Retail Observer

June 2020

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 45 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM JUNE 2020 46 W hen COVID-19 shut down the world, I figured I was a goner. I had left a cushy corporate job a little over two years ago to pursue my dream of starting a consulting business, helping companies get better results through strategic storytelling. Life was good, my clients were happy, and I was able to pay the light bill. But then came the order to hunker down, and suddenly my business model was a bust. Clients canceled gigs because in-person workshops and coaching were simply no longer possible, and my pipeline went dry. Then a new client called and asked if I could deliver my services remotely via video conferencing. A voice in my head said, "Um, no, that'll never work." But my out-loud voice said, "Certainly! I can definitely make that work!" And thus began a new chapter. I spent lots of hours researching and practicing effective communi- cation in the new world of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and my first foray, a virtual workshop, went surprisingly well. The word got out and new clients arrived. I'm busy again, and more grateful than ever. One day at a time. Retooling my business has given me unexpected insights into the nature and workings of the video communications that are central to my new reality. Here are some lessons that I feel anyone doing business via webcam would be wise to consider. NEW MEDIUM – NEW MESSAGE The first TV news program was broadcast in 1940 – it was a simpleminded simulcast of an NBC announcer doing his regular radio gig. Years would pass before TV journalism evolved enough to harness the special capabilities of the new medium. A similar shift is occurring now in how business people connect and collaborate. And just like that first TV news effort, too many today are making the mistake of trying to conduct the same old in-person meetings using their laptops and webcams. Just because the technology makes it possible, that doesn't mean it's right – a new medium demands a new approach. In my case, while conducting my workshops and coaching sessions I'm focused on breaking the experience into shorter chunks and delivering them with precision. It's similar to the way late-night talk shows have evolved – without the laughs and energy of a live audience, producers are writing shorter bits and more of them are higher average quality. It's harder, but it's your only hope of holding the audience's attention. "ZOOM FATIGUE" IS A KILLER! Now that people are spending hours in back-to-back online meetings, we're realizing that sitting stock-still at a laptop for hours is exhausting! That may seem surprising, but it makes perfect sense when we consider that we humans are tribal critters – we were made to be together. Face time is our preferred mode, whether we're in a huge sports arena or dining intimately with a sweetheart. We don't just take in the words we hear, we're attuned to the countless nonverbal cues that accompany them – the body language, the "feel" of the room, the interplay between others. Online meetings obliterate that richness of experience. Instead, we get a grid of grim faces in grainy little squares, a kind of mashup of The Brady Bunch with The Usual Suspects. Home routers and older laptops can spell huge quality variations in audio and video that make it nigh impossible to register the super-fine variations in facial expressions and verbal tone that we depend on. Our brains have to work double-time to fill in the gaps. To alleviate this, make your presentations interactive and multi- dimensional. To keep people engaged, I use polls, quizzes and short exercises that require responses in a chat window, and I take great care to ensure that everyone gets a chance to be heard. HOW TO SHOW UP LIKE A PRO You don't need fancy equipment to present or participate expertly online, but there are a few basics that everyone should follow. 1. Pay attention to how you look! 2. Make sure your laptop camera is at eye level, about three feet from your face – I put the computer on a stack of books and type on an external keyboard. 3. The background should be a neutral color, without overly "busy" visual patterns, and slightly darker than your face – virtual backgrounds are fine, but don't get too cute. 4. When participating, look directly into the camera, not at your image on the computer screen – only focus on your screen when others are talking. And finally, don't forget to smile! SURVIVING AND THRIVING IN THE NEW ONLINE WORLD Mario Juarez Business Mindset RO Mario Juarez is an organizational consultant, coach, and motivational speaker. He focuses on helping organizations and individuals achieve better business results through strategic storytelling. An award-winning former journalist, Mario led a series of innovative communications initiatives at Microsoft before founding his company, StoryCo, which serves clients across a range of industries.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Retail Observer - June 2020