In March 2020, our world shifted on a scale no one could comprehend. With the onset of a global pandemic, everyone: businesses, families, friends, doctor appointments, support groups, etc., had to quickly adapt to what many people considered foreign communication: the virtual meeting.
As human beings, we crave contact and connection, and community. The fear of isolation pushed society to quickly adapt, embrace, and accept our new virtual world. Zoom stock jumped from 331 dollars at the end of 2019 to $2,651 at the beginning of 2021. In February 2020, they had 10 million daily meeting participants, and by April 2020, their participants had increased to 300 million a day. This new lifestyle made the virtual world the only option for connection outside the home in many parts of the country and world.
With this new shift in connection and communication, we at Effective Presentations quickly saw that we needed to be part of this shift. As a leader in public speaking and communication, thousands of our clients consider us a lighthouse for moving forward in the virtual world. We began educating everyone, from individuals to small and large-scale businesses, on the virtual communication’s ins and outs. The Effective Presentations team delivered workshops morning, noon, and night trying to keep up with the demand. The world of virtual education was necessary and, at the time, was the only option. Weddings and funerals were being performed with hundreds of attendees. Companies from all over the world had large-scale summits. The world had to keep running and was only accessible virtually.
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Then the world shifted again. Virtual became not the only option but seemingly the most coinvent one. “Covid has changed our marketplace forever, and we’re now able to become more efficient. Remote communication now has opened opportunities to save money, time, gas, and energy.” Mike Fruciano, Founder and President of Effective Presentations, also stated, “There are many tools out there to use, but just because they are there doesn’t mean they should be overused.”
And with this second shift, the fight against the “return to normal” began. The change from forced isolation to the ease and convenience of the virtual world was in full effect. People started seeing the financial and lifestyle benefits that virtual technology afforded. Working remotely became not just a necessity but a luxury. The business model shifted brick-and-mortar companies, gave up their leases to save on costs, and instead invested in remote set-ups for their employees. Schools were dolling out the necessary Chrome books, and the precious snow day became a thing of the past. Though the virtual world was proving to be convenient to many, it began costing us considerably on a societal level. Without person-to-person contact, we lost the art of conversation and forgot the necessity of connection. It becomes easier to deflect to our phones or screens rather than brave the intimacy of direct eye contact and face-to-face conversation.
This trend continued, and the fear of connection grew as the world opened. Humans were becoming increasingly isolated as people began not connecting through screens but TO them. “I’ve realized that in-person conversation is difficult, so people avoid it by taking an easier route. Using their phone to refresh their email account, they never check.” Says Jordan Jones, EP Trainer. Through the end of 2022, the virtual workshop training trend continued at Effective Presentations, but collectively we all noticed a difference. The questions became – “how do I get my coworkers to even turn their camera on” and “It doesn’t matter HOW I present. No one is listening anyway….”
As communications experts, it was distressing to discover that the investment to connect as human beings was rapidly dissolving on a larger scale. Collectively there was little to no interest in interacting with co-workers, students, and teachers… even therapy can be delivered through text if one should choose. As a society, the pandemic was slowly robbing us of a base need, community. We are hardwired to be a part of a tribe, a community.
As the third winter of the pandemic loomed, with exhaustion, the whole world braced for the next wave wondering what it would bring. The tease of the last year only to be shut down at the end of 2021 was visceral for many. The world was tired, and it almost seemed easier to shut down ourselves. But then, miraculously… it didn’t.
At the beginning of 2022, Effective presentations couldn’t keep up with the demand for our virtual workshops, but then at the beginning of 2023, that demand did a 180. Our team of trainers at Effective Presentations is again flying around the country to meet the unprecedented demand for in-person workshops. Meanwhile, our virtual workshop requests have seen a drastic downturn.
As trainers, we are coming together in our weekly meeting, commenting on the comradery and curiosity our in-person workshop attendees are experiencing. There is a lightness and joy that is palpable in each training. Public speaking, for most, is terrifying. The support and encouragement these groups are affording each other are springing hope for the future. Breelyn Bowe, one of the head trainers at Effective Presentations, notes, “Each time I go on the road and train a group of people, whether they know each other from work or are all gathering for a random workshop in their city and are strangers, we all leave feeling so much more connected. It’s fulfilling to accomplish something personal while watching others do it too—in person!”
“There will always be a place for in-person meetings. Building rapport is important to the success of a project or meeting. Adopting a hybrid communications model is how businesses will function moving forward. The hybrid communication model is going to be our future.” Says Fruciano, the critical word being HYBRID. There are significant benefits to the virtual world, but relying heavily only on that for connection isn’t sustainable or healthy. We are overjoyed to witness this shift and are all in to help and support connection on any platform, but we truly believe it starts face to face.