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How to get better at connecting with people through screens

By Cathy Hutchison

At Idibri, we were surprised at how often in those first few months of quarantine we saw presenters skilled at connecting in-person fail to connect virtually. Attention waned as audiences rebelled by turning off their cameras during marathon PowerPoint presentations.

We quickly learned upgrading technology wasn’t enough. We also had to upgrade our skills. Connecting through screens requires a different skillset to connecting in person.

This is where our theatre consulting discipline came into play.

When in person, communication flows three ways:

1) from the presenter to the audience
2) from the audience to the presenter
3) from the audience to each other.


The challenge with screens is that while most of us are used to the communication flow from the presenter out (like when watching television), we are not as practiced at the other paths of communication flow—from the audience back to the presenter and from the audience to each other—even though the technology supports it.

We worked to build skill at these path. This included:

  • Using moderators other than the presenters whose job it was to host discussion.
  • Using a graphic facilitator to capture attendee comments.
  • Working in cloud-based documents shared onscreen so people could contribute in real time.
  • Leveraging discussion in virtual breakout rooms.
  • Getting skilled at inviting people to participate.

For a deep dive on this download our report on Enhancing Virtual Presence


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