpoint of like, some people are just naturally more introverted or whatever, right. And so I love that those are topics that you teach on that you speak out about, I think it’s super important. And all of us could do it better.

Robbie Samuels  13:20

Well, I believe that events are about content, and connection. It’s the reason we, you know, we’re getting on planes before the pandemic, and they’re starting to again, even we don’t just go far away to a conference in order to learn things because even before the pandemic we could learn from home. Books have been around a very long time. But podcasts and webcasts and webinars like they existed. So if we were going somewhere, it was also to meet people we were hoping in our there have been studies around this, the International Association of exhibitions and events found that 76% of people surveyed said that networking was a top driver for why they chose an event, which is just pretty high. But people’s follow through on those intentions is pretty low. We don’t we don’t think that three quarters of people who go to an event met the people they’re meant to meet. So I have been trying to close the gap between those intentions and that lack of follow through before the pandemic, then I was faced with well how to we have that promise of content connection in a virtual platform. And I didn’t have any ideas in March because the only model which was everyone’s model was 45 minutes of death by PowerPoint, followed by ineffectual Q&A, and no one moderating chat, and it just isn’t gonna fly. Right? It’s so 2019. It wasn’t a great model. Then, three years later, I have cracked the code over and over and over again. And that’s why you know, writing that book and I’m gonna just flashes on the screen. This is actually an example of I call low tech solutions. This is not through E cam, or OBS. This is through a custom video filter built into zoom. And it’s something that you can get access to in the bonus content for my book at breakout board.com. But that’s what I’m trying to do. Teach people like little things like how do you get 5% better every time you host speak or even participate? Because you might get brought up on stage last minute, and you better look good.

Heather Pearce Campbell  15:10

Well, that’s right. Yeah. And for those of you that are not watching the video, you’re listening to the podcast, what Robbie has done is bring up his break out of boredom book, like in this little overlay up in the corner image overlay in the top corner. Yeah, totally. Yeah. So handy. I love that. So we should all be running over to the bonus section, I would love for you to dig into this idea of because, right, Zoom is not where we start, right? There’s stuff that happens before we get to the zoom, right? We’re thinking about what it is that we’re doing that we’re organizing, whether it’s an event, whether it’s just a live call, like whatever it is, go back to the beginning with us, where do we start? So that we do it? Right?

Robbie Samuels  15:57

Well, I think that the book, while focused on Zoom has two pieces that I think are relevant no matter what platform you’re using, and an even applies to in person. And that is purpose first design, and quality facilitation. So we’ll take those two things together, and you’re gonna have a phenomenal event. So purpose first design, I think is, I think, relevant for everything we do. Right? But if you’re gonna have a meeting of any kind, even a team meeting, you shouldn’t have a question about what is this meeting about, because maybe the email would be better than a meeting, right? Like, sometimes we don’t need a meeting. When people are coming into your event, they are thinking of feeling enter doing one thing. And when they get to the end of your time together, they’re going to be thinking feeling and they’re doing another thing in between is the transformation. And so we should get on the same page, there are multiple cooks, in the kitchen, planning this meeting or this event, let’s make sure everyone’s put out their cards on the table. So we are very clear on what we’re trying to achieve. And once you understand how you might want people to think feel and or do something differently, you use that to decide everything related to the design of the program. So years ago, when I was launching my podcast, and there was questions about like, I don’t even know, it was like, what color this or how my first question, whatever it was, and I remember the guy teaching us kept saying, what would your listener have one? Or I think he said, audience? Who was your audience of one? And what would they want? It’s like, even that is an example of purpose versus design. So you know, whether or not to have breakout rooms? If so what kind of question what kind of exercise that should dictate how much time and how many people, I just see so many people floundering their way through where they know these tools exist, they know these features exist, and they do things like alright, well, we’re gonna have a breakout room. All right, let’s see how many people are here. Okay, wait, how many people should be put? What’s the math here? So okay, wait, carry the one and we’re watching them mumble their way through this, rather than coming in with a plan. That is, I know, I want people to discuss this specific question. I’m gonna give them this much time. Therefore, there’ll be this many people that we all now have 100 breakout rooms, I don’t people even know that. But they’ve recently released a version that now everyone has 100 breakout rooms, really, unless you’ve got over 500 people, you pretty much can do any exercises you want, you know, really free for all you want six people, two people, it’s so stop saying it has anything to do with the number of people in the room unless you’re over 500. Which case hire professional by that point? Or maybe music, they learned that music is a thing. So they play music through zoom, but then they talk over it? And I’m like, what was the point of using music? So I just think that that’s all really relevant. And then I can speak a lot more about quality facilitation.

