As we adapt to the world of Zoom, Skype, Lifesize, WhatsApp video, BlueJeans and a myriad of other video conferencing services, what are the early learnings? How do we nail this new ‘normal’ in our professional lives and where do we look for inspiration?

It seems that there is a secret to being magnetic on screen. Something perhaps related to but separate from traditional charisma. Qualities which have fired film stars, TV personalities, sportspeople and since the noughties, social channel influencers into the spotlight.

In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe rose to stardom through her on-screen charm and ability to spark a reaction through the camera, resulting in a multitude of awards and her addition to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2010, PewDiePie released his first YouTube video and went on to become the first individual to reach 100m YouTube subscribers in the decade after.

Since 2013 the stars of Channel 4’s Gogglebox have recorded 15 series and are selected and rotated specifically for their ‘watchability’, regularly enjoyed by British television audiences of 3-4m for each episode.

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At a time when a significant proportion of the office-based workforce is adapting to remote working and as a result, video conferencing; perhaps now is the time that these screen presentation skills will rise to prominence in the professional arena.

With minimal reference to the circumstances that have gotten us here, these are the questions that I’ve been asking myself…from the more extreme to the practical.

Q: Are we at the start of a period in which business leaders could be entertainers first, and industry specialists second?

– It’s no big stretch to imagine the presentation style of the modern global business leader filtering down to teams as those conferences and staff addresses become increasingly streamed or captured for watching on-demand remotely and in great numbers. Creative arts training for the wider workforce?

– Politics has provided examples of this crossover in the US alone with the tradition set by actor and politician Ronald Reagan who took office in 1981, having since been ‘Trumped’ quite literally with the current reality TV star turned 45th President of the USA, Donald.

Q: What are the practical steps that teams and individuals can take to remain engaging and high energy without the benefit of face-to-face interaction?

– Techniques for building a rapport remotely can be adapted from what has previously been cited by the experts. Dale Carnegie’s classic How to win friends and influence people featured the memorable soundbite: “To be interesting, be interested.” In the world of conference calling, this is most obviously interpreted through the act of listening and not interrupting – an occupational hazard of using video tech, especially once screen freeze and lag is entered into the mix.

– Some of the most recognisable faces from the screen will literally switch on and off their act, returning to normality and often introversion when not ‘in character’. Perhaps a secret for any of us adapting to a stint in presenting in these times is to develop from your own natural self – dialling up energy and interaction periodically to help your viewer engage.

Q: Will there be a competitive advantage in training both staff and from an agency perspective, clients, in how to deliver their message over video conferencing?

– Almost definitely. Given the likelihood that learnings from this enforced isolation period will change the way that we work forever, remote working could be a prominent feature more than ever before.

– Whilst we’ve delivered media training (we call it Art of Engagement) for global brands from c-suite to sports stars and developed presentation skills with our team at all levels, we’re already putting in place a refined version of this with a focus on delivering a message through conferencing facilities. Interested? Feel free to DM me.

In a first full week of widespread remote working at The Playbook we’re already seeing how this has altered workflow and communication across our internal team meetings, client briefings, introductions and pitches.

Whilst we manage this change, I’ll certainly be tuning in to Channel 4 on Friday to pick up a few tips from the experts and harnessing my inner Gogglebox on future conference calls.

Thinking by Leigh Ireland