Online events can be tiring or get dull. Even with the best meeting facilitation and session design, anyone would feel bored after looking at a screen and listening passively for hours.
Some physical activity or other kinds of stimulation can help participants to snap out of a sleepy state and refocus their attention. An online energizer can stir up everyone’s vitality and contribute to a more relaxed but focused atmosphere.
Area of application:
Just like in an offline setting, online energizers can be used during any kind of virtual meeting, workshop, seminar, or conference. However, you should carefully consider the cultural and social background of the participants to select a suitable and adequate energizer. If your meeting is very important and includes new partners or high-level delegates, choose your energizer with extra care.
Every energizer that increases engagement and wins back the attention of all participants is a good energizer. Energizers usually work even better online than offline as they constructively disrupt the fixed setting of an online event and create a positive energy shift. Several energizers which include physical activity are briefly described below. However, the list of existing online energizers is very long and diverse. If you do not find a suitable technique below, you will surely do so with a quick online search.
- Active Break: In this energizer, a professional trainer leads participants through a set of physical exercises online. The energizer is about 15 minutes long. The sessions can be booked via the PTB health management department. This service is offered in English and German and can be ordered by PTB staff for virtual conferences with external participants.
- Desk Yoga: This energizer consists of a series of stretching exercizes. Either the event facilitator provides the instructions or the link to a suitable online video, which is available free of charge, is shared in the videoconference chat. The participants can do the stretching exercises on their own. It is, however, more fun if participants do the exercizes together with cameras switched on for everyone who feels comfortable with it.
- Box breathing: This is a technique for taking slow, deep breaths, which enhances concentration. Participants should be instructed to sit upright in their chairs and turn off their cameras during this activity. The facilitator should then instruct participants to slowly exhale for four seconds through their mouth, hold their breath for four seconds, then slowly inhale through the nose counting to four, hold the breath for four seconds, and then slowly exhale again for another four seconds. Then repeat the sequence a few times. Just three minutes of this exercise already help to reduce stress. You can find many guided videos online or simply demonstrate it yourself to facilitate this exercise.
- Quiz Energizer: Set up a brief quiz with multiple-choice answers. To get everyone moving, instruct participants to answer your questions by e.g. standing up for yes, shaking their heads for no, leaning right for maybe, crossing arms if they think a statement is false, etc. You can ask the questions very quickly so that people must move fast and hopefully have fun while doing it!
- Touch blue: Ask the participants to bring a certain item (e.g. a blue item or an item representing something related to the topic of your meeting) from their room and show it via their camera. During a short break you could ask everybody to bring something from outside, so that people are forced to get up and get some fresh air. In addition, this energizer brings the physical surroundings of the participants into the virtual meeting.
Tools and technical aspects
For all methods above, a videoconferencing tool with a chat, video and screen-sharing function is required. You might want to prepare a handout or a presentation for certain methods such as the box breathing exercise, making it easier for participants to follow the instructions.
- Many more physical, but also creative brain energizers for your online events can be found online. The ones mentioned above have been tried and tested by PTB staff and considered suitable. However, there are many more energizers you might find appealing. Go for it!
- Many people feel uncomfortable in front of a webcam. To increase everyone’s comfort, the facilitators and the whole organizing team should lead by example and actively participate. Nonetheless, participants should be allowed to switch off their camera.
- Online energizers should be inclusive, and everyone should be able to actively engage in all exercises. So if you have participants with e.g. physical disability, you should make necessary adjustments to your energizer. An energizer is there to make everyone comfortable and have fun.
- Keep it simple and be concise in your instructions. A demonstration or a virtual handout can be useful for some exercises. Also, practice with a “safe” group (e.g. your colleagues) first before you use an exercise during a big conference.
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