Heather Pearce Campbell  18:41

Well, and I love I mean, even just thinking about your example, just now, like don’t use number of people in the room as an excuse, like what I want to point out, because I think a lot of people are shifting back to like, oh, in person events. And still I think many people are not traveling quite as much as they did before. But how challenging is it in a live event to break hundreds of people into little, you know, three, four or five Z’s and have them having a really potentially transformational conversation around a topic that you are presenting on a completely different beast like in this way, I think we can really embrace the benefits of technology, and pay hyper attention to some of the other things that you’re teaching us about how to do it, right, how to achieve this connection that we all crave how to facilitate things in the right way. Right? You’re smiling. So I know you have more to say.

Robbie Samuels  19:42

Because I started using it. I’m not a sports ball kind of guy. But I have an analogy here that I think is relevant. And that is if we try to play soccer, otherwise known as football to those in Europe, with hockey’s rules, it won’t make sense. I mean, on some level, they’re very similar, right? Like, they both kind of have a field and there’s goals with each end, right? If you didn’t know a lot about the sports, they like kind of at a glance seem very similar. But there’s nothing similar, really, about hockey and soccer. And the rules are different, and the regulations are different. And so if we try to apply what we did in person to online, and we try to replicate rather than reimagined, we’re missing the point. And similarly, if we don’t really fully explore all the possibilities of online, then we’re missing out on a lot of potential. So I actually have produced three times an event that has over 500 people. And in the afternoon, we get into different zoom rooms that does breakout room, but separate zoom links, based on how people answer the question on the US Census around race and ethnicity. So the conference is about having race dialogues and building an anti racist community, and 300. Plus people select that they are white on the US Census, and they come into this room. And then I put them in breakout rooms of 10, each with an assigned facilitator who has been trained on how to host these kinds of conversations or facilitate these kinds of dialogues. And then the second half hour, they get to choose one of six sub topics that they want to be in a room with people about, and I’m again able to get them into rooms of about 10, based on a specific topic, one of six with a trained facilitator, if I tried to re imagine doing this in person, it would be chaos. I mean, how big of a room we do need, like a ballroom or would you need like the entire wing of a hotel? How do people know where to go? How many extra volunteers? Would I need to direct people? How late would people be coming to the table? How disruptive would that be to those intimate conversations? So here’s an example, that we are so far beyond 45 minutes of death by PowerPoint, right? We’re so far beyond that. We are truly designing an experience to reach a specific outcome, and that your people gets to have, like you said those really amazing, intimate conversations because of it being online.

Heather Pearce Campbell  22:12

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Heather Pearce Campbell  24:03

I think if we just reconsider because I also know people who were really burned out on zoom by, we’ll just call it midway through the pandemic right, we kept thinking it was ending. And I personally never got burned out on Zoom. I mean, not that I didn’t miss like getting up and walking around and doing some things like that, that I had to like incorporate new habits around right. But because zoom always felt like such a connection tool for me and I’m a people person and I enjoy connecting and like it didn’t ever burn me out. That part always felt good. But yeah, did I attend some events where I was local, though? That was not very good. Certainly. Right. And so I think this conversation continues to be relevant regardless of where you are and your experience of zoom. There’s no, even though and I’m smiling because I’m in the legal industry, I’m starting to say like, there’s no going back to the way things were. And you know, hallelujah, even though certain people will try, like old school event planners have in person events. And the online experience can just take everything to the next level, that I would love for you to share a bit on the transformational piece. And I love the way you describe it. Like you show up thinking feeling and doing something one way, right. And then you you finish the event or the zoom experience, thinking feeling doing something else, what what happens in the middle is transformation. Can you talk to us about how we do that better? How do we approach that piece so that we’re actually getting an outcome that looks like transformation, right, versus an information dump or a frustrating experience for people.

