In this current environment of sheltering in place and virtual meetings, everyone in the investment community is well aware of the challenges of not meeting with people face-to-face. It takes longer for personal connections to be created. There are fewer sidebars and casual interactions where we traditionally begin to feel comfortable with people. Non-verbal clues like body language and micro-expressions are more difficult to read. Individuals can much better manage their own image when on screen if they are savvy, and those who are less focused can ruin an ordinarily strong impression by having others in their meeting look up their nose from a low camera angle for 90 minutes.
Despite the challenges in building connections and evaluating people, there are advantages of digital interactions as well.
With permission, we record Zoom meetings. Why? First, it makes scheduling easier and if a meeting was excellent and I missed it, one of my partners can let me know that I should watch the zoom and I am quickly up to speed. Second, we can go back and re-watch certain answers or certain interactions. Sometimes one of our team members might sense a defensiveness from a CEO or a strange interaction between two start-up team members. Others might disagree or might not have seen it. We can go back and review it again. Or maybe we were less than happy with a CEOs answer for how they sustain culture as they scale their business. Again, an opportunity to review again. Last, we can use zoom recordings for our own teaching moments. Maybe I sense that the way my colleague asked a question put a CEO on the defensive. I can review this with him or her and discuss how else to have approached a topic. Our team can also review the impression we give, as a team, during a meeting to check posture, engagement, and connection to the conversation.
None of these opportunities exist in live meetings. Living in the world of Zoom may be getting tiresome and many of us look forward to returning to something like the “old normal” in terms of in-person meetings, yet we may never want to give up some of these benefits or having the chance to be like Rick in Casablanca and to say – “Play it again, Sam.”