Surviving In A Virtual World

What seemed novel and interesting in late Spring/early Summer with our pivot into an all virtual events platform, now seems like a lifetime ago. Seemingly overnight, EVERYONE discovered virtual tools and platforms (there are literally hundreds out there) and decided to share ideas, promote their products/services, network and connect using these virtual mediums. And the result? An absolute tsunami of content — webinars, live talks, virtual conferences, daily meetings and much more. And to be honest, so much of it is not even effective or necessary and only being produced for the sake of “checking the virtual box.” We are all drowning in a sea of daily virtual connections and content.

I don’t want to sound like someone who is threatened by the competition (I honestly think that competition forces companies to get better and personally, I consume a lot of content that my peers produce), but there is a law of diminished return for everyone that is trying to market themselves, educate themselves and connect with others in a virtual environment. Yes, there are of course many great examples of professionals using these tools in the right manner. But that’s not the point of this blog. It’s about how we are all contributing to what feels like a collective virtual meltdown of our brains!

Think about it. In this WFA/WFH world most of us are living in, who has the time to be online for Zoom calls, webinars, live chats, etc. while they are being distracted with nonstop work meetings, barking dogs, kids and so much more?  And all of this noise is happening in a really tough economy that requires an absolute focus on making tough business decisions all day and night. Literally everyone I talk to tells me they are working harder and longer hours than ever before but feels less productive than ever before.  There is no doubt that all of these distractions and a chaotic workplace environment are creating all sorts of new stresses that most of us have never experienced before.

Leading one of the largest conference companies in the world of real estate tech, I am immersed in the virtual world all day and night. Not only as my main product/service as a company, but also as a professional on the other side of a seemingly endless array of Zoom meeting requests. So in the spirit of always trying to share what I have learned in my own experiences, here are some suggestions and observations about working, connecting and promoting in a virtual world. I hope it helps you and your colleagues think about how you can be more successful in drowning out the noise and becoming more productive, purposeful and effective in this entirely new world we are all being challenged to navigate.

  1. There is entirely too much Zooming. Why does every single call need to be on video? It clearly zaps your energy, especially if you are on them all day. I also find it to be ineffective when most of the time people are talking over each other and forgetting to mute. What could simply be done on a call or an email, should just be done that way. For me, I take most of my calls during set periods of time during the day when I can get outside and walk. It’s been a wonderful way to eliminate stress and also get in some light exercise. JUST SAY NO TO ZOOM!
  2. Don't do a webinar… unless you know that it’s A) unique B) your audience has never heard the content before or C) your speakers haven’t become oversaturated in the market. Think new. Think different. Too much “sameness” out there is creating more noise and people are tuning out.
  3. Try new platforms. There are SOOOO many cool and interesting ways to connect with people virtually. Just because you can do a Zoom webinar, doesn't mean you should. If you need some ideas on which ones are cool, interesting and new, I am happy to help.
  4. Think out of the box. If the content world is oversaturated, do something different. One example is CREtech organizing a “speed networking” event for real estate and tech professionals on October 21-23. Again, we never tried it but we spoke to enough of our audience members and gathered enough feedback to determine there is a market for this. No content, just AI powered networking. 
  5. Try other mediums. I am a huge podcast fan. I listen to so many that I love on topics like politics, music, the arts, meditation and business. And there aren't enough focused on our industry, so give it a try. One of my fave new ones is The Propcast with Louisa Dickens. Other mediums still present good options such as blogging, white papers, etc.  Perhaps “old school is new school,” in this case.
  6. Go small. One of the things I quickly discovered when the entire world got ZOOMED was that exclusivity and connected conversations got lost and drowned out. Don't be lured into thinking that big numbers are the holy grail, it’s really more about quality than quantity. So do small, intimate, closed round tables. I am part of several with my friends at EY and others and they are tremendous and feel much more substantive.
  7. Do less, not more. At CREtech, we have made a conscious decision to program less events and we are adamant about our internal mantra of “unless we have something really unique to say, don't say it!”
  8. Embrace other digital communications tools like Slack, RYVER and many more!
  9. Newsletters are increasingly popular (if you don't know Axios, you need to!) and you can really help you customers/clients by summarizing much of what you want to put out in a weekly wrap up. Good examples are also The Real Deal’s Sunday real estate tech newsletter which I always love or our very own Advisor Ashkan Zandieh’s weekly PropTech Funding wrap up.
  10. Embrace the aggregators like Infabode (our partner) who do a phenomenal job of aggregating great real estate content from around the world. The popularity, for instance, of Apple News is more validation that aggregation is a service that is here to stay.
  11. Workshops are old school and now new school. I remember when I was first entering the workplace, company workshops were all the rage.  Companies big and small would host these incredibly focused, invite only sessions, usually only for senior executives and targeted focus groups. We are actually planning several for clients at CREtech Consulting as companies want us to organize workshops with world-class thought leaders on specific subjects in order to help spur some creativity and fresh thinking at their companies.

Of course, we have been living in a digital world for a while now and there is no going back. As someone who is focused exclusively on technology and innovation, I am tremendously excited about how the business world is embracing virtual technologies, seemingly overnight!  But at the same time, too much of a good thing is never a good thing and all of this virtual activity and content is making our lives even more stressful. Survey after survey is supporting this. And so, I sincerely hope that some of these ideas/suggestions from someone who is on the front lines of the virtual event and networking business will help you eliminate some of the clutter in your own workplace.

Love to hear your thoughts on what is working for you and what is not.


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