Robbie Samuels  26:00

One is to acknowledge that in person has restrictions, we’re always talking about how online has restrictions. But I’ve been to conferences with 42 concurrent sessions, you can’t tell me that’s a good design. And that is happening. Because we only have three days to be at this conference, because we all have to travel to this one location. I’ve been to conferences that have taken over an entire downtown, right? I’ve never been to South by Southwest. But basically, I’ve gone to conferences that size Detroit, I had to decide whether I could make the 1.2 mile track to the next session in time before the next session happened. No one said, Oh, in person, oh, in person, this is not sustainable. I’m so burned down on this, right, we just like this is the rules is what I’m saying. If you play hockey, and you want to excel, you learn how to play that game really, really well. But then if you switched us to soccer, you got to learn it all over again. Now, the some of it, some of the things you learned from hockey will help you be a better soccer player, I can’t live using a sports ball reference. So unlike me, it’s not really on brand, but I think the masses get it. But I think first of all, it’s accepting that, you know, there are limitations on both of these. And there are also possibilities on both of these, I personally envision a future where in person is held sometime throughout the air for these major events is annual conferences, but that there in person events are preceded and sometimes after their event will be some kind of virtual program, that instead of it just being these three days that are packed, and only some people can come because of the both the price ticket and travel the time that maybe it’s a three month program. And that includes time before during the in person and after. And that you’re including, like just so many more of your community. And some will go to all the things, some will go to the one of the things, but you will have a better job retaining members, retaining alumni retaining connections, and adding way more value to the experience. The difference for me between in person and virtual and one of the I think more of the more transformational things is how easy it is to have reoccurring connections, I can meet someone once at a conference and have to wait an entire year before I see them again. Maybe at that point, we exchanged tech info, but do we actually talk again until you’re three? Maybe not maybe you’re threes, we finally start making plans? Well, now I’m just more likely, as is everyone listening? Zoom is no longer as weird foreign thing. We can meet someone at an in person conference or maybe at a zoom event and say we should get on a zoom next week. Like, we all know how to do it, we’re all ready to do it. There is just greater potential for transformation in that way as well. Whether you’re personally networking or in networking for your business or trying to get a job. I think facilitation goes such a long way because you can design an excellent session. So I think, you know, event design is part of that purpose. First piece, right? Yeah. But too many facilitators have gotten only to sort of a base level of understanding of how to use Zoom. They do enough. It’s very basic, though. And basic was wonderful for 2020. They probably felt advanced in 2020. But back then just knowing to enable breakout rooms in the account you wanted to use them in before you went to open them was amazing knowing how to mute people. You were amazing. Where we are have done that enough. That’s it. That’s we got to go more. So I think part of the transformation is expecting more of yourself. I have this mantra around getting 5% better, I believe we all should get 5% better whether we’re hosting, speaking or even participating, and that we should and one of the ways that it’s great to be a participant virtually is that you can be active in chat and have people know who you are really hard as an introvert to do that in a public space in person. But you could do two different things virtually, but I think anyone could do one recaps. What are your takeaways as people are speaking, think of this as live tweeting. But in a zoom chat, right? What are those kernels that you hear? What are the quotables? Throw it all in chat. The other is if a resources mentioned from stage, share it, you go find the book link on Amazon, you go find the podcast, you go find the website that was mentioned. And you put it in chat? Do you have some your own resource to share? Sure, weave those in. But if you’re also sharing other people’s content, no one’s going to think you’re being spammy? And I think you can’t, that’s an example of something we can’t easily bring back to in person, unless there’s a really active Twitter channel, which these days not gonna happen at that moment has passed that is very, like 2000s. And not yet. Not yet, since. So, yeah, I think I think this is some of the examples like facilitation is also understanding the platform. So I specialize in zoom, because zooms constantly changing. It’s enough to keep up with one platform. But of course, there are many others, knowing which way to point for instance, so we’re now on video. And of course, you’re gonna be listening to this, they can’t follow along. But I’ll just say that a lot of times, when people say, go up here to the top right of your video, they point to their top right, which is actually top left for the people who are watching. And I know that there’s this thing called mirroring, but that will only change what you see. And if you don’t understand that, then you’re not gonna be pointing the right direction. And that’s part of that Zoom fatigue. And that like brain fatigue, we talk about, people’s brains have to constantly re translate what oh, you said, go ahead and raise your hand and chat. And my brains like, Wait, is there a raised hand function in chat? It’s like, no, oh, I know what they mean. Like all that is part of the fatigue, poor quality audio also is a real, real problem. Yeah, you can have bad video, people will kind of deal with video glitches. But if your audio is bad, even if they stay on, they’re more likely to leave. If there’s a study that says people will think of you as basically less knowledgeable, they don’t like you as much. So really, even if they stick around, it’s not to your to your favorites to your detriment. So these are, I made so many moving pieces. So rather than trying to learn all of it, just aim to get 5% or better each time.

