It’s clear that it’s a challenge to lead live, virtual conversations during a global pandemic — let alone make sense of the virus itself during those gatherings.
The technology can be tenuous, your guests are far-flung, and you can’t see your audience. If that’s not enough to bolster your sense of uncertainty and vulnerability, you’re also compelled to take every possible precaution to stave off infection if you’re collaborating with others on a set.
And despite all those constraints — maybe because of them — I am astonished when magic still happens.
Most recently during a high-stakes launch for the new $250 million Hans Rosling Center for Population Health at the University of Washington, almost everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Tech checks for our five speakers ran late, so we started late. One of their microphone connections failed early in the show. My wireless microphone faltered throughout, luckily we had a backup boom microphone. The natural light streaming in through the multitude of windows continued to shift as the blinds descended automatically inside this beautiful, deserted building every thirty minutes.
Yet the miracle is that this thoughtful engagement can still happen at all. That we can trust each other to rise to the occasion despite the flaws, trust the audience that production issues won’t distract from the information we’re sharing, and most importantly, trust whatever creative forces are in play to pivot as necessary.
I reveled in that creative freedom especially near the end of our show (check it out below from around 56:48) when I went “off-script” and brought everyone back to ask very specifically about how we restore trust in expertise and lead differently. I put aside my notes, my tablet and leaned into the camera because I knew I wasn’t tethered to expectations or an editorial checklist any longer. I didn’t think too hard about what I was doing and it proceeded so naturally. It’s what I love most about leading live, public conversations and it so fit the spirit of this uncertain, unknowable time.