The Future of Face-To-Face Communications at Work
In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Rob Woodhead, who is the MD at Simply Better – a company responsible for organising events and experiences for many large organisations. Simply Better specialises in bringing people together, with the intention of better experiences, better engagement, and better results.
Rob has been MD for Simply Better since 2016, and, in this episode, he talks to Craig about how they’ve adjusted to new ways of communicating, and how he believes this will change the future of face-to-face communications at work.
The challenges of communication in business today
While the world has adjusted to communicating remotely, there are still a lot of challenges to overcome. Where previously ideas could be discussed ‘on the fly’ and teams could create ideas and solutions together in a working environment, conferences must now be scheduled, taking distractions and home life into consideration.
Engagement is now the ultimate challenge for organisations who are having to discover new ways for their teams to connect, with face-to-face communications now limited.
Recreating an engaging experience virtually
While there are many platforms available to bring teams together, their function is simply to provide a limited virtual connection. But is that connection engaging, or just ‘Zoom and gloom’?
“What we’re seeing now is people are wanting to connect with wider audiences and bring people together in a deeper, more meaningful way,” explains Rob.
Rob says that the most common mistake organisations are making is not laying the right foundations for an engaging experience. Instead, they head straight to a preferred platform and simply ask employees to ‘attend’. They accept the invite. Technically, they are present. Emotionally, they are absent.
To engage their employees, Rob explains that organisations should be asking themselves three key points:
- Objectives – What you’re trying to achieve and why you’re bringing people together.
- Measures – How the organisation measures its success and whether your objectives have been achieved.
- Gain – What is the result going to be to the business following a successful event?
The answers build the foundation for what an organisation should aim to create in a virtual yet successful and engaging experience and the future of face-to-face communications at work.
Time management and retaining attention virtually
With live conferences comes atmosphere. With an entire day in a purposeful location comes focus. With face-to-face communication comes energy. How can the same outcomes be achieved virtually?
Organisations must avoid burnout and lack of concentration from staring at screens for hours on end. Time management is key to ensuring people remain engaged, energised, and focused.
Rob recommends content to be split over a longer period. Where a live conference may have been covered in one to two days, a virtual one should operate over around three days, with a mix of live content and pre-recorded online content, and with 15- to 30-minute intervals.
With distractions at home making the biggest impact on an employee’s focus, content should also be available on demand to be viewed at a convenient time.
Utilising technology professionally for ultimate engagement
There is a lot more to technology than simply having conference calls. Technology can, in many ways, be used to enhance the virtual experience. Organisations should utilise technology to provide:
- Breakout rooms for table discussion
- Live polling
- Virtual green room (bringing speakers and event organisers together to present like a real event)
While all this sounds exciting, Rob emphasises the importance of providing a professional presentation in virtual events: “The way that business leads are engaging with colleagues around large events I think says a lot around the culture of the organisation and the importance of their people. Still adding that level of professionalism, still having a studio space where people are presenting from, kind of puts a little bit more pressure on business leaders to invest their time into planning and communicating – and making sure it’s delivered as it would be for a live event.”
An organisation, as part of its objectives, must ensure an event creates focus and seriousness from its employees and clients to invest in the company’s time, and doing this virtually should not – in fact, must not – result in a negative outcome.
The future for live events and getting people together – how will the world look?
While Rob believes that productivity is far greater among people working from home, he also insists we must stay connected. “Adoption of home working and flexible working is going to increase massively, and whilst productivity will be greater, I think so too will isolation,” he says.
Regardless of personality, human beings need to interact for their own wellbeing and mental health. Regardless of purpose, organisations need to connect for the health of their business. Their people need to interact to remain innovative and creative, focused and energised.
Following the pandemic, the need to get together is even greater. It will appear that remote working is here to stay – at least partially. Live connection will be limited, but there are many ways to enhance the virtual experience. However how an organisation executes this, with live face-to-face communication or virtually, will have a massive impact on the engagement of its people and the development of its future.
Rob sums up: “Events will only truly add value if they can change people’s behaviour, and therefore that is the key thing to demonstrate: what are people doing differently after this event, as a result of the event?” This is what every organisation should be working towards. The future is in their hands.
Rob’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robwoodhead/
Simply Better website: http://www.wearesimplybetter.com