Heather Pearce Campbell  32:15

Hmm, that’s such an important piece. I even love your reframe around being a participant, right? Because I think a lot of people listening are probably right now thinking from the standpoint of a host or an entrepreneur or business owner who asked to regularly, you know, utilize an online platform and way to connect with folks. And even just from the participant standpoint, right? Thinking about using zoom as an extended networking opportunity, even when you’re actually that’s not what’s happening in the moment. It behaves in that way. Because and you raised a really important point, even around the facilitation piece, which is this element of time, and exposure to other humans, which is in of itself transformational.

Robbie Samuels  33:08

Yeah, one of the things I’ve learned to do as a trainer because a lot of what I end up doing, as you know, I’m hired to produce virtual events, which includes training speakers, but I’m also invited to just come and train people on this idea, right, like common, have I got a couple of different decks things I can teach? Well, it’s really hard, like, how do I make training interesting, um, it’s all content. So one of the things I do, I’m gonna give you my two favorite things. Okay, I have a pause, slide. And either you are here slide and I have those inserted after not necessarily every segment, but most of them. The pause slide says, jot your takeaways, and write your questions in chat. And I asked people to write the word question in caps before their question in chat. But I’m asking them to write their takeaways in the chat, which gets the chat really active. And I just get instant response, which again, I wouldn’t have in person about what’s resonating. And because I’ve stopped talking while the pause slide is up, I can glance at those and see if anything needs to be urgently responded to because there’s a there’s a lot of confusion. I’ll respond to that. I have some behind the scenes copying the question and the person’s name into a separate shared Google Doc. So I can kind of reference back to that as we’re going. The next slide is the URL here slide. It’s my agenda. But the next topic is now lit up with a different color. It’s a road map. It’s a train station map. Here’s the station we’re pulling into and between the silence silence is a great way to get everyone’s attention online. When I stopped talking to people who are multitasking their their brains get completely pulled back into zoom like wait, did I lose internet? Oh, oh, oh, wow. Chats really active. Well, Look at all these things who are learning initiative attention to this? That’s part of the transformational experience, the curation of people coming in. And then, you know, we’ve attracted these people, how do we get them to be active participants?

