If you’ve attended any virtual events over the last couple of years you’ve definitely seen it… Hosts ask harmless questions and immediately find themselves face to face with a yawning chasm of awkward silence and not much else. That’s no fun for anyone!
So, how do you go from “Hello darkness, my old friend…” to online events that are as powerful as anything you would attend in person? How do you go from “crickets” to creating meaningful and memorable experiences on Zoom? And (more importantly?) how do you take a cat on a canoe trip?!
All will be revealed in today’s episode, of course. Our guest, Jan “Ice-Melter” Keck, is a virtual events facilitator and he has made it his mission to teach others how to create deeper connections online.
You’ll learn how to build trust and relationships through micro-engagements that allow virtual event attendees to safely open up, participate and be vulnerable. Jan’s Zoom tips will change how you interact with the platform, turning it into an opportunity instead of an obstacle that leaves you feeling drained at the end of the day. You’ll also get a chance to find out more about Jan’s connection activities database and his fabled “ice-melters” that create magical moments online.
Jan likes to say that relationships travel at the speed of vulnerability. That’s nothing compared to the speed at which you should be reaching for the play button on this one!
Jan Keck is a community addict. He is the creator of ASK DEEP QUESTIONS, which started out as a deck of cards to help his friends connect on a camping trip and is now being used to facilitate meaningful conversations through sharing personal and vulnerable stories on every continent around the globe.
Jan’s mission is to help people feel less alone. So, by creating experiences, workshops, and programs, he is fueling the movement for deeper human connection. His work has been featured on TEDx, CBC News, Breakfast TV, Cityline, and HuffPost and he is currently building a community of facilitators that design the MAGICAL HUMAN MOMENTS online.
In This Episode
- Jan’s story, from camp counselor to the weekend retreat that helped him rediscover community
- The trick to staying in touch with old friends and keeping connections alive
- Jan’s perception shift, from “technology is evil” to becoming a virtual events facilitator
- How the Zoom breakout rooms feature became a game-changer
- Why building relationships is the same as building a campfire
- Using micro-engagements in virtual events to “melt” the ice and encourage active participation
- How to schedule Zoom meetings to avoid feeling drained at the end of the day
- Jan’s “ice-melter” database for virtual events
- Taking a cat on a canoe trip and having coffee with the president of Colombia
- Jan's Connection Activities Database
- Jan's YouTube channel
- The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker [Amazon affiliate link]
The CX 042: Virtual Events That Are Actually Fun with Jan Keck, Facilitator, Trainer & Experience Designer
Jan Keck: The way I see creating an experience if it's in person or virtual, is the same as building a campfire. If I were to hold up a lighter to a big log nothing would happen. But if I burn some paper first and then add some little sticks and, at the end, add the big log on it, that's where the fire really starts burning. So I try to figure out, "Okay, what are the different elements we need to do at the beginning of an experience that spark the connections? What are the things we need to add?" So then later, at the end, after we've built some trust and psychological safety with a group, then we can do the hard things.
Jillian Benbow: Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of the Community Experience podcast. I am your hostess with the mostest, Jillian Benbow, and today, we are talking to somebody who does live facilitation. He's a virtual events facilitator, which was something I'm not sure I would've even really had been like, "What?" A few years ago, but then 2020 happened and now it makes perfect sense. So today, I'm talking to Jan Keck and he has been facilitating events for a long, long time, and when the pandemic hit, he, as many of us did, went virtual.
So yeah, we're going to talk about all sorts of things, pertinent things we're all feeling like Zoom fatigue and just engaging people and getting people to participate in a virtual space. It can be challenging. So we talk about that and Jan is fantastic, as you will see. I'm going to stop talking so you can just experience the fun that the two of us had and then at the end, we can talk about some of the things that I think all of us, as community builders, can take away. So, without further ado, here is Jan Keck.
Jillian Benbow: All right, welcome to this week's episode of the Community Experience and I am excited. I am here with Jan Keck. Jan, why don't you say hello? Tell us who you are.
Jan Keck: Yes. Well, first of all, I want to say that I've been excited to do this interview all day. This is actually the last thing I'm doing, because I just relocated to Germany from living in Canada for 14 years and it's now the end of my workday that we're connecting. So I'm very excited about this. My name is Jan. I have always had trouble explaining what I do because I'm passionate about many things, but what I've been focusing on the last few years has been teaching people how to create more inclusive, engaging, and meaningful experiences, especially now that we have to overcome the challenge of using technology, that sometimes can be a obstacle in participants, people connecting with each other deeply. So I've been trying to figure out how we can use the technology in a meaningful way to increase the engagement, the connections between everyone that we're meeting with.
Jillian Benbow: Ah, yes. I love it. One of my favorite things about hosting this show is getting to meet people that maybe, I mean, I would like to think I would've met eventually, but it's in a fast forward sort of situation and I love it. I feel like community people finding each other is the ultimate. We nerd out and we stick together. So welcome to the show. I didn't realize you just recently moved from Canada to Germany. So you are like just moved.
Jan Keck: It's going to be four months next week.
Jillian Benbow: Oh, wow. Nice, nice. I hope you're enjoying the beer gardens and all the fun things over there. I'm quite envious. To talk about the work you do, so pertinent because obviously the pandemic accelerated how we use virtual connection. I mean, some of us have been using Zoom well before, but it's definitely here to stay and I think we can all agree that we all are kind of sick of it in many ways and it's a good opportunity to talk to an expert on how to do engaging calls, engaging events, all that kind of stuff. How did you get to where you are now? What was it that steered you into this direction as a passion and as a career?
