Zoom Virtual Backgrounds

Zoom virtual backgrounds are a handy way to hide an office mess, but there aren’t many preset options so I’ve created a set of backgrounds that can transport you to Paris, Portugal or Death Valley while you teleconference. They’re free to download and use as virtual backgrounds on Zoom, but may not be resold or used for commercial purposes. Enjoy the virtual travels.

Champs-Élysées, Paris (1920×1280)
Algarve, Portugal (1920×1280)
Death Valley (1920×1280)
Portugal (1920×1280)
Le Printemps rooftop, Paris (1920×1080)

An Introvert’s Brief Guide to Remote Meetings

A few tips from an introverted marketer about moving meetings online:

Don’t make technology the obstacle. Pick the right platform (Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.) for the purpose and become familiar with it. Trust me, no one is happy when they’re forced to sit by while the meeting organizer sorts out technical problems. Likewise, participants should respect everyone’s time by having their conference software and audio/video ready to go when the meeting starts.

Own your meetings. Organizers, you’re responsible for insuring that meetings are needed and have a purpose, and that you’re clear about the required outcomes. If that clarity isn’t there, maybe you don’t need a meeting.

Maximize social cues. Voice only calls should start with introductions, and a reminder to share names when speaking. Video is even better, and it’s helpful to ask meeting participants in advance to use video. Even with the best meeting management, there are going to be awkward silences and people trying to speak over one another. Roll with it, but if it becomes problematic, the organizer is the referee.

Skip the icebreakers. They’re well-intentioned, but they make many of us introverts uncomfortable. Stick to standard introductions: Who, role, and what they need to get from the meeting.

Facilitate! Freeform discussions in a remote setting are a recipe for disaster. Have a plan for guiding the meeting, keeping it on track, and seeking the input of every participant. This introvert will often quietly process what I hear; that doesn’t mean I have nothing to share or want others in the meeting to speak for me.

How you follow up matters. Capture meeting notes and action items in a shared environment, like Slack or Teams, and focus attendants’ attention there for taking next steps. Unless the action items are simple, avoid email for capturing and reporting them.

Embrace the awkwardness. Remember this guy? Remote meetings can include awkward moments. We’re all human, and those moments of humor and humanity connect us. It’s a fearful time for some, and those connections are exactly what they need.

Observations About Recent Engagements

Strategic consulting entails not being able to talk about what I discuss with clients, or sometimes who they are. Without spilling those details, I’ll offer four observations from recent consulting engagements.

The do-more-with-less fallacy has created a purely tactical focus that many smart people find hard to escape. A recent set of meetings brought me together a strong team to discuss fundamental strategic questions about their work. In retrospect, the first hour we were together would have been best spent outlining in tangible way, the difference between strategy and tactics. The meeting sponsor and I assumed, because this was a smart, talented, successful group, that this would be understood. It wasn’t until a few hours into the meeting, as we kept pushing the group away from tactical discussions, that we understood the need to make a clear distinction between strategy and tactics. When tactics are all you have time to do, changing your mindset is a challenge. This group was able to do that, and made tangible gains into helping identify key strategic gaps.

“Do more with less” is still stalking too many offices. I’ve heard several variations of this lately. It doesn’t improve performance. It’s a recipe for burnout and driving away talented people.

Many businesses still operate without a clear understanding of the lifetime value of a customer. That’s a number every business can use to inform marketing decisions, but it’s seldom known.

Data matters, but an obsession with it can lead down some unproductive paths. There are some campaigns where the scale doesn’t justify comprehensive measurement, particularly when those leads or customers aren’t integrated into a nurture campaign. Never spend dollars to count pennies.

Video for JDRF Ride to Cure

Earlier this year I was asked to collaborate on a video with JDRF that answers the question, Who is the type to ride and fundraise for a cure for type one diabetes? My role was director and photographer for a shoot that took place over a couple of days. The organization’s marketing department provided a script and editing.

Website for Morbern

Morbern.com has been an evolving project, for all the right reasons. We launched a new brand site for this Canada-based commercial vinyl manufacturer that incorporates online sample ordering while simplifying the staff’s management of more than 800 SKUs.

In collaboration with Morbern’s team and other marketing partners, we continually listen for opportunities to improve the user experience, and have added numerous site updates including a product finder application, sales representative search, and integration with a third-party fulfillment system to improve the speed and quality of sample deliveries.

Video for ESR Entrepreneurial Ministry Program

Seminaries continually explore how to remain relevant at a time when interest in some traditional religious institutions is declining. Earlham School of Religion introduced a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Ministry. The program guides and supports ministers who perform ministry in non-traditional contexts. As the program reached the end of its first year, I had an opportunity to interview members of the class about their experiences.

Exclusion is a strategy

Pity the finance bros who want to rock “power vests.” The supply chain has dried up after the news dropped softly and without fanfare that Patagonia is no longer interested in selling co-branded apparel to corporate accounts in industries that aren’t aligned with their mission. Instead, they want to focus on selling to B Corporations or businesses that focus on community or the environment. The stance is on-brand for Patagonia, which is overtly political and includes this statement in its mission: “We’re in business to save our home planet.”

Organizations spend a lot of time defining who their customers are, but as I pointed out in a workshop I taught a couple of weeks ago, exclusion is a powerful strategy that can’t be overlooked. Every brand should understand who isn’t a fit for them, and who will never buy their products and services. The clarity that comes from knowing who you want to exclude can improve your focus on the customers you care about – the ones that are aligned with your brand.