We’re really proud of SHINE’s track record on participant retention – or ‘keeping people engaged’ in normal speak! So what was our reaction when the first Zoom session on our most recent 12-week maintenance course (which coincided with the latest national lockdown) showed us a screen full of empty, muted boxes with not a single camera or mic switched on?
We were overjoyed! Silent and invisible though they’d chosen to be, everyone had turned up….and everyone continued to attend. It took six weeks to go from blank screens to a wall of faces though. How did we do it? We’ve got three tips for you.
1. Build confidence. Our maintenance group were brave. They highlighted how anxious they were feeling. By responding with positive affirmation, humour and an appreciation of how difficult life currently is for them we built their confidence. Face to face is always going to be a richer experience than Zoom but there are basic principles of human contact that apply to both, including showing understanding and empathy.
2. Understand your tools. Everyone knows “I am not a cat” (link here – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/11/lawyer-cat-funny-texas-rod-ponton-judge just in case you don’t). But SHINE’s Kath Sharman dived headlong into Zoom’s filters to take away the fear factor of going on camera. Our new groups were more body conscious than ever but using the moustache and eyebrow filters, for example, helped empower our participants and made us all feel more connected.
3. Listen and respond. We adapted our 12-week programme in record time to meet the priorities of our group. This meant postponing sessions on nutrition to focus on body confidence and emotional literacy – enabling our groups to share their stories and experiences in a safe and supportive way. This showed we were listening and responding to our participants’ needs.
It took us six weeks before everyone in our group was happy to switch their webcams on so ‘Be patient’ is our bonus tip!