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It's hard to believe we're one year into the pandemic—and if this past year has taught us anything, it's that you really can't predict the future. What we can do is reflect on the past year and the impact video conferencing solutions have had on nearly every facet of our lives. If one thing is certain, it's that the pandemic has supercharged the need for nearly every organization to take up more digital practices and processes. Our SVP and GM of International, Paul Scholey, shared his thoughts earlier this year on how he's seeing the industry shape up, based on conversations with customers and partners. Here are his three main takeaways:

Digital Transformation Gains New Urgency
Where digital transformation programs may have stalled out in the past, organizations are now stepping hard on the accelerator. Even though most companies built strong business cases for digital transformation, some didn’t feel a sense of urgency to move beyond the planning stages.

This past year made it clear which players were ‘swimming naked’ – to paraphrase Warren Buffet. The early digital innovators with robust UC systems proved so resilient they made a virtually overnight transition to remote working and virtual events. The rest scrambled to play catch up; not only to implement technology but to introduce new processes and adapt the culture. In that sense Covid-19 became the first ‘burning platform’ for Digital Transformation. This crisis year has injected real urgency into innovating for agility, flexibility, security and resilience.

As unified communication is key to flexible working, it will be a top priority in enterprises’ transformation programs. Fortunately, there is no longer any need to choose between flexibility and security. Smart companies will insist on both.

Internal Communications Is Becoming A More Sophisticated, Top Priority
With so many people working remotely, internal communications, once seen by many organizations as ‘nice to have’ (and given minimal resources), is becoming increasingly important for driving success in the hybrid and digital workplace. Everybody’s feeling burnt out from attending too many virtual meetings. Meeting burnout is definitely not a new issue, but it has become a heightened one. In the fall of 2019, we released Smart Meetings specifically to fend off meeting glut. It's clear that organizations need to fine-tune their meeting strategies. A lot of this is down to ‘virtual presenteeism’ as people feel added job insecurity and want to be seen to be involved and delivering value. Again, a similar phenomenon occurred with in-person meetings.
Organizations need to introduce a wider range of virtual meetings and events for employees. One notable casualty of remote working has been the office ‘watercooler moment’. Providers such as ourselves are offering more capabilities to let people spark quick, impromptu chats to address this. At the other end of the spectrum, we see organizations hosting more ‘town hall’ meetings to update employees on key events and answer questions.
By adapting to a range of formats beyond the standard meeting, organizations can communicate more effectively rather than more frequently. Smart meeting features like whiteboards and annotations, for example, are ideal for creative brainstorming sessions; personal meeting IDs are ideal for ‘watercooler moments’; and intelligent transcriptions that log written meeting highlights and action items support those people who can’t attend every meeting and want to avoid “FOMO”.
Virtual Events Will Endure And Be Judged On Their Own Merits
While virtual events will never replace the "live" in-person experience, they have brought many unexpected and unique benefits. What we need to do is stop comparing virtual events to live ones and start judging them more on their own considerable merits.
Video communications technologies have ‘democratized’ events in several important ways, including opening up events to more people from every corner of the world. With many organizations having tightened the purse strings on long-haul corporate travel, so-called ‘global’ events were attracting the majority of delegates from the host city or country. Salesforce, for example, attracted 80,000 live viewers to its first virtual ‘World Tour’ event in Sydney; the live event was only expecting to attract 15,000 attendees.
With many virtual events these days, everybody can be a VIP. This year, event participants have been able to take part in live discussions with renowned speakers from the bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell to the millennial YouTube and comedy sensation, Lilly Singh. Even more democratizing is the fact that many of these events are offered free to qualified, registered attendees.
Finally, virtual events provide accessibility to more introverted people who are shy about asking questions, contributing ideas and socializing at live events. One customer told me about their annual company meeting, which ran breakout ‘ideation’ sessions as part of this year’s virtual format. Surprisingly, she found that the quality and quantity of ideas had improved this year because some shier people with great ideas felt more comfortable contributing from their home offices or by asking questions in the chat annonymously.
As live events re-emerge in some geographies over the next few months, organizations will continue to run virtual events in order to continue to engage with people in more countries, more roles and more personality types. These events will increasingly be part of an integrated events strategy of live and virtual and assessed on their own merits.