For over 5 years, I have been hosting ‘house concerts’ where touring international musicians play a private gig in my flat to an audience of friends and friends of friends. The gigs are intimate affairs – both for the physical proximity, and because there can be lots of interaction. And sometimes there’s a level of connection between artist and audience such that at the end of the evening, everyone feels that something very special happened.
Then came COVID-19.
I had artists booked for this summer coming from Buenos Aires and the US who couldn’t travel. I took the gigs onto Zoom so they could still play to my audience and earn a living – but I was concerned: although the artists who come to play are very talented and engaging, would the audience connect with the music and artist via a screen?
Last night put all my concerns to rest. I hosted the amazing Joy Ike: playing live from Philly, her beautiful and uplifting music and the accompanying stories she told touched the audience, cutting right through the medium. Everyone told me afterwards that they really felt Joy’s authenticity and were moved by the gig.
At Rapid Innovation, when COVID-19 hit we worried a lot about how having to work only via videoconference would affect us – how we’d be able to build rapport with people we didn’t know, whether we’d be able to win new business. We only saw what we didn’t have in the new medium – limited body language, no ability to change the energy in a meeting, for example by getting up and writing on one of our trusty white walls.
Yet we’ve been able to win two new clients with whom we’ve only ever interacted via Zoom. We did not expect that. Why might that have been the case?
Functionally, it may be because only one person can speak at a time, video calls mean we spend more time listening. This gives the other side plenty of time to speak and be heard, and gives us more time to think about how to respond.
Or because you can still see people’s change in expression and energy through the medium.
But most importantly, perhaps some of the things that we thought helped us achieve successful meeting outcomes are less critical than we thought. Maybe it’s that how you listen, how you prepare, and what and how you share about what you know, can be enough to communicate your integrity and professionalism, and on a good day that cuts through the medium just fine.