As we continue to struggle worldwide with the pandemic, I try to keep my eyes open for what is changing in the industry and how we can react to it. I think both about temporary opportunities that we should be working on to keep our businesses afloat and permanent change(s) that will outlive our experiences with the virus.
I don’t think anyone can fully predict what things will look like in five or ten years. This is an every-one-hundred-year event, and the workplaces and experiences of 2020 can not be thoroughly compared to those of 1918. So, we need to look at what has worked and what has just “gotten us by.” We know for many people, working at home has been surprisingly successful. We also know that it has been a struggle for others, often due to the myriad of additional burdens experienced during this time.
We are all starting to learn that the workplace of the future has changed, and one way will be the concept of work-from-anywhere. Workplaces will take on the HyFlex model that educational institutions have become used to. I have written about HyFlex in previous blogs, but in a nutshell, it defines an environment where it does not matter where participants are. They may be home, they may be on vacation or they may be sitting in an office. The “environment” is created so that all are fully engaged and ready to participate. If we follow the belief that this model will work, it provides a situation where videoconferencing is ubiquitous in meetings. This finally brings me to one of the opportunities this presents: the home studio.
Many of our workers won’t need this type of environment. I don’t need great lighting when sitting in my home office talking to co-workers. But what about people doing sales pitches, or executives of companies that are meeting with their boards or giving updates to their organizations? For months they have gotten away with lousy setups because, frankly, everyone has a lousy setup. But as we move further into the pandemic and remote becomes more commonplace in the new environments, these customers of ours will be less and less willing to have poor setups. They will want to look professional.
What are some of the things we have all seen that don’t always look the best? How about ring lights? When people turn them on while wearing glasses, the light reflected in the glasses creates a horrible glare. What about those who have a lamp on one side of their face while the other side is in the shadows (this is me)? Bad audio is the worst possible situation. If you can not hear someone, then there is absolutely no point in meeting with them. But how many of our customers really want to continue to use earbuds or headsets when they meet? How about the external sounds like dogs barking and televisions running. We all love the virtual backgrounds that applications like Zoom allow us to use (especially since we don’t need green screens), but they are not perfect and have many distracting artifacts. (Hey Joe, why is the side of your head missing?)
So, there is the problem, and hence the opportunity. What packages are you offering for high-quality home and office studios? These are discerning, busy customers who don’t have time or interest in playing around with technology. So, they have to walk into the space, and it just needs to work. This is, actually, a great integration opportunity. These spaces would need lights, microphones, cameras, proper acoustic treatment and listening devices (in-ear monitors?) that just work and work all the time.
So, the lights, cameras and microphones can not be on the floor on tripods. They need to be on the walls, permanently mounted. Perhaps, the person will want to have multiple locations where they may choose to be, a formal desk, a casual desk or maybe a lectern. They won’t want to have to move all the equipment around to go from one to another. The challenge would be to make a rather complicated system straightforward to use (isn’t that what integration actually is). The customer would simply walk in the room, press a button that says “podium” or “desk,” and everything for that setup comes on.
Now that we have reached a point in this crisis where we understand how to keep ourselves and our customers safe when working in their spaces, it is good to start selling these types of studios. While supply may still be an issue, the cost should not be. Ten years ago, a studio like this would possibly have cost $100,000. Today, depending on the equipment used, a decent studio could cost as little as $5-10,000. For organizations that are not spending money on travel, their video presence becomes a lot more critical, and the willingness to invest in it increases dramatically. Good luck!