Well it’s a few months into the ‘Isolation age’ and we’ve all probably learnt a lot about ourselves. Personally I’ve learnt that as much as I like my friends, I prefer to be at home with the family on Saturday nights, watching Netflix. I’ve learnt that this is the golden age for dogs. Pebbles the Schnoodle has never been happier. And I’ve learnt that I love Gin & Tonics even more than I thought.
And despite not attending a live conference for 3 months, I have actually learnt a lot more (as we all have) about online conferencing. I’ve been doing webinars and online presenting for many years, but never as much as this new normal has dictated. It is, as they say, a new world.
One of the main things I’ve observed (from both a presentation skills and a leadership perspective) is that the best leaders have embraced the opportunities that ‘presenting from home’ offers. For the first time ever, we have been able to observe our teams and leaders in a totally authentic environment – at home, in their lounge rooms, in ‘normal’ clothes, often with their partners, children or pets milling around. It’s also been interesting for example to see celebrities, in their natural environments, without make-up, casually dressed, just being what they always were (but we really saw) – ‘normal’ people.
Some US talk show hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert (normally appearing from fairly contrived, glossy, studio environments) have embraced this ‘at home’ authenticity – with their rough ‘at home’ episodes – and have actually increased their engagement with their audiences by finally appearing as the ‘normal’ people they are. Seeing famous people dressed casually at home surrounded by their kids, is in many ways the great leveller.
Same with our bosses and work colleagues.
On Zoom calls we’ve observed each other’s bookshelves, kitchen benchtops, backyards and paintings on the wall. And the combined effect, judging by the many conversations I’ve had with clients and colleagues, is that it has only made these people more authentic, more engaging, more human.
I’ve heard it called “The Jacinda Effect” (I loved the Covid-update / State of the Nation address the PM gave from home in her hoodie and ugg boots) – the ability (that very few politicians have, NZ’s PM Jacinda Ardern being an exception) to be simultaneously professional and authentic, vulnerable and totally real. And I’ve always felt that the best conference presenters are those who appear totally authentic, often a little raw and rough around the edges, comfortable with their flaws and the occasional mistake. And this new presenting ‘at home’ age, has only strengthened my opinion.
So in the future, let’s remember our isolation observations – and whether you pitch or present from a board room table, in a client’s office, on a conference stage or from your living room sofa – ditch the bland, vanilla, overly formal ‘corporate vibe’ and just be yourself, throw in a relevant story about your kids or life outside of work – show your real personality and just own being ‘at home’.
This article first appeared in the June edition of Business Events News (BEN).