Jan Keck: If I went really far back, things probably started going to summer camp as a kid and experienced this sense of community there, because that really was what my summer looked like, connecting with other kids, then becoming a camp counselor. I think I went every year for 10, 11 years straight before I then moved to Canada and I had to find my own community, my own tribe there. One of the things I've realized only by attending this weekend retreat was that deep, meaningful conversations were something that I really valued, yet did not have a lot of people around to have those types of conversations with. So on that weekend, I now describe it as having made 30 new friends in 48 hours, because on the last day, when everybody was saying goodbye and we had this beautiful closing ceremony and people were just hugging each other, I had this sense of looking around the room where I saw or felt the energy vibrating outside of people's bodies. Sometimes I like to think of the care bears that shoot rainbows out of their bodies.
Jillian Benbow: Oh my gosh.
Jan Keck: That's what I was imagining.
Jillian Benbow: Care bear stare!
Jan Keck: Exactly. Everybody just shooting these rainbows around the room, and I did not know that this was missing from my life, that I was missing that community of people where you can show up exactly who you are, or you don't have to hide, or you don't have to pretend that you are someone you're not. I think it was the first time that I had the sense of belonging since moving to Canada and that was eight years after I moved. Now thinking back, it's amazing to think that for eight years I was walking around not really having the courage to be myself fully and yeah, since then, I made it my mission to figure out, "Okay, let's re-engineer this. What happened? What did we actually do in these 48 hours that made me connect so deeply with those people?" Some of them are still really close friends now almost another seven years later. So yeah, that was probably the start before we even went to figuring out how to do this online.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. I have so many follow up questions that aren't totally relevant. However, I'm going to ask them anyways, because I'm nosey.
Jan Keck: Yes.
Jillian Benbow: Because we can. So first of all, summer camp, yes, me too. I loved summer camp. Almost became a counselor at my camp, but then didn't because I was a flake in university. So it was probably better that I didn't. What was your favorite activity at summer camp? Probably anything that involved... I'm trying to figure out how to explain this. We called it Geländespiel in German, which basically is a half day activity where you have to go to different spots. You actually have to hike a lot, and then you... Maybe it's like Live Action role play a little bit. The counselors are dressed up as characters. You meet them. You have to complete a challenge. When you complete the challenge, you get some token or something, then you have to go to the next station. And by the end, it all makes sense. You have to connect different things, solve a puzzle and you, I don't know, rescue the princess or whatever the theme was that year.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Oh wow. Yeah. I don't know what that would be called here. There's no way I can say that word in German… But yeah, I know what you're talking about. We did similar things. That was very fun. Very cool! Yeah. There's something about summer camp that is just so great. You did a much better job than I did, it sounds like, at keeping in contact, which I also heard you saying something similar with that workshop group. You seem to be good at that. So you come together with people and form a bond and then you seem to be able to take that bond outside of when everyone leaves and stay in contact. Tell me about that. Is that just natural? I'm terrible at this. So this is why I'm selfishly asking this. Are there certain things you do because you seem to be the commonality here. So I'm curious on your side, how that works.
Jan Keck: I actually would say that I'm not really good at this either, especially because I felt that having moved continents now twice, with the physical distance apart, it's been really challenging. Even when I traveled, so I grew up in Germany. I traveled in Australia for a year and my really good friends, we promised to stay in touch, but this was 2005. So there was no Facebook. There was no... I think Skype might have just started being around, but not something... I did not have a smartphone either. So I would be going to internet cafes to send emails.
Jillian Benbow: Ah, internet cafes.
Jan Keck: I lost touch with a lot of my close friends back then. We're still loosely in contact today. There's a small group of us that attempts to meet every New Year's if we're back in our hometown, which is actually where I moved back to. So I'm looking forward to seeing them again at the end of this year. But anytime I moved, even going to Canada and now coming back, I feel like staying in touch has become so much more difficult because you can't just call someone up and meet them in person. In person, yes, I would say that's probably where staying connected, getting to the deeper conversations is much easier, but virtually you really have to work hard to keep those connections alive.
Jillian Benbow: It's hard for sure. Yeah. I grew up moving all over the place. My dad worked in the oil industry. So we moved all over the world all the time and it was '80s, '90s. So if you weren't good at keeping track of people's mailing addresses for old time, old fashioned mail with a stamp and phone numbers. My mom had one of those big... It looked like a big binder and it was just people's addresses and phone numbers and you'd do it in pencil in case somebody moved. So I've lived my life with the experience of you make friends in a place and then you move and then you probably will never see them again, because a third grader's not going to keep in touch with their best friend from third grade via correspondence and telephone calls or at least I wasn't. So then technology showed up and I'm like, "I need to get out of the habit of just ghosting people if I move, right? Or they move," because we have the technology now. We can stay in touch much easier, but it is. It's hard.
Jan Keck: Yeah. And I actually have been working a lot on almost making it a habit now, when I think of someone to send them a message that moment, because I know if I say, "Oh, I thought of someone. I should send them a message," and then continue with my day. It will not happen. I will remember that maybe the week later. I'm like, "Oh, I really should have sent that message. I really should do it." And then I continue my day and again, it will not happen. So a friend of mine, Blake Fly, he started this community of people where we reach out to our network, our friends, even business connections once a week, and he really got me started on if I see something, take a picture, go into Facebook Messenger, Instagram or email and send that picture to that person right away, even if it's just a one liner, "Hey, just thought of you when I saw this." It's really magical how often people get back and are so blown away by you just thinking of them.
