The logic goes something like this. Business is built on relationships. Relationships are built on real human connections. Real human connections are built on meaningful face-to-face interactions and good communication.
For most of the time that humans have been doing business, meetings were held in person, people interacted in the usual ways, deals were done, and companies had success. We didn’t even have to give any of this much thought. Well, those days are over.
In a world where the majority of human interactions are taking place through the mediation of internet-connected devices, communicating well and making real human connections is far less straightforward. Professionals that want to continue to foster the connections that strengthen relationships, close deals, and grow a company need to be thinking about how they are going to adapt.
Whether strengthening your rapport with someone in your personal life, or in business, it’s essential that they see your face. Humans are inherently social creatures and we evolved as we did to infer nonverbal information from facial expressions, as well as to develop a sense of connection on that basis.
Given the importance of seeing someone’s face when you communicate with them, many of our most common modes of business communication are going to come up short. Sure, a phone call or an email can convey information and move the conversation forward – but don’t expect them to nurture a bond, bring people closer together, or create a more meaningful connection.
To build a strong team internally, where people really feel that they know each other, or to foster a strong external relationship with a customer or client, there has to be some face time.
In a world of remote work, distributed teams, and global business, getting some face time means using technology to simulate human interaction. These days, as we all already know, that means using video.
Synchronous video communication, such as video calls or conferencing, has become ubiquitous in business. Frankly, it has been a game changer, and introduced a great way to simulate a classic mode of conversation when people can’t meet in the same place.
On the pro side, video calls are great for simulating meetings, especially when everyone can get together at the same time. It’s as if everyone is in the same room where connections can be created and relationships formed and strengthened.
On the down side, everyone has to meet at the same time. As business gets spread out across time zones, and even countries, meeting in real time becomes more difficult to do. Synchronous video conferences also become more unworkable the larger the group becomes.
In addition, video calls can also drag on too long and, unless they’re being recorded, the information shared within them is generally lost. Even when they are recorded, they are generally so long that no one wants to revisit them to dig out the relevant points.
Lastly, if you don’t already have a relationship with someone, it can be a real challenge to get them to agree to meet with you on a video call. It’s kind of a big commitment, and time tends to be in short supply. Real-time video calls are generally not a good way to start a business relationship – they are more of a good way to build on one.
Synchronous video calls/conferences are an essential piece of business today, and an important replacement for in-person meetings, but they don’t entirely do the job of helping us keep our relationships intact.
The counterpart to synchronous video calls is asynchronous video communication (async video), which is essentially pre-recorded video messages and other content that is made available through shared links or by embedding a video.
The main benefit of asynchronous video communication is that you get the upside of face-first video content – intimacy, authenticity, clarity, personality – while avoiding the pitfalls of real-time video conversations. In this respect, async video is becoming a vital component of business as we continue to move toward remote work arrangements.
A major upside of async video is that people can watch it whenever it is most convenient and digest the information at their own pace. They can think about an issue before responding. They need not set aside a specific time to meet with you. And the information is recorded and available to be revisited whenever it is needed.
Async video messages are also a great way to begin a relationship, when there is no foundation of familiarity to start from. By putting a face to the message, a recipient is more likely to feel that they are communicating with a real person, rather than some anonymous avatar.
The drawbacks of async video relate mostly to the fact that people are not simultaneously engaged in a discussion, where ideas can be given and a back-and-forth can take place.
When we aren’t seeing our coworkers in the office every day, and when in-person business meetings are happening less frequently outside of the office, video communication tech has become a mainstay of modern business. The simple fact is that it helps us create, strengthen, and maintain our professional relationships when we aren’t able to see people in person.
With a complementary strategy of using synchronous and asynchronous video, businesses can keep face-to-face communication alive, while also providing for the greater level of flexibility that remote work demands.