That’s the weird thing about the time we live in. The more we try to get robots to do the work of humans, the more we seem to want to get humans to do the work of robots.
And all this COVID Remote Working nonsense made it worse. Suddenly we’re all just avatars on the screen. Little more than talking heads (that is when we’re actually talking).
IRL we fail to notice all of the signaling that goes on around us; the colleague who always talks about the latest edition of HBR or the one who always has perfectly polished shoes. The Hermes tie, fancy cologne, or even the cool car that you see in the parking lot.
All of this is lost in a remote environment. Most of our ability to non-verbally signal is gone. No one can smell the expensive cologne, the fancy shoes are probably sitting in the closet, and unless your new tattoo (the mother of all signaling) is on your neck or above, even that won’t get noticed.
We have to think about the space we have, and the media that is available to us, to set the narrative and tell the stories we want to tell, to be seen as we wish to be seen.
Business Insider recently published an article on how to in a remote work environment:
1. Be engaged, even if your manager is leading.
2. Buddy up.
3. Over-communicate about your emotions.
4. Make it easier for others to read you with good lighting
The above is sensible, but objectively, none of that will really get you noticed. These feel like slight increments to ensure you don’t simply fade to grey.
The first law of being noticed is, you must have something to say; obvious, but not so obvious in a remote environment, where you may not even have much of a chance to talk. Even if you are in ‘listening mode’ you can still broadcast a point of view.
Two of Marshall McLuhan’s ideas seem to be relevant here. First, ‘The medium is the message’, a simple application is that we have a new medium, namely virtual meetings., so with that comes new ways to deliver messages. The other idea is simply that we make our environment, and then our environment makes us; what we place in our surroundings actually drives our behavior and how we experience the world.
The real estate available on Zoom calls offers the solution to being noticed. It literally and metaphorically surrounds you. Want to be noticed? You’ll need to use that real estate.
Purposely designed virtual backgrounds are the best, most efficient way to do it. But remember, the point is signaling. Different shoes for different events. A different tie depending upon the meeting. Do you drive the fancy car to the meeting with the buyer? Maybe not. Different signaling for different contexts. The key is to have a metaphorical closet full of possible choices.
That is the thinking behind our Virtual Background Site.
Thousands of people have figured out the power of being able to signal their thinking using the backgrounds. No, they’re not Rolex watches, but they’re very good at tweaking folk for the right reasons, they make great conversation starters, and conversations are what businesses are ultimately about.