Jillian Benbow: Isn't it funny? Because same, same. Actually even just this morning, there's an app called Marco Polo that I think people have become very familiar with in the pandemic. Well, I shouldn't admit this. I might have been driving, but I was like, "Oh, I just thought of a friend that I've been meaning to talk to and I keep forgetting." I was like, "I'm just going to hop on here." Don't worry, everybody. I wasn't looking at it. I was just basically doing an audio recording, but just sent her a quick message. It's like, "Hey, we haven't talked. I've been thinking about you." And she responded immediately. It was like, "Oh my gosh, I've been thinking about you too. Thanks for reaching out." But you know. you have your friends that are on Instagram or whatever and that's really the only way you know what they're up to, at first I always feel self-conscious, right?
Like, "Oh, if I reach out to them, they're going to think it's weird." But they don't because when people do it to me, I'm so touched that they thought of me. I agree. I think we should all just use that motto of if someone pops in your head, hopefully positively, right? Just take a minute, whether it's a text or Facebook or Instagram, however it is you're connected and just send them like, "Hey, thinking about you. Hope you're good." Or send them the thing that reminded you of them.
Jan Keck: And audio messages are so great and so easy to do. I do a lot of video audio messages too, because sometimes that's actually faster than typing something.
Jillian Benbow: Yes, it is.
Jan Keck: But it's much more personable. If you're getting an audio message, especially if it's someone that you don't know that well yet, it makes you feel really special and important.
Jillian Benbow: Absolutely. Absolutely. I love it. So going back to... you found this thing right? At that workshop, also from camp, so fast forward, now you're a virtual events facilitator, which you explained how that works, but do you want to talk a little bit about as a virtual facilitator, what are you looking to accomplish? What are the things that make you stand out from say like me just hopping on a Zoom with 50 people and presenting something? You know what I mean?
Jan Keck: Right. Because I came from the background of technology is evil, when we meet in person, we should turn off our phones. We should put them away. I actually have these cell phone sleeping bags. It's basically a padded envelope that I have everyone create and put their phones in at the beginning of an in-person event.
Jillian Benbow: Oh my gosh.
Jan Keck: So we can focus on connecting with each other.
Jillian Benbow: And you seal it. It looked like a mailing envelope.
Jan Keck: And we seal it. I once had people seal it at a retreat with a wax seal even to make that whole process of putting the phone in there a bit of a ceremony, a check in. So that was my background. I felt that when the pandemic started and everybody went online, we can't turn off our technology anymore. The biggest challenge will be how can we be present with each other? When you're meeting with someone on Zoom, even like for us right now, because we can't make eye contact with each other, I don't know if you're looking at me or if you're checking emails or surfing on social media.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. No, but I know what you mean. I know what you mean. Yeah. Or I just look to the side and you have no idea why I did that. Right? So it's like, "What is she doing? Is she paying attention?"
Jan Keck: Yeah. And in person, it's like the equivalent of you talking with a friend and they pick up their phone because a text message came in and they respond to it and it makes you just feel invisible and ignored and unimportant and I just knew if we are going to do this, that we are connecting virtually, we need to figure out a way how to do it so we can be present. That's when I started experimenting with different ways of hosting events, experiences. I hosted something every week, sometimes even several times a week, starting in March 2020, and one of the events that I did was the one that changed my whole outlook of "I don't think it's possible" to "we can create something that is not the same as in person, but as powerful as in person, in terms of the connection that we feel to other people."
What I actually attempted to do was to do a virtual group hug because I was thinking of all the people living by themselves, not having physical touch, not having anybody to hug, and I thought, "Oh, I really want to do an event where we support everybody in my community that was craving that touch." I created a Facebook event, invited a bunch of people, still had no idea how to actually... What are we actually going to do? Because we can't do a group hug. But what we ended up doing is I invited everyone to grab an object that had some kind of meaning to them, ideally something that you could hug. So like a pillow, blanket, a stuffed animal from your kid, and I actually showed those as examples and just for fun, I also showed this big box of toilet paper that my wife just picked up from Costco. It was early pandemic, we were really lucky to get one of those, but as I was hugging it, I kind of felt, "Wow, this fill the most like hugging a human." The stuffed animal was too small. The pillow was too soft, but that felt like hugging a human.
So I kept that. I played some emotionally charged movie soundtrack in the background, invited everyone to close their eyes and remember a hug that they've either given or received before everything happened. As I was remembering my son giving me a hug the week before at that time, I think he was around two, where he was terrified by the fire alarm going off in our building, and he just came running to me and hugged me so tight and didn't let go for half an hour until he fell asleep in my arms. I just got really emotional. I was thinking about that moment, like, I couldn't do anything, but hug him in that moment and it made me think of all of the other people that might have had a situation similar that don't have anyone that they can run to and hug.
I started tearing up and when I opened my eyes, looking on the screen, everybody had their own moment, not connected to the same thing that happened to me, but to a hug that they've experienced. And yeah, we ended up, I think staying on for another hour past the event time to just share different stories and challenges of living through this weird time in March-April, 2020, and I completely forgot that I was on Zoom, that I was not in the same room with the people. We felt connected on a way different level than I've ever experienced talking to a screen. So yeah, I knew, "Okay, there is something there. We just need to, again, re-engineer, figure out what actually happened? How can we recreate that so more people can experience something like that?"
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. What have you found that was obviously like a positive confirmation that you were onto something? How have you developed your facilitation skills to keep lighting that spark, to keep having those moments?
