Everyone complains about the saturation caused by video conferencing on Zoom, Teams, and Meet that professionals across all industries are experiencing… I couldn’t agree more. But perhaps we all played our part in bringing about this situation.
I want to share some reflections, which I hope will get us thinking about the future of professional relationships. And, at the same time, the world we want to leave for our children. This may be a worn-out phrase, but it’s meaningful and used for good reason. I’m certain there’s a lot to develop and improve in our current professional relationships so we can adapt to our new realities.
Over the last ten years, I have organised more than 200 ‘face-to-face’ conferences. Then, during the first few months of the pandemic, I underwent a Master’s-style learning experience in virtual event management, hosting four in just two weeks. I would summarise my learnings in three points:
- The first, and most important, point: We must make the attendee feel like a ‘protagonist’ and take care of every last detail of their experience, from start to finish. Excellence is found in the details.
- Point two is about the content: People’s time is money, especially when they’re sitting in an auditorium. The key is to select the best case studies and successfully capture our delegates’ attention with magnificent staging, designed for each speaker or program, just as you would if it were a gift (the packaging being just as important as the content itself – or sometimes more so). We should also carefully select the best possible speakers, both in terms of content and communication skills. This can be a very difficult task. From personal experience, I can only think of a handful who have touched and captured both my heart and mind!
- Finally, point three is about the challenges of virtual events: We had no previous experience in this. And reaching out to the public at an economically and socially unprecedented moment made things even more complicated. The biggest disadvantage was and is that networking disappears, and we lose control over the attendee’s attention.
Worth remembering these points, because I get the feeling, we’ve completely forgotten them. Either that, or we are satisfied with simply having people connected, and not caring about the rest. This pandemic has affected us all, including me: I decided to leave the helm of a large organisation to start my own project, with the mission to change the way we communicate professionally.
Pre-pandemic life was physical and based on contact, not video conferencing. There we’d all be together in the office, from time-to-time hosting or attending events to inspire us. Either because we had to, or because it allowed us to meet clients in a different environment. We also travelled, which we are aware of now more than ever. Sometimes we spent the whole day, including an early start, just to meet with a client for a single hour.
Life in the pandemic means having 3 or 4 different virtual meetings and conferences every day: You have calls where you can easily look at your phone because nobody can tell. You have those where you can’t talk because you don’t have enough time. And finally, there are a few with only 2 or 3 people where you feel a bit better if you are interested in the topic. When you go into the office, you no longer run into your ‘favourite colleagues’ because you no longer have the same shifts. If you’re at home, you might think ‘my long-sought-after work-life balance is finally here’. But you also feel somewhat alone – perhaps this is how employees who don’t work at head offices feel… Travel is over, but that’s not that bad because we’re more cost and time efficient. Or aren’t we…?
I DON’T BELIEVE THIS IS THE WORLD THAT’S GOING TO STAY…
The future of communication
It’s clear that working from home, restricted movement (whether due to the pandemic or for the good of our planet), the decentralisation of talent (i.e. having the best, wherever they may be), the need to reduce costs (or to be more efficient and sustainable) and the use of technology and, of course, ‘digital transformation’ will be the trends and realities that shape the future of business.
However, companies (including the event agencies themselves) have simply sold or offered their video conferencing systems – free or paid, with or without avatars – leaving us trying to replicate the experience of the physical world, without considering the foundations of efficient communication, such as the sender, the receiver, the message, the channel and the environment… ‘It doesn’t matter, I’ll just keep doing what I did before, but on Zoom, Teams or Meet … and if I want to improve it, I’ll create a virtual auditorium where all the avatars feel like they were very tired’. If you think about it bluntly, it’s laughable. Is that really everything we managed to achieve in eight months?
The key is to understand why we communicate and for what purpose. Why did we hold ONE annual sales convention? Due to cost? Time? Because of the effort involved? These are questions worth thinking over. What if we could organise a ‘convention’ every two months to tackle issues in-depth, where all the representatives, wherever they are in the physical world, could exchange experiences,… and where time and costs are appropriately spent? Not creating unnecessary content just because ‘they came, so they might as well stay for lunch and make the most of the day’. How often have we been visited by someone from as far as the Canary Islands who just had some time to spare? And there we were thinking, ‘he needs to pad out his diary, so that he can justify the trip’… It makes no sense!
Creating the world we want to see
This pandemic has stopped us in our tracks, but we must think about the future we want. I repeat: How do we want to communicate? What role should the digital world play? What role should the physical world play? How do we get them to complement one another? For me, this is the path we must consider, and which I’m exploring further in my current project. I am going to propose a new way of understanding and communicating with each other. Technology has to be at the service of methodology, and not the other way around, as it is now. It doesn’t matter what you have to say or to whom. A ‘Zoom and finished’ is not the solution, nor is a Zoom combined with something else. There has to be more…
It’s time to think outside the box, to rethink our communication model and the tools we use. Technology will evolve, but we are the ones who need to know where, how and why we apply it. And, most importantly, how we can use it to help build a better world. Because even if we return to ‘normal,’ everything will be different.
This is our translation of an article published by Susana Velasco. You can also read the Spanish original on LinkedIn.
Susana Velasco is a dreamer of a new professional world where people are really the protagonists. She lives in Barcelona, Spain and is the mother of two children.
Susana studied statistics at the University of Barcelona. Then became an expert in market research with 20 years of experience in FMCG, studying consumer behaviour, understanding the training needs of professionals and creating environments that facilitate networking and inspiration for congress participants. She organised more than 200 major conferences, with an average of around 5,000 professional delegates.