REBECCA CORLISS is the VP of Marketing at Owl Labs, the makers of a 360-degree video conferencing camera called the Meeting Owl. In this interview, she gives her expert tips for hybrid meetings (remote + in-person) and tells us how the hybrid team at Owl Labs works from wherever they are most productive.
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Lisette: Great and we’re live, so welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette and we are interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely, and have I got a great company doing great things remotely today for you. Today on the line I’ve got Rebecca Corliss from Boston. Rebecca, you are the VP of marketing at Owl labs which is the creator of the Meeting Owl, which people are waving about really. I have not heard one bad thing about Meeting Owl, I’m super excited to talk to you. Now let’s start with the first question, what does your virtual office look like? What do you need to get your work done?
Rebecca: Perfect, so I am a true blue hybrid worker so my work… if I am at home and working from home I have a great little home office that is part working part music station. I am actually musician so I have a keyboard, I actually even have a singing group that rehearses in it, so it has a nice little dual-purpose and my other office is our corporate office in Boston, and so I would say good seventy-five to eighty percent of the time I am actually at the office among my coworkers, and I use my office as my opportunity to really get my hacking focus time, so that is how I blend the two.
Lisette: Okay so home office is like deep dive focusing in on things and then the office space is for yeah interacting with people and all the other things that you need to do is that right?
Rebecca: That is exactly right it’s the world I prefer and I found where I flourish best. So it is really interesting to learn about myself in this new world that we are creating as well. So I have learnt that definitely I am an office worker type which s really interesting.
Lisette: I hear that actually from a lot of people that they don’t really like being at home all the time alone. So what was the journey like? We’re going to dive right into a tagine really quick but what was the journey like in terms of finding out that you like the office more than necessarily being at home all the time?
Rebecca: I have a great story, so it was after I started at Owl Labs, and I, unfortunately, had to have a small surgery not a big deal on my foot, so I was stationary for a bit so that was really the only side effect and I actually worked from home for about three weeks, and I had never worked from home full time for an extended period of time like that and frankly, Lisette, I suffocated. I completely suffocated, I like to tease myself a little bit, I am the quintessential extrovert and what that means is I absolutely get my energy from others, that’s where I get my creative energy, that’s what I love and so I found when I was in isolation even like through every video meeting I possibly could get it actually was very hard for me, and so that was a great lesson for me in saying that there this world, this world of remote work, virtual work and hybrid teams. I believe it is all about being wherever you can be most successful and in that specific instance I learnt it is among others in person where I am most successful, so that was my journey.
Lisette: Yeah I can understand, my husband had the same thing he tried working from home and hated it, absolutely hated it and he finally rented an office with friends just to be around other people every day and have the rhythm. So yeah it is all about working where you are most productive or most successful. I like that phrase even better because maybe productive is not what you need to be. So how about the other people at Owl Lab is it flexible you can work where you want, or how does it work there?
Rebecca: That’s exactly right, and so we’re really interesting I would say we are about thirty-three percent, thirty-three percent, thirty-three percent. One third are folks like me who prefer to be in the office and are the majority of the time then we have another third which I would say are a good fifty/fifty, it totally depends on the day the person’s mood, what they’re working on. I like to give my colleague Sofia who runs content on our team. I like to use her as an example, if she is cramping she is at home or if she just needs space to be with her cat she is at home, and that’s great, and other times she’s at the office so she is at fifty/fifty, and then we have another third that’s fully remote all the time. My teammate Erin lives in St. Luis in the United States and she is remote at all times, so it’s been really interesting to have this beautiful blend this hybrid team that we work with every day and it has been a very cool experience.
Lisette: So given that you have this blend though, how do you guys stay aligned on what you’re working on, and do you have any sort of like team agreements in place or how do you standardize that?
Rebecca: Yeah I would say nothing extremely formal and so I think number one it’s over communication and communicating as much as we can and not relying on some of the more traditional ways of communicating. Like for example, I may be in the office if I create a world in which those sitting around me get more information than those that work from home that is bad, I am doing wrong in that case. So its things that I will do depending on the nature of whatever is going on, is it do I save it for a meeting setting when I know we will all be together, do I post a little heads up on slack, do I write something in Google Docs, do other teams do that? So it’s always making sure that as best as possible when there’s news hot of the process if you will or project updates but it is in a format that is accessible to everyone at the same time that is the key piece there.
Lisette: And how I mean how many people are working at Owl Labs now?
Rebecca: We are just we are under fifty employees today we are growing quickly…
Lisette: Fifty or fifteen?
Rebecca: Fifty, five zero.
Lisette: Wow, okay so then how do you let people I mean that is quite a lot actually in terms, so you are saying over-communicate, think about the kind of conversation that you are going to have but with fifty people does everybody do that?
Rebecca: Oh well probably within the nature of their own groups. As I would love to be in every engineering conversation but that is not practical. And so I would say we do that with any sub-team. So that happens within our leadership group, we have a great meeting, we do rely on meetings quite a bit. We have a great meeting across all of our business organizations that we do at least every other week. .And that has been really great to get high-level updates from everybody. I have also found that often office workers will act as representatives for those that are remote. So I might hear something at hock and say ‘oh I’ve got to tell Erin that,’ and so that also I think supports everyone being extremely mindful. Mindfulness is number one in making this type of environment work.