Jan Keck: Yeah. One thing that maybe it's just me, but I find as soon as you have to explain to someone else what works, you have to understand it at a way different level. I kept doing these experiments and hosting different events that really were based on the idea, how can we be vulnerable with strangers? How can we make it so we feel supported to do something that feels outside of our comfort zone when we are not together in the same room? And then I started teaching the things I was learning last week in a workshop the week after, and I kept doing that and doing that. And all of these workshops in the end, became now a five-week cohort-based course, which is my virtual facilitator training and actually just wrapping up cohort seven next week where I feel like now that I've taught it so many times, people have applied the things I'm teaching.
They give me feedback. It's like we're constantly making it better and figuring out, "Okay, so what actually happened at that first event? If I look back at it now, I probably have a much better understanding than I did when I first hosted that virtual group hug.
Jillian Benbow: Wow. Yeah. That's great and I love that it's that. I mean, I'm always saying in community, it's a conversation and you have to get feedback from other people. I love that you are really doing that. There's that constant loop of talking to those who've gone through in a cohort and then continuing to just hone and update and create a really valuable experience for people. That's amazing. So yeah. Tell me more about this course or this... I forget what you called it, but the workshop that happens.
Jan Keck: The virtual facilitator training?
Jillian Benbow: There it is. Yep. Tell me more about that. It sounds interesting.
Jan Keck: Yeah. So basically, it started... One of the first workshops I did was just based on, "I need to teach people how to use Zoom breakout rooms," because that's the one feature that, to me, changed everything. There's so much magic that happens in small groups online that you can't do if there's 30 people in gallery view and only one person can talk at a time and everybody else needs to sit down and listen and can't really participate much. I realized that yeah, breakout rooms is one big factor in making this happen. So that was the first workshop. Then I did another workshop on how can we actually build an experience? So what I shared earlier, participants feel empowered to be outside of their comfort zone because I believe that's where the biggest learning happens.
I also believe that that's where the connection happens the fastest. I sometimes like to say that relationships travel at the speed of vulnerability. The faster we can get to that place where both parties can be vulnerable with each other, the faster we'll create those deeper, meaningful connections. People who are listening to this, can't see this, but behind me, I have this LED campfire. That is actually how I approach creating any experiences similar to building a campfire. Because you went to summer camp, I assume that you... Did you ever start a fire?
Jillian Benbow: Yes. I also do a lot of outdoorsy stuff. So I can start a fire.
Jan Keck: Very good. Actually I would say that a lot of people that attend my sessions are outdoorsy people too, because I feel like you do attract people that are like you in a way. Although I don't put that in my marketing as much, but, to me, the campfire has certain significance in my life.
The way I see creating an experience if it's in person or virtual is the same as building a campfire. We want to have this big campfire, but if I were to hold up a lighter to a big log, nothing would happen., but if I burn some paper first and then add some little sticks and larger sticks and my kindling and at the end, add the big log on it, that's where the fire really starts burning. Campfire is a place that we share stories and we are often vulnerable or more vulnerable with each other. Look, sitting under the stars, that's always my vision for where an event could end up. So I try to figure out, "Okay, what are the different elements we need to do at the beginning of an experience that spark the connections? What are the things we need to add?" So then later at the end, after we've built some trust and psychological safety with a group, with our participants, then we can do the hard things.
But if we skip any of the parts, then we might end up with people feeling really uncomfortable. Maybe even like... This is the one thing I've noticed on Zoom. If you send people to a breakout room and they don't feel safe yet, they will actually turn off their camera. They might even sign off and leave the event. I've heard some of those stories from my students where, yeah, they did a breakout room activity and suddenly, a lot of people were by themselves in the room because the other partner decided to leave.
Jillian Benbow: That's so interesting. So what advice would you give someone that is experiencing that? That's trying to use breakout rooms and it's kind of falling flat?
Jan Keck: Start with something that is easier for people to opt in and just start with something really simple, like answering a question in the chat. People don't need to have videos on, they don't need to speak. Answering something in the chat is really easy. Doing things like polls. I then often include using micro engagements, and to me, this is asking for a very small kind of micro commitment from participants like, "Hey, does this make sense? Type a yes in the chat. Give me a thumbs up in the camera. When you're ready to go to the next topic, wiggle your finger." I have a whole bunch of different actions and things that I ask people to do, depending on the platform. If we're on Zoom, I might ask them to use the reactions buttons, maybe do something else, but the more I ask them to do something really small and they give me a yes, the more likely they are to do something that requires them to do a little bit more.
I might ask them to write down the answer to a question first for themselves before I send them to a breakout room. So when they get to the breakout room, they already have an answer. They're not nervous because they don't know what to say. And the same thing when they come back after sending people to the breakout room, they're more likely to then unmute and share. Because I think the worst thing that anybody who's hosting virtual events can do is asking individuals to speak up when they don't know the other people in the room yet, when they don't know you yet, because that's usually where you get the crickets and the tumbleweeds where you ask a question, then it's really awkward. In virtual, you can't make eye contact with anyone. You can't walk towards one person making them feel like, "Okay, I want you to share something." So it just ends up being this kind of dead end. So yeah, the more we engage them in smaller ways and then build on top of that, the more likely those moments will not happen.
