There was a time when it was acceptable to hand-write business correspondence. You were almost certainly not alive at the time. It was early in the last century, before the typewriter became a mainstream business tool.
Once access to typewriters became common, the type-set business letter became the new professional standard, and before long people had a hard time believing it was ever OK to send professional correspondence that wasn’t typed.
I bring this up because there’s going to come a time, not long from now, when people will have a hard time believing it was ever OK to send most professional correspondence without using video.
And the smart company that wants to get ahead of the game should – and can – make video the standard right now. It’s the typewriter of this century, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s used for virtually everything.
By everything, I mean advertising, social media, internal communication, business proposals, customer meetings . . . there’s very little being communicated now for which video won’t eventually become the standard. There may still be a limited role for e-mail and texting, but even those will fade as people figure out how to optimize video for so many uses in which they used to rely on the written word.
The draw of video is not simply because the technology allows it, nor because the latest incarnations of the technology are so much easier to use and apply. Obviously when you couldn’t produce video without a professional camera and a studio, the average business wasn’t going to make extensive use of it. Clearly that’s changed today with every 12-year-old having a video camera on his or her mobile device.
But the real draw of video for business communication is in the way it enhances the interaction between people.
I’m sure you’ve heard that things like tone and context are often lost with e-mail and texting. The written word can convey literal meaning, but it often falls short in communicating feeling and expression.
By contrast, nonverbal communication is powerful, and with video you can give your counterparts every bit of it to augment your words and your tone. More than that, there’s a certain accountability that comes with video. You can actually see what’s going on in the other party’s room. You can see what they’re doing with their hands, whether their eyes are engaged, whether they’re picking their nose (because of course you wouldn’t, right?).
I did ABC comparisons of the results from my proposals using e-mail, phone and full video by zoom. By far my biggest win ratio came when I proposed by video. Obviously these are just my own personal experiences, but a lot of research confirms that humans send as many messages nonverbally as they do verbally. Seeing a person’s reactions and expressions, rather than merely reading them, gives you the full picture.
Communicating by video is also a way of telling your counterpart, “I trust you.” Why? Because you’re giving them the full picture of everything happening in your surroundings. You’re more authentic when you’re letting the other party see everything.
And when you’re dealing with a company that’s using video, you recognize that the company is investing the means to achieve higher-level communication. That communicates seriousness and capacity.
It’s astonishing to me that business communicators don’t use FaceTime more than they do. The vast majority of the American workforce uses Apple devices, and FaceTime is a robust, high-quality platform. Yet people still make the traditional phone call.
They won’t for long, though. They do it now because it’s learned behavior. As the video applications become more familiar and more user-friendly, people will realize they’re missing something crucial by not taking full advantage of such a powerful video tool.
Video is also getting easier to customize to your audience. Even the insertion of subtitles is now ridiculously easy thanks to services like Microsoft’s Stream, which transcribes and adds the titles on the fly for you, then makes it available to your entire staff.
So how do you take advantage of video’s growing importance today? The most important place to start is by making the use of video mandatory for all aspects of internal communication and external sales and marketing. You’ll need to train your staff extensively, since you can’t assume everyone knows the etiquette and so forth. But once you do, and you make it clear that video is mandatory whenever appropriate and possible, you’ll start to set your company apart from the field.
As humans, we are built for full-duplex, in-person communication. We did it that way for thousands of years before the written word – and then the telephone and finally e-mail and texting – started pushing it aside. It’s only been for about the past 100 years or so that full-duplex communication has seen its role lessened.
But the technology is coming full-circle, and we’re now able to use the newest technology to communicate in the way that comes most naturally to us. If you can’t sit across the table from someone, the next best thing is full-duplex video.
Plenty of companies are still resisting this. There’s no reason yours should be one of them, because the companies who get ahead of this are going to be winning. Why wouldn’t you want to get a head start on that?