Over the last two months, I have taught over 50 classes on Zoom. By now, we’re realizing how Zoom fatigue is real for various reasons. I believe all of them.
I am also convinced it is an energy vampire for facilitators.
I’ve used the term energy vampire before – it’s a person that feeds off of your emotion and energy. Unfortunately, those folks aren’t always easy to spot – they lack empathy and emotional maturity, you just feel zapped after talking to them, and seem to happily dump all emotions on you with no reciprocity.
Zoom is the greatest succubus of all.
Picture this: you’re facilitating a group in person. You give them a task or an activity, and you let them start on it in small groups. The energy is unbeatable: the hum of conversation, the laughs of discovery, the mildly awkward buzz of interpersonal learning. That energy bounces from them to you – and gets you ready for the second, third, eighth activities.
Now picture this: you’re facilitating a group on Zoom. You give them a task or an activity, and you let them start on it in small breakout rooms. You click the button to open the rooms, the group portkeys Harry Potter style out of the room…and you are alone.
Staring at your face.
That energy is gone in Zoom, no matter how interactive your lessons are.
Sure, you can pop in a few rooms, and check things out. Except for this time, it feels like intruding. So you go back to your lonely main room, and after a bit, the group spins back in. They are laughing, smiling and full of questions and reflection. THEY get the energy they need, which is amazing! Post-class, you feel blank inside. You’re happy, yes – but the usual energy spike post teaching isn’t the same.
What do we do, aside from being exhausted the entire time?
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past two months about conserving, sharing, and interacting with energy in the group – and – two chances to learn more!
It’s Not You
I know this one is obvious but important: it’s not about you! It’s about the students. I had to remind myself that it’s OK to be selfish and want that amazing energy. It’s also ok to be exhausted after teaching. I was teaching a leadership class last week and wow, that group was on point. I haven’t gotten so many thank you emails and notes from a class in a long time! I got done and I was blank, empty, and just wanted to play Animal Crossing and fish.
And that’s exactly what I did.
The self-care that occurs post-class is big. Whatever you need to do to recoup that energy is not just important, it’s essential. There were a few days where I was teaching two or three classes a day, and that was just a terrible choice. Yes, some days I do two – I never do three. Three breaks me. Maybe two will break you, or even consecutive classes! Know your limit, whatever it is, stick to it, and recover afterward.
Interaction isn’t just between you and them. It’s the connection between you and them, them with each other, them with the material, them after class with the material…good interaction keeps going, post-class!
This might be you facilitating discussion in the room, you allow the space and freedom of breakout rooms (and not creeping on them), you giving them something to do that taps into their personal home situation – remember the modalities of learning, those different ways to take in information that so many people get worked up about? Lean into those as areas of interest, and provide options. Maybe it’s asking them to come up with a song that encompasses their feelings or watch a TV show and check back in or tap into a conversation with folks they live with. Interaction doesn’t have to be in that moment and verbal.
It could also be turning off video and listening to prompts – maybe you’re guiding them through a thinking exercise or playing audio for input. Whatever the method is, understand that you’re not going to get the affirmation you’re used to getting – and even some of that affirmation had been fake. Sure, some of those smile and nod crowd mean it – others? Nope.
Learn About Yourself Every Time
When this all started I realized what a hypocrite I was – I tell students, remember your glows and grows! You have to pay attention to them! You need an even amount of glows (things you do well) and grows (things to improve on)!
And here I was, complaining to my husband how I “messed up” the rooms, didn’t time them “good enough” and talked too much when I was giving instructions…where were my glows? I led an improv workshop to a huge group of first-generation college students! They loved it! They learned a ton about interviewing and communication.
I had forgotten to reflect.
After that moment, everything changed. After every class, I take between 5-10 minutes alone, in the chair I taught in, and write down my reflections. Maybe it’s a new activity I tried or a variation on something I thought of in the moment. Sometimes it’s “look this up” or “wow that was bad, how do I make this work for next time?” Regardless, I make sure I have an EQUAL NUMBER of great and “work on” items – because let’s be real, the lack of energy is a major bummer. As someone who also struggles with depression and anxiety, it makes things even worse.
What have you been doing to keep your energy up? If you’re interested, I’m hosting a free workshop on Wednesday, May 13 at 3 pm EST for educators and facilitators about Zoom, Interaction, and Facilitation – and we’ll 100% discuss this energy zap.
And finally, we’re always running online classes for YOU – because even though you teach others, you need to focus inward sometimes. Use code eefriends50 and save 50% on any program.