Jillian Benbow: It's so true. As you're talking, I'm like, "Oh yeah, duh. Right" But in reality, sometimes I think especially when you're in the thick of it or you're having those engagement or trust issues in a virtual call, it's hard to remember some common sense things like, "Let's make sure people are comfortable." I love specifically what you said about asking people a question in the larger group before the breakout rooms. Nothing's worse than getting in a breakout room and then it's like, "Wait, what are we doing?" And then it's up to whoever it was the better student, five minutes ago to recap what we were supposed to be doing.
Jan Keck: And I think it also depends on the types of participants that you have. I would say I'm a little bit more introverted, if the introverted-extroverted scale was a thing, but usually I'm very happy to explore out loud what I'm thinking without having fully formulated my answer. But I also know that there's lots of people who are the opposite, who are like, "That is giving me the worst anxiety if I have to share something before I have figured out exactly what I want to say." Reminds me of when you learn a new language and you need to take the time to get your grammar right and look up some words. So once you have the sentence, I'm totally comfortable going into a bakery ordering bread once I know the sentence that I'm saying, but going in and then while talking to someone, figuring out the words that make sense, yeah, that's giving me anxiety as well.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. It's like, "Nevermind. I don't need to eat today. I'm good." So it's so true. It's so true. So you mentioned other platforms. I'm curious, besides Zoom, are there virtual platforms you really like?
Jan Keck: So I love Zoom because it's so accessible and most people know how to use it. There are others that I'm exploring, but it's always a bit of a learning curve. And usually I try to avoid that especially if it's groups that I'm not spending time with, let's say on an ongoing basis where it makes sense to spend some time learning a new technology and then we can use it often. It's like if I work, let's say, with an organization and we're doing a one off workshop, we need to get things done in that meeting. We can't spend too much time learning the platform and then troubleshooting for the individuals that it doesn't work for. So that's one reason why I love Zoom, even though that's not always the case. Most of the time, people are able to use it on different devices, but if there's one other one, I probably would say Butter.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Butter is cool. Yeah. That's what I was going to say if you didn't say it.
Jan Keck: Yeah. I'm actually in the process of sending some them some event templates for a event that I call Campfire Conversations that people can access through the platform.
Jillian Benbow: Nice. Ooh, I'm going to keep an eye out for that. I don't use it currently for same reasons because everybody has Zoom. I will say because Zoom is definitely listening to this, I'm a little disappointed when you are given on a silver platter, the pandemic and people's attention that some more features didn't come out a little faster. Still waiting.
Jan Keck: Yeah. Well, there are new features coming out all the time. I actually just did one video about a new feature today and...
Jillian Benbow: What's the cool new feature?
Jan Keck: So my video was about how to read the room on Zoom, which is also something that a lot of people have mentioned to me in the beginning, from moving from in person to virtual, you can't intuitively get a sense of if a group is doing well or if they need extra support or if they need more time, because once you send people to breaker rooms, it's like this black hole. They're gone. Popping in to the room, I compared it like the, "Hello Johnny," scene from The Shining where you're suddenly like, "Here I am, but don't mind me. I'm just here listening."
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. No ax. Just what you're talking about, it's very intrusive.
Jan Keck: Yeah. So there is a new feature where when people are in breakout dreams, you can see if their microphones and cameras are on and if they're talking. You can also see their reactions. So if you were to ask them a question, they could respond with the check mark or an X or they could raise their hand. So just this tiny little thing that helps you communicate a little bit and just get a slight sense of, are they having conversations or did they just turn off their cameras and their mics and went for lunch?
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Ooh. Okay. Well, obviously I'm not up to speed with all the new features. So, sorry. Sorry, Zoom. Sorry. It was mean.
Jan Keck: There still are a lot of things that I wish they would've updated and they still haven't done it in two years.
Jillian Benbow: Same, same, same. Even just to complain and because maybe there's a solution I don't know about. So I want to put this to you, but at least for us, we have a team account, a professional account I can only add a cohost that's the same email, the team SPI email. It won't let me add like one of our community members as a co-host. I find that very irritating.
Jan Keck: Yeah. There are different workarounds. There's one in particular that almost nobody knows about and I didn't know about until another person who's also a Zoom producer, professional Zoom producer, Robbie Samuels had me host one of his events where he was away. It's the same Zoom link. It's on his account, but he didn't give me access to his account. He just shared his host code, which is a number that you type in when the host is not present and then you become the host. Something that I can't-
Jillian Benbow: Seriously scribing.
Jan Keck: ... explain with just audio for anyone who's trying to follow this one listening, but I think if you just Google host code for Zoom, you can figure it out. The one thing to keep in mind is the meeting needs to be the one where anybody can join anytime for that to work, but then once you enter the code, you're the host and you can just take over without the other person being there.
Jillian Benbow: You just changed my life. I owe you one. So you mentioned you just did a video on what we were talking about previously, is this YouTube, or? Tell us where to find all your knowledge videos.
Jan Keck: Yeah. On YouTube is a really good place. I've been investing a lot more energy on YouTube in the last year, especially because I do believe that technology is not that kind of big, bad guy that I used to think. I actually think that if we can use it in a meaningful way, it can be really beneficial, but often a new feature comes out and people jump on it and they want to use it, yet does it actually have a place in the meeting or experience that you're creating or is it just a shiny object that you want to like use? So one example would be the Zoom avatars. I thought long and hard about where is the application to turn yourself into a fox or a mouse or a cat that actually makes the experience better for the people involved? And there's maybe one, but even that, when people can't have their video on, is it better to see them as an avatar where you can still see a bit of movement versus their camera off? I think that depends on each person.
Jillian Benbow: Totally. So what is your YouTube channel, while we're there?
