Jon Berghoff is the Founder & CEO of XChange, a premier organization for facilitating online and live events and teaching others how to do so. The XChange Approach has created exponential outcomes for thousands of leaders around the world, and is trusted by organizations like Keller Williams, Women Presidents Organization, HeathMath, Conscious Capitalism, Facebook, and BMW. In this new era of virtual events, one of the most important qualities for anyone who leads groups is the ability to create connection and community through Zoom and other such platforms. Jon Berghoff is a world expert at this exact subject, and he shares his transformational strategies in this highly informative conversation.

Q&A with Jon Berghoff:

Q: Prior to 2020, virtually all of your work was in-person. Tell us a little bit about how your business has evolved since the pandemic unfolded.

  • We were forced to evolve really quickly and to innovate.
  • In our space, the obvious thing it meant was can we do what we used to do in-person? Training coaches, leaders and teachers how to facilitate group experiences. Can we do that online?
  • Last year, we had 120 people that were scheduled to come to Cleveland in April. A few weeks before that, we all of a sudden realized we had to figure out if teaching facilitators works online. The short answer was it worked. The longer answer is that we’d never thought it would work as well as it did.
  • It isn’t just we’ve learned a lot about facilitating online. In large part, one of the reasons it worked online had nothing to do with things online. It had to do with understanding group dynamics and realizing there’s tech tools that make things still possible.
  • Another thing that evolved was we learned about group behavior and dynamics. Part of the result of us navigating the last year was how many people we met. We introduced our method to above 8,000 people. We had live experimental and introductory workshops that I personally led. We had 500-600 people come through our 3-day immersion training from nearly 30 countries.

Q: What have you found to be the benefits of virtual training?

  • One of them is the access we have.
  • Another obvious benefit is the economics of being able to create value without the cost involved of getting on planes, renting hotels and all other things with that.
  • By being in contact with so many diverse people for the last year, we’ve learned so much. I’ve learned so much about people, myself and the world. That’s the benefit that kinds of transcends them all for me.

Q: What about the other side of the coin? Have there been challenges you experienced?

  • The biggest challenge has been sitting here on one hand trying to be really creative and innovative.
  • Trying to do that at moment we’re facing more stress than I’ve ever faced in my life.

Q: Let’s dive into some of the how-to of this stuff as it pertains to running events virtually. Let’s start out with the idea of how do you create engagement in a virtual event?

  • One of the things we’ve noticed about these learning environments is there’s different types of value we can create when we bring a group together.
  • People come to a learning environment often times to learn something. We call that intellectual capital.
  • Another reason is they want to build something called social capital … relationships, connections.
  • There’s also communal capital, which is rarely why someone shows up, but it’s often why they will want to keep coming back. Communal capital isn’t only I feel I belong here, it’s also what am I belonging to?
  • All our frameworks, models and tools we’ve built at Xchange are based on 3 questions.
    • How do we take a learning experience from passive to active as much as possible?
    • How do we move the teaching so it’s not just coming from one expert? How do we tap into the wisdom and learning that sits there inside the participants? We call that crowdsourcing and it’s highly engaging.
    • Third, when you bring people together, how do you make serving them as individuals, but make it building a sense of community?
  • We call this the 3C model … Content, Connection, Community.

Q: Let’s circle back to the content part about transforming learning from passive to active. What are the key ways you like to do that?

  • What we do at Xchange is we take all learning experiences and design in a certain sequencing. So, wrapped around that passive information are a sequence of interactions that create an active experience.
  • It turns everybody into a teacher and builds a community at the same time.
  • We call this process an active learning circle.
  • The biggest lesson is to make it active before and after you do something that’s passive.

Q: How about something as simple as before an event starts? What are the ways you create engagement or prime the group before the events starts? 15-20 minutes prior to the start time?

  • What we do online to prime people are things we used to do in-person.
  • There are beautiful design principle questions which are great. These are just creative questions we began asking when COVID-19 got here.
    • What’s everything that’s awesome in-person that we can figure out how to duplicate or make better online?
    • What are the things we weren’t able to do we can now do online?
  • These 2 questions lead to cool realizations … how to welcome every attendee, pre-meeting breakouts, music, etc.

Q: What else do you do to make sure that the participants are connected to each other and maybe even with the host?

  • If it’s a 5pm meeting, we’re going to let everyone in at 4:55pm.
  • We have everyone muted when they come in because I have music playing in the background. I’ve a digital setup where I’m like a DJ. I can play anything instantly.
  • One of the things I do is I say as many people’s name as I possibly can before we start. I create as many connections as I can that way.
  • I’ve heard of Zoom fatigue. There isn’t Zoom fatigue. It’s called shitty meeting fatigue, shitty facilitation fatigue. Zoom isn’t the problem.
  • It’s about guiding people to keep them captive, engaged, having a good time and a learningful time.

Q: You talked a lot about how events can create community during the time the event is been run. How do you nurture that community over time after a given event?

  • What we’ve found is what people need more than anything else is to feel like they belong. That’s one component of community. It’s the kind of medicine that the world needs right now even if we don’t know it.
  • As a facilitator, teacher, coach, there’s a lot of things we could do to enable people to feel safe in these group environments. There’s also a lot of we can do and not realize it to undermine that safety.
  • There are 2 simple things that lead to safety.
    • The equality of which the voices of any group are invited in.
    • Do people feel safe taking risks? This means do people feel safe speaking up?
  • The degree to which a participant of a learning experience or team feel they are connected to the bigger purpose.

Q: In your view, what does the future of work like in terms of how we gather?

  • The truth is we’ll have to sort it out together. It’s going to be iterative and messy. The solution to these things that are messy is to learn to tap collective intelligence.
  • We have to rethink what we do in-person because we’ve realized what we can do when not in-person.
  • It makes no sense to do it the way we used to. People aren’t going to tolerate that.
  • We’re already leading hybrid events, some people in-person, some online.
  • We’ve been very fortunate to start experimenting with this.



  • There was so much to unpack in this conversation with Jon Berghoff, from considering how we define what we’re building, how we promote what we are building in the organization so people can be a part of something
  • How we show up at every event, whether virtual or live.
  • The focus on each individual who’s there and the ways we can provide value for others.
  • The word I’d want you to consider today is reflect.
    • Take some time to reflect on what you’ve just got, the gifts you just received from Jon Berghoff.
    • When was the time you attended a great event online? What happened? What made it great? What did you learn from that experience?
    • What was a group in life which you felt a great feeling of belonging? How did that develop and what can you implement from that to help people in your life to feel a sense of belonging?
  • For Vector managers, consider how you can leverage virtual events along with IN-PERSON IMPACT in your organizations. Implement the 80/20 Rule by spending in-person with your key people as they crop up. Create a cadence at which you spend time with key people in person … once a week, once every 2 weeks, perhaps once a month, depending on the person and the settings you choose to use for in-person gatherings.



Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.

To learn more and get access to all episodes, visit our podcast page!


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