At the beginning of the pandemic, I was laser-focused ensuring the health and safety of my briefing team. Our team is no stranger to remote working and conducting virtual briefing experiences – we’ve been doing this for years – but this time it was different.

Prior to 2020, virtual experiences were used as an accent to provide focused, bite-sized demonstrations to our customers who may not be able to visit us in-person. It was never a core part of our briefing program strategy. When the shutdown and shelter-in-place orders came to bear, that all had to change.

There was so much we didn’t know about how things were going to unfold at that time. How could we re-create a virtual experience from a person’s home? Would it be professional enough? What would happen if our home internet couldn’t support video? What do we do when our kids inevitably walked into frame? The answers: simplicity and flexibility.

My amazingly creative team rallied as we moved our workstations into bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens around the world, all the while keeping our focus on how we would continue to showcase Poly’s ease of use. “Simplicity and flexibility” became our team mantra. When I wrote the blog about briefing demonstrations from home in April, I thought, “This is temporary – we’ll be back in the office any day now.” That was almost nine months ago.

However, it hasn’t been all bad. As we opened the virtual door for customers to join us in our homes by video, we were taken aback and relieved by how much they loved the virtual experience. Words like “honest,” “refreshing,” and “surprisingly effective” were sent to us email after email. Additionally, we found that there is no better place to demo our work from home technology than from our homes!

Recently, some of my briefers have started hybrid working – returning to the office (alone) so they can host virtual experiences in a formal office setting. As the stay-at-home ordinances fluctuate, my team has embraced flexibility as they seamlessly bounce back to their home set-ups as needed – inherently demonstrating the flexibility and agility of our products.

Before 2020, our program was focused by ‘theater’ (aka geographical location). The silver lining of shifting from a theater-based program to one that is focused on providing a robust virtual experience has been that now we can meet with and provide services to more people – folks who hadn’t used our services previously due to their distance from a briefing center began booking us for virtual briefings. So, in the end, we’ve been able to help more companies and individuals find a bit of stability in the way they work amidst all the chaos. It continues to bring us joy to interact with colleagues and customers we’d never have had the chance to meet with before.

So, you can see this year has been a wild ride with ups and downs, but I believe it has created momentum and prepared us (and the briefing program industry as a whole) to be even more flexible in the years to come.

Here are my top predictions that will help briefing teams and their guests strategize for success in 2021 and beyond. 

1. The need for customer briefings will increase.

Eventually, workers will return to the office and they’ll be looking for guidance on how to make it easier for office-based workers to easily collaborate with colleagues and external parties who are still working remotely. Our briefing program is in a unique position to help customers see the possibilities, as we’ve set up dozens of demonstrations across multiple platforms that show how people can work more flexibly and be more productive with enterprise-grade products and solutions.

2. Virtual briefings are here to stay – and so are full Experience Centers.

There is a need for both formats, today and in the future. Does the customer need a quick and short demonstration? Then it makes sense to host a virtual briefing. But when it’s time for executive teams to talk strategy and full solutions, it is best to conduct a full experience tour in-person.

3. In-person briefings will take more time – and that’s a good thing.

The trend we’re seeing is that as more customers take the time to travel for briefing demonstrations (when possible), the duration of those briefings is extending. Prior to 2020, in-person briefings ranged from an hour to a full day. Now, nearly all of them are in the 4+ hour range. Why? Traveling to in-person meetings, even local travel, takes more planning and sometimes more resources, so customers are mindful about extracting the full value of their in-person interactions. The conversations are deeper, and the attention is more rapt.

4. Empathy-led briefings for deep customer understanding.

It took a year like 2020 for many companies to see the value in empathy-driven services. I see it as yet another silver lining, as it has shone a light on an opportunity for all of us to spend more time walking in each other’s shoes. Next year, and for many years to come, we’ll see more companies doubling down on creating briefing tours that are less show and tell’ and much more ‘experience with.’ This trend may have been discussed in the past, but it has become the standard in a short period of time.

At Poly, our consultative empathy-led conversations often evolve around employee workstyle personas and preferences, so that our customers can plan for better deployments and see higher technology adoption rates. We’re rolling out some fresh persona research findings early next year – stay tuned for more.

As more briefing programs embrace virtual formats and lead with empathy, we’ll all be better equipped to navigate a new world together in 2021 and beyond. I look forward to seeing you, whether on video or in-person. For more information or to schedule your own personalized demonstration today, contact your Poly Account Manager or Partner.

Renée Niebylski is a leadership representative with the Association of Briefing Program Managers and the Director of Poly’s Global Experience Program.