Jan Keck: If you just search for my name, Jan Keck, J-A-N K-E-C-K, you'll find it.
Jillian Benbow: Okay. Excellent. I think all of us will be furiously going to that after listening to this. So I'm curious... I really appreciate you going into a lot of this stuff because like I said before, it all sounds so simple, but it actually, I think you have really taken the time to really look at what it takes to have a successful event and a big part of that is the participants feeling comfortable. And that I love your starting the fire analogy where you have to start with the little stuff and then it'll all light, but you can't start at the top with the big log. Right? I'm curious on the flip side of that, we're all hosting events, but what about when we show up as participants, what do you wish everybody knew or would do as a participant?
Jan Keck: If you can, if you have the power to not schedule back to back Zoom calls, make sure you schedule in breaks. I think that's the biggest thing, especially when I talk to organizations where often people don't have control over it. And now that there is no commute between one meeting room to the next, you're expected to stay until the top of the hour and join at the top of the hour. So therefore, there's no time for washroom breaks, grabbing snacks, getting a fresh breath of air, doing some stretches. All of those things are, I think, why people are tired at the end of the day. Because if you had shorter sessions where it's actually interactive and you feel seen, you feel heard, you feel part of the group, you're not going to walk away as drained, but if you're four or five hours of back to back... I mean, I need to limit my time on Zoom and I spend a lot of time on Zoom. One thing that I started doing is actually with my training itself, I'm always starting at 15 minutes past the hour.
Jillian Benbow: Oh, interesting.
Jan Keck: I'm now also aiming to end 15 minutes before the top of the hour. So go from 15 past to 45 past, make them an hour and a half, which seems to be the sweet spot in terms of the content that I want to deliver and the time that people can be engaged and active, and I'm basically gifting them 15 minutes at the beginning and 15 minutes at the end. Although I always stay 15 extra minutes at the end anyway and sometimes people do take the full time for the ones that have back to back schedules, that's a gift. That time is sometimes worth more than the content that we're talking about.
Jillian Benbow: I am just taking a note because I want to try this.
Jan Keck: Even with my calendar scheduling app, I set it to 25 minutes rather than 30 and 50 minutes instead of an hour. So I always get a little buffer before or after a call.
Jillian Benbow: That is so smart. Why didn't I think of that? Right? It's another one of those. You are the master of taking something that once you say it, it is so simple and obvious, but getting to that point is really difficult. So that is a skill.
Jan Keck: I didn't come up with a lot of these things. Probably same as you or someone else, I just heard it once and I'm like, "I need to implement this," and then it's implemented. I've been trying to do this for my own training for a long time. I'm still struggling because right now the sessions are two hours, and even for those people, they’re super drained at the end. Sometimes it's like, "Wow, the time went by so fast," because we're actually doing lots of different things. There's a lot of variety. We do breakout rooms and we do polls and we have lots of conversations in the main room and I ask them to write things and draw things and it's always different, and I think that's what I hope to see a lot more people do when they're leading groups. If it's for a course or in a community, I keep it interesting.
Jillian Benbow: Well, yeah. This relates to something you mentioned to me before we hit record, which is that you're launching a connection activities database. I think that is one of those things that's so important because I think we're all sick of the same stale, getting to know you, activities at the beginning of a Zoom call kind of thing. So tell us more about this and where we can find it because I think that is a perfect kind of thing to end on. And then I have two questions my producer wants me to ask you that are totally random and I can't wait to hear the answers. So we'll start with-
Jan Keck: Our speed fire end. Nice.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. It's the pre rapid fire.
Jan Keck: Oh, pre rapid fire. Okay. Well, I'm going to look forward to that. Yes. So the database itself started because I realized that I'm spending a lot of time for every event, for every workshop recreating basically the same thing. And that's also where just building that framework of creating the campfire came in and I started filling in the blanks with different activities, and if there's one tool that I fell in love with just before the pandemic, it has to be Notion. I don't know if you know about Notion, but my whole life and business is organized on there. I just started, every time I did an activity, put it in that database. Every time I read about an activity, put it in the database. Every time I was a participant in somebody else's session, I put it in that database and it just kept growing and growing. Think by now, there's over 600 activities in there, but I have to say it is still pretty unorganized.
So what I started doing just recently is started cleaning them up, actually put together some facilitator tips, variations, create some video tutorials and walkthroughs when I host an event and I run an activity and I put all of those activities together and made that available for people to join so they can ideally start with your kind of goal of your session in mind or your theme, type in to the search or use one of the filters and find an activity for the unofficial start, which to me is like first thing when people log onto Zoom, you want to start engaging them. What are you going to do aside from just asking a question in the chat? There's lots of other things we can do. How do you do a check in to make sure that we make sure people are...
We check in how the energy is so we can adjust to how we facilitate. What are different "ice-melters?" I call them "ice-melters," not icebreakers because to me, icebreakers sounds a bit jarring and usually people cringe when they hear icebreaker. So "ice-melter" goes really well with my fire metaphor because we're melting the ice with a little fire underneath. So all of those different activities are in there. By the time this podcast comes out, that should be available.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Take my money. Where would people find that?
Jan Keck: I'm sure you can post a link in the show notes as well, but it's jankeck.com/CAD for connection activities, database or Canadian Dollar because-
Jillian Benbow: I was going to say.
Jan Keck: ... I miss Canada sometimes.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. I mean it is the best. Okay. Well, thank you. I cannot wait to get access to that because that is definitely a place I struggle. Actually, all the stuff you're doing, I love. Which let's shift gears to a bit of randomness. This is for David, our senior podcast producer. Tell us about the cat canoe trip. Why? Where? How?
