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Remove the Webinar Gag Rule for Online Events—And Embrace Humanity

by Mandy Ross

Sococo Director of Community and Agile Coach

While Sococo is indisputably the best place for an online agile team to work together (Okay, sure, I’m a little biased!), we’re starting to explore the huge amount of value the platform can add to online learning events and gatherings. One of my favorite parts of my job here at Sococo as Director of Community is all the innovative, fun, and audacious sessions I get to host with our customers, partners, and like-minded distributed agilists. These events are held in our super cool Sococo Innovation Lab, the hub of our Distributed Agile Mastery Community program.

The Webinar Gag Rule

Also as part of this role, I’ve hosted quite a few webinars over the past couple of years. I’ve noted that in a webinar, the hosts completely control the content as well as the audience’s ability to participate. This is presumably a way of ensuring that a bunch of internet strangers don’t come into the webinar and start treating each other like the comments section of IMDB. It is also so the hosts can keep the content and discussion highly controlled. Webinars are information delivery systems with a very limited ability to interact via (host-approved) text chat. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But what if you want to get a little messier than that? Progress in the form of learning and innovation comes from people actively sharing ideas together as a group. It’s one thing to attend an event to learn from an expert, but what if you could truly collaborate with this expert as if they were in the same room as you? What if you could work with a group of strangers who have the same exact problem and a very similar experience as you? And what if you could instantly get together, share experiences, solve the same problem, have a virtual group hug, return to work and solve it with the help of other folks’ ideas the exact same day?

Could you handle it?

Because that’s what we’re experimenting with right now in Sococo as a part of our Distributed Agile Mastery Community Program. We've discovered is that there is a huge difference between holding a webinar and holding an online learning event.

You’re a Human, So Act Like One

In the Sococo Innovation Lab, the Sococo platform allows unfettered communication and collaboration. You can ask a question when you want, you can chat in the backchannel with other attendees without hindrance, and—gasp—interrupt each other, laugh, make smart remarks, crack jokes, and basically act completely like a human along with other humans.

We’ve conducted three learning events so far this year in the Sococo Innovation Lab, and my observation so far with these events has been that webinars have conditioned us to not interact with each other. We humans have not often been allowed to interact freely in real-time while in online formats with groups of like-minded strangers, so, by default, we don’t do it. Even if we encourage people to participate with voice and video, attendees would mostly keep their cameras off (even if others are brave enough to turn theirs on) and only communicate in Sococo room chat.

It’s not really our fault, because it’s normal to want to conduct crowd control when you have a whole bunch of strangers together, especially when we know how internet anonymity can bring out the worst in people (see: previous comment about IMDB shutting its comments section down). As a society we've become used to this anonymity, but it’s time for a change. Technology can turn trolls back into humans by enabling us to really connect with each other online.  Not only does this make the world a more positive place, it can inspire an entire new generation of innovators who aren’t afraid to turn on the camera, ask crazy questions, and share totally out there but totally doable ideas.

Attend an Online Learning Event for Yourself

Sococo was developed to bring more humanity to the online workplace, and this is just the beginning. It’s much easier to be human with people you know and work with every day, but can we be more human with people with whom we share identical experiences and challenges, and create new communities this way?

Want to be part of the online revolution? Sign up for the Sococo Distributed Agile Mastery program email list to stay on top of our monthly events and our upcoming super awesome newsletter!