Heather Pearce Campbell  35:13

Yeah, I think that’s huge. And, you know, I’ve watched some people who on their own kind of figure out, like, how do they in their style, get people to engage in chat or whatever. But you’ve raised a couple of points right now that I think a lot of people haven’t thought about, or use, probably in this way successfully. silence the roadmap, right, the pause, right, like even those simple tweaks, I’m guessing can make a big difference to the entire experience.

Robbie Samuels  35:45

Well, an earlier you talked about being inclusive, and one of my favorite ways to be inclusive is, first of all, very thoughtfully structured breakout rooms, which I could I mean, 10,000 words out of 64,000. And my book is about breakout rooms. So lots to cover, but a lot of people forget to do a debrief. And to me, a breakout room isn’t really finished, unless there’s some kind of debrief, or the default debrief is to have people raise their hand in some fashion, either wave their hand with the camera or raise your hand and in the zoom.

Heather Pearce Campbell  36:13

Like when you bring them back together, and you’re like, let’s quickly…

Robbie Samuels  36:16

People are always going to raise their hand, I am a person, I’m an outgoing expert, I will raise my hand. I don’t even know what the question is going to be. Right? Like, that’s who I am. Yeah. But that means all the people who are shy and are introverted and are new and or this language versus speaking in is not their first language. Or they’re younger or older or visibly are somehow different, or who knows. Right? So I like having nominations and chat. So if I have people sharing wins, or something, or you know, sharing stories, and I say, Hey, have you heard particularly awesome story, nominee, that person in chat. So that’s one way to get maybe sometimes person on their first day coming to the meeting, they get nominated. Another one is who took notes. So some people are always natural note takers. Hey, who are an actual note takers, I know some of you were just taking notes the whole time, I would love you to use the raise hand feature and share your top two takeaways, we’ll add a way to honor those people who probably weren’t on the mic the whole time, right? Because they were busy taking notes. And because they took so many notes, and then pick their top two, they’re probably good contribution. So both of those are a way for us to get good ideas out of those breakout rooms without defaulting to the same personal time, I’ve got more but that there are ways is going to mix that kind of thing up. And that’s part of it. It’s like you plan that ahead. I host a weekly call not always called a monthly call for the National Speakers Association called Mic swap. It’s a tight hour. It’s three breakout rooms. I teach something not necessarily my content, I grab content out there in the world. I share links we talk about for a few minutes, people get in at a breakout rooms. And part of what I’m trying to show them is out in one hour. We’re networking, we’re learning, we’re laughing. We’re getting to know each other and a little bit about ourselves. We’re getting ideas people are forming. You know, peer masterminds, because of this, people are forming accountability partnerships. It’s another form of networking. Like it is a networking event. But it is more than a networking event. It’s a it’s an experience. And it’s done in a tight hour. Right. So I think this is one of those examples. I think too often we can’t see beyond what we’ve seen before, which is why I think it’s good to go to a lot of other things people host. And I tend to give a lot of unsolicited feedback after going and if they take my unsolicited feedback, oh, gosh, I’m awful. I’ve given people video tutorials, and step by step bullets and screenshots. But if they are like, Oh, ego aside, Robbie actually gets paid to do this will improve then I’m like, I’ll keep coming back. And I’ll talk about it like the one we talked about earlier with Michael and Jason. I think they had a great concept. minor tweaks. It’s a phenomenal event.

Heather Pearce Campbell  39:01

Totally and if you’re listening and thinking like oh my gosh, I would love for people to show up to my event, how large or how small really doesn’t matter, but have an experience where they get to learn. They get to connect, they get to laugh, and I don’t think people always know even how to do that piece. The right like there’s so much more we could cover. Maybe I’ll have you back for part two. You need to be hopping over and getting Robbie’s book, probably getting everything else that you can put out there. I’m laughing because earlier in the conversation, you said basic will no longer cut it and my brain went to a very funny part of the pandemic where in the legal world this video hit the internet and like attorneys around the world we’re laughing for days over this one like that’s the 10 second clip. I died yeah Attorney in me died like a real death, you know, but I laughed so hard.

