CEO of Shufflrr and author of Presentation Management: The New Strategy for Enterprise Content.

We’ve all moved to Zoom, Skype and Slack. We’re meeting our sales prospects and business partners remotely. Though nothing will ever replace real human interaction, we are getting some semblance of in-person, eye-to-eye contact. All kinds of meetings and social events have gone virtual. Even late-night talk show hosts are broadcasting from their own homes with green screens and graphics popping up behind their shoulders. Everyone is their own producer.

We’ve mastered remote communication apps, but they seem to be missing one crucial component of the business presentation: Where’s the content? Content is the substance of business; content is the brand and message. The new medium is a remote app, and companies need to start treating that app and that content with the same discipline as any other marketing element.

In business, we all use presentations, infographics, white papers, use cases, videos and spreadsheets to make our case and point, track our progress and document our decisions. Pre-pandemic, when we all worked in a central office, it was easier to maintain brand and message integrity. All we had to do was casually ask someone in marketing for the latest logo, infographic or whatever type of content was needed, and we’d be sure it was accurate, branded and, above all, proven to convert.

Instead of casually asking your buddy down the hall, now we’re using some Frankenstein combination of Slack, Skype, Zoom, mobile text and old school email. I can’t tell how many times I’ve missed a request from a colleague or lost a file because I didn’t check the right app. Or even more frustrating, the request gets lost, completely off your screen — out of sight, out of mind — as the conversation thread grows. Everyone’s got to add their witty one-liners and emojis, and before you know it, one simple request has 40 messages from five other people on Slack. Who knew the ability to scroll back communications to two hours earlier in your day could be the difference between making or missing an important deadline?

How does content meet communications when everyone is dispersed? How does a company manage its brand and message when everyone is working in their own vacuum? And how do you maintain document privacy on your laptop while you’re in the middle of a screen share presentation? I was recently hosting a screen share when a Skype message flagged the lower corner of my computer, and it wouldn’t go away. It was a message from my client’s competitor. It was stuck, and I couldn’t hide it. My client actually texted my personal mobile to close that window. How embarrassing.

When the meeting requires a prepared PowerPoint presentation, it’s easy enough to present that one file, but linear presentations are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Instead, interactive meetings that wander from one topic to another require more flexibility and access to a variety of content and are dominating the way business is done. You still need control, which is why it’s crucial for your business to store all its up-to-date, ready-to-go content in once place — be it a shared folder, Dropbox or more advanced presentation management systems — that must be easily accessible to everyone on the team. More than ever, there should be one person in charge of updating and organizing that content, so the team is sure that they are using the latest and greatest.

Today’s business presentations are more conversational than ever. It’s no longer preplanned; it evolves and flows. So your presentation content must evolve and flow with it. If an unexpected topic — or audience request — comes up, then you want to make sure you can address it with your best business content. That’s why it needs to be easily located (like referring to a picture of the beach on your smartphone while telling a friend about your latest vacation, for example).

As we become more comfortable with remote meetings and presentations, and our habits adapt to their efficiencies, we’ll see the next generation of remote apps offering greater content capabilities, such as an approved library of content within a closed environment. These innovations will provide the flexibility and the ease to adapt and update our content on the fly while keeping others’ eyes away from our personal information. But, in the meantime, we must develop our own workflows to eliminate these shortcomings.

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