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Virtually Working

I realize that a lot of people are really hurting out there. Whole industries are going under. The education system is battered. Families are under enormous strain. It’s a less than perfect time to talk about what’s going well. But given all that truly sucks, it might be nice to hear about something that isn’t cratering. The virtual presentation method has actually made what I do a bit better.

I had to let go of my live demonstration structure and re-think how the virtual demonstration could work. Some of the changes were driven by feedback from clients, and some were natural consequences of the medium. Here’s what got better: I teach two planes rather than just one. We start folding a plane within 3 minutes. It’s easy to check the progress of folding of dozens of people very quickly and provide feedback. It’s easier on my voice because mostly people stay muted between questions. Because we’re folding more, I’m doing less demonstration. I thought that would be a big downside, but it’s really not. I’ve curated the most interesting planes in a way that fits into the aerodynamics discussions.

With a crowd of 300 or even 30, handing out paper early on is a recipe for disaster. Ditto for making a plane early. Once a group starts playing, getting them to stop is really difficult. In the virtual presentation world, each person self-governs much better. There’s less cross-talk and less distraction. There’s more emphasis on asking good, crisp questions. The chat window provides instant feedback-- to slowdown or repeat something.

I realize what I do is ridiculously easy compared to what teachers do. My gig has always been far more simple and fun than managing a classroom every day. I have the luxury of honing an hour of content—just the one hour—and making it entertaining. Never the less, I find myself hoping that some of my gigs remain virtual. I love meeting people in person. The thrill of the audience reacting, the gasps of astonishment, and the applause are all great. I miss all that. But I find my virtual schedule puts me in different states on some days—different countries in the same day (rarely)—all without travel days, hotels, planes, rental cars, sketchy food, and jet lag. It’s amazing. I’m probably the only person hoping things don’t change back too much.

We’ve all been forced into this situation by horrifying circumstances. But now that we’re here, we should inventory the good stuff and carry forward what works better.


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