I am about to make a really big decision in my business.
Over the last two months, with our industry being tossed on its head in a most uncouth fashion, we have been wrestling with this whole “pivot to online IMMEDIATELY!” cry from speakers across the globe.
It was an overnight avalanche. I went to sleep one night and woke up the next morning with my inbox flooded. All my timelines across social media were just about whitewashed with speakers declaring their genius in being able to pivot to online with such agility and utter professionalism. And inviting (read: demanding) that I (and all their other clients, I guess) join them for their FREE webinar on (insert topic du jour here).
All of which seemed a bit of a knee-jerk, panicky reaction to me. It whiffed faintly of desperation, especially those who started off by saying, in their speedily put together videos, how their whole year’s bookings had been wiped out because of the virus.
“But don’t worry!” they exclaimed, which made me wonder whether they were speaking more to themselves than the clients they were emailing. “We can still do this online!”
Enter all the “Zoom Suit” Memes and Zoom Meeting Parody Videos.
|What would you do?|
|I was left scratching my head.|
Of course, intellectually, I completely understand the logic of using Zoom to still reach one’s team (we do it here at Speakers Inc all the time), and the ability of just adding a speaker to the online meeting to do a session seems alluringly simple.
And over the weeks, I have seen some really successful online sessions, even so far as witnessing Larry Soffer do some really impressive stuff for one of our clients, remotely. In his case, I think the remoteness actually added to the mystique.
But I’m a feely kinda gal. And something about all this impersonal, alone-ness of online sessions doesn’t feel right to me.
In my mind, I imagined everybody under house arrest – sorry “lockdown” – being told to be online for the meeting at such and such a time. Quietly sighing, logging on to the meeting to show face (in their Zoom Suits, of course), switching off their video (coz, y’know, sketchy wifi 😉) and pressing the mute button (coz, y’know, dogs and kids) and then just going about their business at home as usual, keeping an ear out for what was being said, but not really being PRESENT in the meeting.
My fear for the speakers doing these talks is for the potential damage to their brands.
Stay with me here:
Let’s say the scenario plays out as per my previous paragraph.
Now: to really do a bang-up job of presenting a keynote online is hugely challenging from an energy (not to mention technical) perspective. Speakers usually get their energy on the platform – largely – from the audience. They work on the energetic feedback from the people in the room. To do a funny, engaging, interesting, informative and memorable presentation TO A CAMERA is possibly one of the hardest things for a professional speaker to do. Promise.
So there the speaker is. Doing his best. To a bank of tiny screens, some with people in, probably most with video turned off. Eeesh. But he’s a professional so he pulls it it off (and then probably goes to sleep for the rest of the day, from sheer exhaustion) and the paying client (NOT the audience, mind you) is happy that they’ve got value for their money, and feel good about themselves for “keeping the team motivated, even in these unprecedented times!”
But here’s the thing: in a few months’ time when the world slowly realises that 99.9something% of humanity is still alive; that we can get back to work, and the meetings industry manages to hold itself upright in a sitting position, then crawl and then – possibly – walk again, the time will come for meeting planners, both corporate and freelance, to decide on speakers for their real world events again. Hallelujah.
And the speaker I’ve just described is raised as a potential speaker.
Might the discussion go something like this?
“Yeah, he did an online thing for us “back when” … hmmm … yeah, he was ok, I guess”.
Possibly the person who needs to make the decision at that meeting, wasn’t even IN the online meeting, despite being logged on. They may have heard the presentation in the background while they were checking emails, making the bed, deciding what to feed the kids for lunch, throwing the cat off the desk … you get the picture. But they were not PRESENT for the online PRESENTATION, and yet now they need to make a decision for the real-world event, based on their previous online, in essence: non-experience.
Doesn’t seem really fair to the speakers, methinks. They’re giving each presentation their all, but I worry that it’s going to come back and bite them in the bum.
And by the way, I don’t for one minute judge those team members who have “logged on” but not “logged in” for want of a better description. The world is a pretty crappy place right now, all things considered. I’ve done exactly that myself. There’ve been more than one or two webinars that I’ve voluntarily signed up for, but they were at odd hours because of time differences, so I’ve only been able to catch the recordings. So I’ve played those recordings in the background on my desktop, keeping an ear on them for anything that sounds important (who knows what I’ve missed??), but I could not claim to have been PRESENT for most of them.
BUT, BUT, BUT: having said all of the above. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everybody who has logged on to their prescribed-by-the-boss online meetings HAVE been fully engaged and present.
Maybe I’ve completely missed the boat (won’t be the first time – I only discovered Game of Thrones in the last episode of Season Four, for goodness’ sake!).
What would you do?
Maybe I should be feverishly sending out emailers to all of you, telling you about the NEXT BIG ONLINE SENSATION, and about the fifty NEW (even though some of them feel a bit “samey” to me) presentations on offer.
Maybe I should be encouraging ALL of the fabulous speakers and entertainers we work with, to just accept the new normal and get their booties online.
I worry, though, that when opportunities return for real world events, that we might look back and think that we acted too hastily, and some real damage may have been done to some careers, either because their content is now freely available forever, or because they struggled with that one pesky online meeting where nobody was listening.
But I really don’t know. My crystal ball – she’s broke (and broken).
I would love to hear what you think.
What would you do?
Join the headlong, noisy, messy dash for “online”, or try and stay calm and prepare for the new hybrid meetings world which I feel is coming. (The latter one involves a potentially steep fall in cashflow. Oh, who’s kidding? What’s cashflow again?)
For 21 years we’ve said that we prefer to have friends than clients, and I now I am asking for some friendly advice, please.
What would you do?
Let me know! I read and reply to every email.
Thank you for being a part of our community.
I look forward to hearing from you 🙂