At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, videoconference services like Zoom helped Austin Williams maintain a more personal connection with our colleagues and clients. Seeing someone on the screen was better than just talking on the phone, especially as we went into full lockdown and weeks apart turned into months.
Now that we’re back in the office (since July), videoconferencing has lost its initial appeal. Agency President Eva LaMere and CEO Rick Chiorando share their thoughts about putting people in the same room again.
Rick: While I think Zoom will be a permanent part of our agency moving forward, I like having prospects and clients into our physical office. I want them hearing phones ringing, seeing paper flying, people working together in collaboration. This place has a life and vitality. Zoom has eliminated the personality and chemistry that happens when you’re in the same room together. I’m hearing from more and more clients and prospects that they want to come to the office, because they know we have this amazing welcoming space, and that we can do it safely.
Eva: Our monthly growth meetings—where we talk about the health of our agency and share our ideas on how we get better—are usually filled with laughter and an exchange of ideas. Zoom has taken the spontaneity out of those meetings and made them more formal. Are they convenient and efficient? Sure. Are they fun? Not really.
Rick: There’s so much you lose when you’re just a head on a computer screen. There’s a vitality when everyone’s in the same room, bouncing ideas off each other and pushing the creative process further than what’s possible on a Zoom.
Eva: There’s also too much opportunity to be distracted on Zoom. Just being in front of the screen begs people to start multitasking: checking email, sending a text message, or even just stepping away for a minute. The worst is when we see people turn off their video and get the “initial screensaver.” That’s a function of the technology that makes it easy to disengage and we just don’t work that way.
Rick: We pride ourselves on perfecting our presentations to clients. We rehearse, we tighten our script. It’s like a theatrical performance and it’s fun. We make sure to wow the people we are working for and working to work for—and they’ve told us we do. Zoom lets all the air out of that balloon, you simply can’t make that emotional eye-contact, body-language connection.
Eva: We’ve won our share of presentations over Zoom and it’s helped our business stay healthy over the last several months. Still, there’s nothing like being in the room for that new business presentation and making a human connection, getting instant feedback through body language or just a look.
Rick: We’ve done a lot to make our office safe and we have a big space that makes people instantly feel more comfortable. When we’re scheduling meetings, I’m hearing more and more people say they prefer to visit the agency.
Eva: Zoom is great once we win the business and can add a level of personalization to the maintenance of the relationship. It brings us closer to our clients, especially when we are separated by long distances. And we’re absolutely using Zoom more for that. But still, nothing replaces being in the room with people.
Rick: And once clients have seen our space—all the light, the color, the enormous meeting spaces and breakout areas—they feel comfortable coming here. It’s a physical demonstration of our capabilities and competence and makes people want to work with us.