Pivoting in a Pandemic
On January 27, shares in the online meeting platform Zoom were at about $70US. At the end of the day last Friday, Zoom closed at $150US. The pandemic and all the video meetings and chats have meant huge business for Zoom and its share price reflects that.
I have done a lot of thinking about the way business is going during the pandemic and what business will be like when we come out of it. Virtual, or online training, is clearly the way to go.
I've changed my business drastically in the last six weeks. Here's why and here's what I've done.
Doom and Gloom
On March 12, I was driving home from a speaking engagement just south of Edmonton and I had a pretty good idea that I wouldn’t be doing any training or speaking for a long time to come.
On that grey, snowy morning I had no idea how long the pandemic would last, but even then I knew my life had changed. The good news was, I had a great start to the year, so I could take a few weeks of low income. Many of the people I know in the speaking business had their entire spring wiped out and are now finding some of their fall events are cancelling too. I feel fortunate that most of my income comes from training, which involves smaller groups. I’m hoping my business gets back to normal sooner than waiting for large conferences to start up again. Who knows what will happen though?
The reality is, speaking at large events and conferences may have changed forever. Will people still meet in large groups? Will we go back to having conferences of hundreds or thousands of people that need speakers, or will more events be done virtually? I don’t have the answers and it seems nobody does.
Putting in the Work
I planned to spend the downtime working on my business to get prepared for the new normal. But what will the new normal be?
After a lot of thought, I decided to take my media training in a virtual direction and now offer media training for groups, both in-person and also virtually. I also offer online media coaching, which is media training for individuals. As a result, I can do media training in three ways and have the items listed in the Store section of my website.
I did my first virtual media training session last week for a client in Europe. The client told me they have a media training company they work with, but the company doesn’t offer online media training, so they found me and we had a great virtual training session. It made me realize I can provide media training for anyone in the world. The fundamentals are the same everywhere.
I then thought that there was no reason I couldn’t do media training for a larger group, like a Board of Directors or management team, so I added an option to do virtual media training for groups.
One other important change I made, is to advertise my prices for all three options on my website. I believe I’m the only media trainer in Canada to do this. Why force people to contact me to find out what the price is, or haggle over the price? Clients can even book the media training session then want and pay with a credit card. I’m trying to make the buying process as simple as possible.
In the last few weeks, I also added a section to my website where I answer people’s questions about media training.
My thanks to my website company Mediashaker, for putting up with me over the last few weeks as I’ve made a ton of changes.
Can We Talk?
The other big change I made was to add Communications Training options. For the last few years, I’ve been doing in-person workshops to help people become better communicators. In the last couple of weeks I realized there’s no reason I can’t do communication training virtually too.
I now offer in-person communication workshops and virtual communication training for groups, along with online communications coaching for individuals. This mirrors the three options I have for media training. The prices for all three options are also listed on my website and people can book the same way.
By the end of the month, I’ll have new video equipment to improve the customer experience for virtual training sessions. Two-thirds of my business offerings are now virtual, so I figured I had better step up the quality of my game. When I have everything set up in my new virtual training studio I’ll let you know and share some videos and photos from it.
In about a month and a half, I will have gone from three training and speaking options to six, set up a new training studio, written an e-book on communication, added a ton of videos and improvements to my website and did some online training, along with keeping up my weekly blog. I’m not bragging, but feel good about the changes I’ve made during the downtime.
It’s amazing what can be done when there are no live sports on TV.
It’s still nice to be in front of a group to train or speak, but it’s not necessary. People want information, they want it customized to them and their needs and they want to spend time to make themselves better. All that can be done virtually.
I expect business to remain slow for the next few months, as people have much bigger challenges to deal with, but in time, I expect offering more training virtually will pay off.
I do look forward to the day I can get in front of people again, but I think the pandemic has taught us all that we can meet, learn and share information virtually just as well.