What if Zoom Isn't Enough?

How to create a Hybrid Client Experience

Someday, we’ll look back at March 2020 as the launch of the virtual snowball. Rolling down hill, gathering speed, it snatched away our hugs and handshakes. Entrepreneurs across America sent their teams home, activated their Zoom accounts and converted their phone systems to VOIPs. Seemingly overnight, the virtual workplace became mainstream, no longer the domain of the eccentric or the lease-less few. As entrepreneurs do, we quickly rose to the challenge.

Yet what if Zoom isn’t enough?

So many layers of our face-to-face interactions are kinetic. These experiences are absorbed somatically. Our bodies store them up chipmunk -style creating a reserve bank that sustains us when we’re not in the same room with our favorite people.

We all feel flat-screen-fatigue. Beyond the obvious void of physical presence, how is this unique fatigue impacting our relationships, and what can we do to mitigate it?

Video connections attempt to replace this three-dimensional load up with a one-dimensional experience. It’s akin to feeding carb-free pasta to a team of triathletes. Our reserves have become depleted and we don’t have a way to fuel up.

Even if you’re back-to-work in your office, reduced face-to-face interaction will be with us for a while. Instead of trying to band-aid the void, why not look to improve upon on our previous norms? When human beings spend time together a large percentage of our connection is non-verbal. We pass in the hallways and nod with a smile so as not to interrupt a conversation.

We participate in meetings with our positivity or curiosity, not always our words. When we meet with the same clients and colleagues regularly, and work with the same team members consistently, our collective non-verbal cues bind our cultural glue.

Creating a Hybrid Client Experience

At a time when many are acquiescing to technology as the totality of available solutions, we can bring leadership to our clients and companies by intentionally creating a hybrid relational experience. We can prioritize the development of multi-sensory experiences and bring three-dimensional elements into our flat-screen focus.

Replicate Rituals

When clients come to the office, we have their favorite drinks and snack at-the-ready. Your team greets them in the lobby and remembers their preferences. With centers of influence and team members, we connect and network over meals and cocktails. There’s a sense of community around remembering Sally Smith’s favorite tea or sharing a meal at a common table. Consider replicating these rituals by sending care packages to clients. Include their favorite beverages along with branded mugs or water bottles. Have a team member log-into Zoom calls five minutes early for the small talk catch-up they’d usually have with a client in your lobby. Remember that clients have a sense of exhale during those two minutes they spend in your foyer. Replicate their pre- and post-meeting transitions with intentionality.

While experimenting with this concept, we found that sharing a common dining experience creates a resonant connection. Why not reach out to a local chef or caterer whose business could use a boost? Invite them to be a guest chef, delivering the same catered lunch to your client’s home and your office. Consider creating a branded bistro menu with a selection of boxed lunches from which all attendees make their choices.

You can also create a three- dimensional background by printing branded art on wrapped canvas, wood or metal (see Printique.com or gallerydirect.com). If you can’t hang the art in a fixed location, place it on an easel you can move at the end of the day.

Model Elegance

When our Zoom world went viral, we all deemed it temporary. Longevity offers an opportunity to make your Virtual Office Brand Experience more elegant than most. Consider the aesthetic value of what’s happening behind your head and what it offers the viewer. Conduct a review of your team members’ backgrounds.

Depending on whether you have a fixed environment such as a dedicated home office, or a variable environment in which you have to put things away at the end of the day, there are a variety of solutions. Our client, Anne Trinh of Family Wealth Counseling in Torrance, California purchased a Green Screen that attaches to her chair (see https://theweba- round.com/product/the-big-shot). We partnered with a graphic designer to create an elegant back- ground with her logo and color palette.

Invest in Interactivity

Stimulating the sense of touch through interactive experiences gets us closer to the kinesthetic influences of face-to-face interaction. Consider a mnemonic device that’s representative of your work style. For our client, Strazzeri Mancini in San Diego, we etched the word Curiosity on river rocks and placed them in beautiful bowls on their endless marble slab of a conference table. In today’s world, they mail them to clients in a small, branded package so that all participants can hold them up in solidarity, remembering one of the firm’s core values, “We own Curiosity as our first reaction.” For others, we’ve created question decks or interactive thinking tools.

Craft your own simple small-talk questions and print them on cards (see moo.com as an inexpensive, quality printing resource). Send a set to your favorite clients or colleagues and pull a card at the start of your meetings.

Sample Question Deck

What are you unusually grateful for this week?

Share something that made you laugh or smile in the past three days.

Who do you feel compassion for and how can you help?

Who do you miss right now and what can you do to connect with them?

Share a fresh perspective you've arrived at in the past few weeks.

Meet Anyway

In this transition to a virtual workplace, many organizations find themselves on a slippery slope: the majority of scheduled meetings are topic-driven. Plenty of firms are scheduling virtual happy hours however there’s more we can do to replicate water cooler connections. Consider sending Starbuck’s cards to your team. Encourage them to venture out for a special coffee to-go and come back to a fifteen-minute call with a fellow team member. Give grocery store gift certificates to your team and encourage virtual barbeques. Have a virtual glass of wine or dining experience with your business partner or key lieutenants just because, in a normal world, you would anyway.

Let Distance Be Our Teacher

In this unusual time for entrepreneurship, we have an opportunity to discover communication influences and dynamics that might not otherwise reveal themselves. We can let distance be our teacher, increasing our awareness around the kinesthetic influences that are present or missing.

Ask more questions of those who find comfort in listening over participating. Broaden the sensory stimulus in your client experience. Use this time to harvest your awareness so that when we reconvene, we’ve prevailed and come out thriving.

As always, please reach out with comments or questions regarding this or other brand development and brand coaching topics.