Robbie Samuels  40:05

I met my friend Elizabeth Steel. Because of that clip, she teaches lawyers how to present virtually. And she got invited by the New York Bar Association to do a program. And it was titled, I am not a cat. And I’ve seen the clip and I thought I have to see what she puts out there. And and yeah, I actually meant I refer to her in my book and everything. But yes, that moment taught everyone just how off track things can get.

Heather Pearce Campbell  40:33

Exactly over like one simple, which also ties back to your theme that I love about like, hey, each time, let’s just do it 5% better. And I think that’s what makes your book feel so easy and truthfully enjoyable to consume, is it’s like, just like you’ve given us, you know, dozens probably of things already, right now in this one conversation that we could just go work on one or two of those, we’d be 5% better, and it would change the not only our trend lines, but the experience of that particular event. So Robbie, out of respect for our time, I want to first of all, thank you for coming today. I feel like people are like, Whoa, I have something that feels accessible, that I can go do and try. That’s how I’m feeling even just as a refresher of some of the things that you taught in your book. For folks that are listening and do want to take it a step further and connect with you. Go learn about some of your other resources, where would you send them?

Robbie Samuels  41:32

So if you want to get all the free bonus resource library content for “Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events” please go to breakoutofboredom.com You’ll find all of my books and their free resources, all the resources you can get even without buying the book, I just want you to have it at robbiesamuels.com. I host a monthly No More Bad Zoom Virtual Happy Hour, which is wonderful for entrepreneurs. We have guests come and speak and share 20 minutes. In and out of breakout rooms we share our wins, we do a choose your own adventure breakout room where you get to choose different rooms to move in and out of and that is no more bad zoom.com. And I’ll just mention that I host this weekly mastermind all the other Fridays called content and connection club. It is $25 a month there is no zero missing. Half the money goes to Feeding America love that their work helping our food insecure neighbors get meals. And I get to share a little bit about my business, we share wins and we open it up to have a mastermind and I do this to give back. These are the people who really years ago helped me figure out that I had a business plan when I basically had nothing. I mean, like a lot of people my world was entirely in person. So I would if folks are looking for that little bit more, there’s lots of ways to ask me questions. There’s a free monthly event. Or you can come every week and ask me questions and ask you ask the group the collective community questions. We have an online portal, I give away lots of free content to that club. Basically all my replays go there. So yeah, so go to robbiesamuels.com. You’ll see Join the Club up in the top right corner. And I love people to reach out on LinkedIn, you won’t do this enough. You hear me on a show, sell me watch show you heard beyond join up. I share tons of content through LinkedIn. I mean, I I would love to get a conversation going there.

Heather Pearce Campbell  43:22

I love it. I’m a super fan of LinkedIn. So you heard it here, go find Robbie Samuels on LinkedIn, go get access to all of his amazing resources. I will share all those links and anything else you’d like me to share at the show notes page, which is legalwebsitewarrior.com/podcast, find Robbie’s episode. They’re going to be set folks, you need this. I know you need this. I need this. Right and making that 5% goal just makes it feel so much more accessible. Robbie, thank you so much, again, for joining me. I just really love your topic. I think it’s brilliant. I think you know, there’s nobody that’s going to hear this that’s like, Oh, this is not for me. We all have to do this and we all have to do it better. So I really appreciate you.

Robbie Samuels  44:09

My pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity. 

Heather Pearce Campbell  44:11


GGGB Outro  44:17

Thank you for joining us today on the Guts, Grit and Great Business® podcast. We hope that we’ve added a little fuel to your tank, some coffee to your cup and pep in your step to keep you moving forward in your own great adventures. For key takeaways, links to any resources mentioned in today’s show and more, see the show notes which can be found at www.legalwebsitewarrior.com/podcast. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and if you enjoyed today’s conversation, please give us some stars and a review on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcast so others will find us too. Keep up the great work you are doing in the world and we’ll see you next week.