The one thing people have consistently asked during quarantine is: “How has work been different?”
So I have two answers, one positive and one that’s proven to be a bit more challenging.
- On the positive side, as of Monday, August 13th, I haven’t worn a pair of pants for 153 consecutive days.
Shorts, sweatpants, track pants? Absolutely. Jeans, khakis, dress pants? Um, what? I may not have the looks or teleprompter skills of a news anchor, but I’ve nailed the outfit.
- The other thing I tell people that’s fundamentally different is actually one of the most important things we do: presenting our work.
That, has changed drastically.
Here’s the thing: I like standing in front of people (yes, in pants), connecting, seeing faces, gauging reactions.
I like being able to set up the room with props and boards.
I like having a back and forth dialogue and looking people in the eye.
More importantly, I like showcasing our people and letting them share what they’ve done. I’m proud of what we do, and I love to see our team in front of our partners doing their thing.
Unfortunately, nobody is in front of anybody these days.
Presentations are now all about me staring at that green dot on my computer, hoping there are no audio issues and everyone is able to log on properly. Then it’s about passing the call to someone, who can—fingers crossed—share their screen.
God forbid we have to show any video because it’s extremely challenging to share video without audio lag and frame-skipping. A few weeks ago, I actually had a presentation with a company in California who deals with the film industry thinking, “They must be better at this than Zoom or Teams—they deal with the movies,” and the guy who made the presentation was so pixilated I thought he was in the Witness Protection Program.
So yeah, no.
Yes, there’s a lot that can go wrong on these calls. Fortunately, our issues have been minimal.
Nevertheless, we’ve gotten better.
A couple of things we’re doing that you might want to think about when you’re making presentations, creative or otherwise:
- Make sure more than one person on the call has the presentation. You never know when someone has trouble logging on, WiFi goes down, or the three-year old son of the person leading the presentation thinks now would be a good time to throw a spoon at his brother. Have a back-up plan.
- Make your presentation decks more explanatory. Less talking is probably better, so there’s less talking over each other. For us, we’ve added more slides so it’s very obvious what’s coming next. We’ve built every presentation with the mindset of “if someone had to share this without us on the call, would it stand on its own?”
- Make it very clear who’s doing which slides. Keep transitions smooth. Have someone send an email in advance of the presentation saying something like, “Kevin: slides 1-8. Alex: 9-12. Lane: you’re eye candy.”
- Zoom hack: if you have any set-up comments to your slides, put them on a sticky note near your computer camera. Guess what? No one can see them other than you. That way, you’re not looking down, and it’s as close to having a natural conversation as you’re going to get.
Yes, all of this helps. But in the end, it’s still hard. It’s hard to gauge people’s reactions. It hard to have that innate chemistry with your team that you organically have when you’re in the same room. There can be a lot of subtlety and nuance which happens over the course of meeting that’s impossible on a video call when you have ten people in ten locations.
I yearn for the day when we can stand in the same place and present face-to-face again. An actual live, in-person meeting.
Masked or otherwise, I’ll take it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go iron my pajama pants. I have a call.