Jan Keck: So a couple of years ago, me and my wife, we love to go camping and one canoeing trip, we came back and we saw this other family with a dog. And that year, I put on my vision board a picture of two people with a dog in the front of the canoe, because my wife's a big dog person. I thought we would probably have a dog, but then it so happened that a cat just showed up at the front of our door, walked through the door and we couldn't find the owner
Jillian Benbow: And declared you.
Jan Keck: Yeah. Declared us to be their new owner as cats do and I thought, "Huh, now we have a cat. Do cats go camping?" A quick Google turns out they do and there's websites that teach you how and they sell you equipment and all kinds of things. So we started practicing putting the cat on a leash around our house, in the park, and then we did one trip where it was for a weekend, and we put him in the canoe with a little life vest, and then he slept in the tent with us inside the sleeping bag. I did a little video about it, which right now is still one of my most watched videos on my YouTube channel.
Jillian Benbow: Oh my gosh. Just when I thought I couldn't wait to go see your YouTube, now I got to see the camping cat. What's your cat's name?
Jan Keck: His name was Gato. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple years ago.
Jillian Benbow: Oh, I'm sorry. Well, Gato sounds like-
Jan Keck: Our new cat is not camping material.
Jillian Benbow: Indoor cat? More of an indoor girl?
Jan Keck: Indoor cat and likes to hang out under the bed and behind furniture. Anytime there's a loud noise, she disappears.
Jillian Benbow: Like, "Nope." Yeah. Well, that's amazing. I would've lost my marbles if I would've seen... I've never seen someone take a cat camping. We have dogs. We take our dogs, but I would've abandoned my dogs with my family to go play with someone's camp cat. That is awesome. That did not disappoint. Okay. And then the second pre rapid fire question from David, you apparently once had coffee with the Colombian president. How did that happen? And most importantly, how was the coffee?
Jan Keck: The coffee was good. In Columbia, they do something called cafecito, which is they boil the water with sugar cane. So it's sweet already. You don't need to add anything afterwards. I met the Columbian president because first of all, my wife is from Columbia and we were there visiting some family friends for The Carnival of the Black and White, Blancos and Negros, in Pasto in the South of the country, and the parade was going by with these really big floats and sculptures and the president was supposed to come.
They actually started late because he was late and they didn't want to start with him being there, and then he was on one of the floats and we were in this cafe looking down and when he was passing by, somebody from the cafe calls out the president's name and they were, I don't know, friends from long time ago and he said, "Come up stairs and have a coffee and some drinks." He basically said, "Stop the parade. I'm getting off here." The Secret Service or the version of it came in and checked all the perimeter. Our phones stopped working and then the president walked in and sat down and chatted with everyone. We took pictures.
Jillian Benbow: So did the parade just pause the whole time he was there?
Jan Keck: No, they continued.
Jillian Benbow: Okay, good. I was going to say that's a wow.
Jan Keck: So that was a surreal experience because I was, I think, one of the only non Colombians around there as well.
Jillian Benbow: And do you speak Spanish?
Jan Keck: Un poquito. I understand more than I speak. I'm trying to remember. This was also a couple years ago. I think he actually spoke to me in English.
Jillian Benbow: Did he? Yeah. I'm just picturing what I would do. So I'm picturing you sitting there, just super focused on listening and trying as like, "Catching phrases, catching things. I think I know what's going on. Is that seriously the president? What is happening?" Well, wow. You have a fun life, which I'm sure you already know.
Jan Keck: Adventure is one of my big values. Trying to seek it even in the small things.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Oh, for sure. Which is why the outdoors are so fun.
Jan Keck: Exactly.
Jillian Benbow: You don't have to go far. All right. Well, we are going to transition to the rapid fire round, not to be confused with David's questions. David, thank you. Those were great questions. So how this works is I'm going to ask you a question and your goal is to do a short, rapid answer. So just like a sentence. Even though I will want to know more, I will stop myself and we will continue to the next question. Are you ready?
Jan Keck: I will do my best because I also love good questions and I will do my best to keep it brief and short.
Jillian Benbow: It's hard.
Jan Keck: Then we'll continue afterwards or if anybody's listening, wants to know more, message me.
Jillian Benbow: I know. Right? Well, I always thought it'd be fun to do bonus episodes where then we just go into detail on all the... Ooh, I'm going to talk to David. David, write that down. Okay. David's always listening. Okay. Yeah. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up besides a camp counselor?
Jan Keck: The one thing that comes to mind is private detective. I actually did have a private detective agency that I started with my friend, and we just went around the neighborhood following people without getting caught and doing all kinds of fun things.
Jillian Benbow: My God, we would've been really good friends as children. How do you define community?
Jan Keck: A group of people that align with their values and make each other feel seen and heard, and ideally, also a sense of belonging that exists within it.
Jillian Benbow: Mwaah, chef's kiss. Okay. I can't wait to hear this one. So what is something that's on your "bucket list" that you have done?
Jan Keck: That I have done? That's a really good question. I need to remember that. I did skydive in New Zealand and I remember that was always on my bucket list and it actually happened on the day before Christmas and it was a beautiful sunny day just before sunset. The last flight they did before they all went on the Christmas holiday.
Jillian Benbow: Did not disappoint. And then what is something on your bucket list that you have not yet done, but want to do?
Jan Keck: That's a really good question because I feel like a lot of the things... I have not thought about my bucket list in a long time. So that's maybe a question I need to ponder on and get back to you.
