By Thomas G. Vaccaro
As we near some type of post-COVID-19 re-emergence, what will the new norms be surrounding business meetings, meals and events? Throughout these months of Zoom meetings and socially-distanced small gatherings, we are seeing some predictive signs and trends that may give a glimpse into the business future, particularly when it comes to communication.
The end of email as we know it? If our recent experience with e-newsletters, sponsorship opportunities for a future event and other correspondence are indicators, we say “NO.” Email seems to be enjoying a moment, but the best “openings” we are seeing still depend on a subject line that draws. Best practices here, some of which is taken from our CRM provider, Salsa Labs, include advice that was relevant before the pandemic and may be even more so in the future. No cutesy, misleading or overpromising subject lines. Brief, to-the-point missives. And unless your product or service directly relates to the virus, don’t leverage it for commercial gain.
A phone call renaissance? Our organization never abandoned phone communication. As a national provider of affordable housing, we frequently connect with our three offices, donors, funders and our own network of onsite resident service coordinators via Microsoft Teams. And the omnipresent Zoom call! We see phone communication as more relevant, productive and welcome than ever. Further, we don’t predict that will subside when things go back to “normal.” These calls have become so important for creating, maintaining and furthering relationships that it is difficult to imagine a world where they don’t exist. Or even supplant face-to-face meetings for some time to come. No masks or sanitizing required, and hopefully everyone will have the etiquette perfected — unlike this recent SNL spoof on the calls.
A new way to network? According to a recent Forbes article, “Hundreds of sporting events, conferences and other events worldwide have been cancelled, postponed or transformed into “digital-only” affairs as coronavirus’ end and new regulations nationwide are still unknown. To date, more than 56 million attendees have been forced to change their plans.” With this in mind, a massive shift to online events is inevitable. Between webinars and other virtual conferences, most of us have already had some experience with this type of event — not always great — but our prediction is that the tech will catch up with the need, and we will soon have slickly produced networking and other events that will work harder for all attendees. Companies like Hopin and RuntheWorld are each promising to elevate the online event experience for producers and attendees alike. There are even predictions that “once people try the digital alternative, many will not want to go back to airless conference centers, hotel ballrooms packed with desperate salespeople or awkward ‘networking breaks.’” The jury is still out on that one, but we will have some data soon.
Internal communications slacking off? To the contrary, many businesses already extol the virtues of “team comms” such as the aforementioned Microsoft Teams, but we envision these services skyrocketing after the virus as more and more people remain working remotely. Other services demonstrating must-have mettle include Slack, which offers a full complement of day-to-day business communication tools. According to Gregory Sanchez, head of customer experience at American Exchange Group, “We use it for instant messaging, email, calendar synching, third-party communication, incorporation of Trello and sharing an appropriate GIF — during these trying times, a little humor can really brighten a day.”
And when we do finally “meet again?” The end of the handshake is certainly predicted, with many believing that Asia, with its socially distanced bowing, has always had the right idea. Americans are being encouraged to ditch hugs and handshakes and Europeans may have to give up their beloved two-cheek kiss (difficult with masks being the law of many lands), but is the awkward elbow or foot tap in our future? We’re keeping an eye out, and we know enterprising entrepreneurs are creating products to help keep us healthy as we contemplate convening for business again in healthy, productive ways.
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