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July 28, 2021

Designing virtual magic: The power of facilitation with Jan Keck

There’s something special about a great live experience that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s engaging, puts you at ease, and feels like...well, magic.


However, creating the space for people to come together in a way that’s intentional and transformative is hard work - and no one knows what that takes quite like our friend, Jan Keck.


Jan approaches his work as an expert virtual facilitator and coach with the heart of a storyteller and master connector.  He is the founder of Virtual Facilitator Training, a program designed to help facilitators and community leaders create genuine moments of human connection online. He is also the founder of Ask Deep Questions, a card game to encourage strangers to ask vulnerable questions and connect in a meaningful way. Jan is a Creator on Disco and a trusted member of our community - we’re so lucky to have him.


Jan’s ability to connect has taken him around the world from Zoom to IRL, and we were so excited to dig into his knowledge. Here are some of our favourite parts:


1) Build a magical moment


Yes, we’ve all spent the past year and a half on Zoom, but with someone like Jan, that experience becomes an entirely different (and way better) ballgame. At Disco, we know the power of live learning doesn’t lie with business-as-usual slide decks, but instead with meaningful human interaction. So what is a magical online moment? Here’s what Jan says:

“It's the time where you're so present that you completely forget everything else. And online, that means you forget that you're looking at a screen because you feel so connected to the other person. It took me a while to realize that is possible”


2) Create with intention


Jan’s story into this space actually starts with his journey moving from Germany to Canada. When he found he wasn’t necessarily connecting with other folks from his home country, but instead with people who had a shared goal, he realized to “find people that are going to the same destination, rather than having the same history.”


The very same goes for live, online, learning - you’re taking people on a shared journey, that isn’t dependent on a shared history.


3) Jan’s campfire method - allow others to transform


Picture gathering around a campfire with your community, now think of all the steps it takes to make that moment happen - THAT is how Jan approaches designing a transformative experience. Or as he says, “I need to take people on an adventure, I need to get them outside of their comfort zone.”


Just like building a campfire, you can’t start with lighting a log - it starts with a small kindling and grows from there:

“If you ever tried to hold a lighter to the big log, it would not burn. It's the same thing with creating an experience that is meaningful, where your participants are willing to be vulnerable, you can't jump in right away, you have to gradually get there. And I use a lot of things that I call micro engagements instead of asking people to, let's say unmute themselves and share something with a group of strangers in the first few minutes.”


4) Manifest the right environment


When Jan first developed his card game, Ask Deep Questions, there were no levels to the questions. Through testing and iterating, he found that he needed to take folks through a process that allows them to be vulnerable - and that requires the right conditions to get there:

‘If you are bringing people together, and you want to make the most of the time that you spend with them, you should be thinking about engineering 'how can we increase the chances that those magical moments happen?'”


5) Allow people to feel safe and supported


Just like Suzanne Howard shared with us last week, Jan dove deep into why psychological safety is important in building the right conditions for your experience. Jan talks about this further:

What it means is, in a group, how safe do you feel to speak up and share something? When psychological safety is not there, somebody might make a mistake, not speak up, might have an idea and not share it - so innovation starts to be held back.


6) Why Jan chose Disco


Jan was one of the very first creators we approached when we started Disco and has since been a huge guide in helping us understand the various pain points creators face in building live learning experiences. We’re delighted to have him:

"I'm super excited to be part of this creation of this new platform. And the one part that made me kind of jump of joy is when you said you're creating a platform to help make live learning communities more effective and more engaging."


Creators like Jan are at the heart of what we do, and we’re thrilled that he chose to run his next cohort on Disco. Jan’s story starts with moving to Canada from Germany and building connections from the ground up. He’s built that expertise into running a 5-week Virtual Facilitator Training, where learners are on a journey to design a truly engaging live experience. Learn more about his upcoming cohort for Virtual Facilitator Training here 🎉