Jillian Benbow: Okay. We can do that. What's a book that you love and would recommend to everyone?
Jan Keck: A book that I would love to recommend to everyone, The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker, because that's a book that I reference a lot in my workshops as well, and just the one first chapter about figuring out the purpose of you gathering before you invite or do anything is a lesson that I think everybody needs to take to heart.
Jillian Benbow: I feel personally called out by that. Just kidding. Okay. I can't wait to hear this one. Jan, if you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
Jan Keck: Because I just moved, I don't feel like I want to move anywhere else right now because that move was a lot of work selling things on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for weeks. I'm so happy being where we are right now, which is closer to family.
Jillian Benbow: That's great. That works. And then the final question, how do you want to be remembered?
Jan Keck: Oh my God, this is actually a question that I have on a deck of question cards that I created, and I hope that I'm remembered as a person that allowed two other people to connect with each other. Even thinking of the cards that have been used by some friends who then started a relationship because of the conversations that they've had or in a workshop to spark some interesting conversations because there are pretty deep and vulnerable questions on there. How do you want to be remembered? Is a pretty deep question. So I'm glad that you have actually been asking that at the end of our session. Well, we've already built a little bit of a fire. Right?
Jillian Benbow: Oh, look at that.
Jan Keck: Not as the first thing that we're coming in.
Jillian Benbow: First question, right?
Jan Keck: Yeah. So that's what I hope people will remember me for as somebody who sparked a connection.
Jillian Benbow: I love it. That is the perfect place I think to end this episode anyways. I want to do a follow up episode or at least chat a bunch on the internet. Jan, I think we know the answer because I've been asking you throughout the interview, but for the sake of consistency, where can people find you online?
Jan Keck: If you go to Jankeck.com, that's my website, you'll find links to all of the other places, but if you search for Mr. Jan Keck, that's where I'm on most of the social media.
Jillian Benbow: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being a part of the podcast and joining my little community of guests and community enthusiasts.
Jan Keck: Thank you for having me. This was super fun.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah, it was. All right. Take care.
Jillian Benbow: That was the interview with Jan, which was so fun. I just want to go start a detective agency around the neighborhood with Jan. That sounds completely like a genius idea. The child version of me would have been down with that. The adult version of me is pretty also down with that, let's investigate! One investigation I could do is who's letting their dog poop in our neighborhood and not picking them up? Anyways, we'll save that for a later episode or not at all. Let's talk about what's going on with Jan and the virtual summits and everything he's doing. So after we spoke, I went and looked at his virtual summit offering, the cohorts he does, and there is a video I recommend you go and watch it. It's very funny, the intro part to it of trying to be on a call and everyone's turned their camera off and whatnot. He definitely had a lot of fun making that.
It was a lot of fun to watch and randomly, there was a cameo of one of the people helping him out with that, pretending to be super bored that's a SPI Pro member. Shout out to Caelan Huntress, who it makes sense if there's a lot of social proof with Jan's cohorts because Caelin is someone that before I didn't know he had gone through this, but he's an excellent virtual facilitator. In fact, in Pro, he has hosted different engagement type meetups for our members that are always just fantastic. So it tracks. It makes sense. So shout out to Caelin. So beyond that, yeah, this was a great conversation and I loved, I mean, so many things. But I loved, especially talking about building trust with people and starting small and not expecting people to jump onto, especially a Zoom call and then go into a breakup room and feel comfortable getting thrown into a room with someone. Yeah, it's overwhelming.
In person, you just have to do it, but if you're on Zoom, you can be like, "Oops, I hit end call," and you can bounce. So there's definitely an art to building that trust, getting people more comfortable, feeling safe, and then working into those more intimate activities or experiences that you'd want people to let their guard down for. The lighting the campfire analogy was especially poignant, as someone who loves to camp and knows how to build a fire with the right materials. I've yet to try to do it with rubbing two sticks together, but there's that too.
However, as an analogy for starting something, creating an experience with people, I love that. I think in community, it makes perfect sense and you can think about new members joining and how do you get them from that kindling to the full on roaring fire as far as their level of comfort?
So I hope you enjoyed this episode with Jan and have some ideas for how to beat the Zoom fatigue and maybe up your virtual facilitation skills. Check out the connection activities database we talked about. It's at jankeck.com/CAD, which may mean Canadian Dollar and it may mean connection activities database. We'll never know. Check that out. And also, when you're there, you can go and check out his virtual summit video that I think is hilarious. So tell me if you think it's hilarious and don't be shy, what did you learn today, or is there anything you want to add to this conversation? I would love to hear from you and talk about the episode over on the ye olde Twitter sphere. We are @teamSPI.
While you're here, if you've made it this far, consider leaving a review in Apple or wherever you listen to podcasts for the show. We'd love to get your feedback, and we haven't had a review in the while. I've been asked to ask you that. I feel weird asking you. So I'm telling you why I'm asking, but really we'd love a review. It does help the show. And yeah, on that note, I will see you next Tuesday.
You can find Jan all over the internet, as per usual. Check out his website at jankeck.com. That is spelled J-A-N-K-E-C-K.com. On all the socials, he is @mrjankeck. Very formal. So just all one word, @mrjanckeck on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, wherever your social media dreams are made. Your lead host for the Community Experience is me, Jillian Benbow. Our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Our senior producer is David Grabowski and our editor is Paul Grigoras, sound editing by Duncan Brown, the music by David Grabowski. See you next Tuesday.