Lisette: That is a great quote, mindfulness is number one. Okay pay attention listeners that is it. Okay so let’s get into the Meeting Owl because I think this is one of those tools that is taking the market by storm, it seems like it everybody is talking about it and people that are in my workshops and in the presentations really tell me they are really waving about it, and I am not just saying that because I am on the phone with you like I am especially excited to talk to you because of it. So tell us what is Meeting Owl, what problem does it solve?
Rebecca: First I am honored you just delighted me, I am so pleased to hear that it is helping so many great organizations. So the best way to explain Meeting Owl is to first paint a picture of that terrible hybrid meeting that unfortunately all have been a part of, where maybe you are remote yourself and you are meeting with a group of people who are all sitting at the table together. That is easily the place where there is the most inequality across the participants and the other fact is that these meetings happen all the time and they are not going away, actually forty percent of companies are hybrid right now and it is likely growing, so anyway it’s really a problem that needs to be solved. So anyway long story short the Meeting Owl is a three-sixty camera mike speaker device that goes in the center of the conference room table. So that’s the first difference going in the center and what it does is uses audio and video cues to actually automatically focus on people that can talk and actually can do a bit of a split-screen, and so you can imagine how the experience versus the panorama, a three-sixty panorama of the whole room, so you can see everything that the people in the room can see and then you can see much clearer views of the people speaking and so you don’t have that. I like to call it the fly on the wall perspective, that a lot of cameras give that excludes you, it makes you feel like you are there to observe versus interact so the Meeting Owl is all about changing the game so you feel as close to being in the room as possible.
Lisette: And how does it help the people that are in the room?
Rebecca: Yeah great question so from that standpoint it’s darn easy to use. I would say in order to make the needing out, excuse me in order to make video conferencing as accessible as possible there needs to it needs to be a simple solution that you can just use you don’t even have to think about it. I would say really the biggest benefit are those that are in the room. I mean your cameras for those who aren’t in the room not for you, and so if it is easy to use and then you get a better discussion as a full group because of this that’s when everyone really benefits and that is really what we want to solve.
Lisette: So I noticed in a lot of companies that I go to you know I walk into their conference room and I see the spider phone in the middle of the conference room table, and I just and they are like ‘oh we are having these terrible meetings and I don’t know why,’ why are people still in so much pain over these hybrid meetings? Is it just that they don’t know that these tools are available, or they don’t know how much pain they are in? I mean I am sure you see this all the time.
Rebecca: Yeah I honestly I hope I don’t upset anyone by saying this, I don’t know why anyone would do anything audio-only these days I don’t know why. Actually research that’s not ours but other research shows that fifty-five percent of communication comes from your facial expressions and the visual cues and things like that. So literally doing audio-only just keeps you from so much info and so that I would say I can remember actually before coming to Owl Labs, I worked for a wonderful company called HubSpot and that organization even had its own journey in exploring its remote work and I remember only five years ago every meeting was audio only and I would think of the few remote workers that we had and it was like the last five minutes of the meeting a reserved for her questions because she just had to wait. That’s terrible, that’s terrible.
Lisette: Really terrible.
Rebecca: So anyway I mean HubSpot has come a long way so credit and kudos to them, and I would say anyway long the short of it I don’t know why you would do a meeting audio-only and I would say even those that are progressing towards video you really need to think about the psychological effects of your camera positioning. I mean I hope I am not getting too sciencey but it is really interesting the perspective you are giving your participants ill completely change the nature of the interaction which I think is the next level where we really want to contribute.
Lisette: No I think that is a real I mean let’s get into the weeds n this because that is really important so can you give an example of maybe like a bad run and then like how the Meeting Owl would help that.
Rebecca: Yeah actually I can talk, I am going to talk a little bit to my CTO and co-founder Mark Schnittman experience. So prior to founding Owl Labs he was actually a remote worker himself, and he worked remotely for a startup, he was based in Boston the startup was on the west coast and it was his first time working remotely. And he was very pleased that being a remote worker was great ninety percent of the time, it was those hybrid team meetings that were really painful and in his experience they were using a laptop, they’re a startup that makes sense, why wouldn’t you start with the laptop, nothing wrong with that and just for some context he was the senior leader looking to support those that are actually at home based at HQ. So he was trying to figure out the moments that he might strategically interrupt the conversation in order to support them, decide if there is a moment he actually wanted to a question because he missed something. Like is it better to interrupt the flow or get the info? So no matter what it was this constant mind game that he was playing with himself to figure out how to interact and that’s terrible given his job was literally to strategically guide this group. And so long story short brilliant individual team at HQ put the laptop on a swivel stool and just started swiveling it to whoever was talking like cameraman, very smart and that was Mark’s aha moment thinking ‘wait a second I am, I am a roboticist, I can build this and so…
Lisette: That’s handy.
Rebecca: Right, great.
Lisette: If I was a roboticist or a programmer.
Rebecca: So it was that and that I think is experience that I think a lot of people have had and I think even if you are there to maybe not be as active participant but you still want to be present, even just the perspective of being above the camera, above the TV below the TV you are literally there to watch them and that creates an environment where you don’t… maybe you want to tune out maybe you don’t feel as involved or it is not as important to you and in a world in which more people and people are working remotely we need to solve that otherwise the remote folks are always going to be at a disadvantage and that’s a big problem.
Lisette: Right because a lot of times you know people are always telling me like ‘oh you are always arguing that remote is better than co-located,’ and I think ‘no, no, no that’s not what I am arguing, I am arguing we should have the choice,’ and what happens when people have to work remotely which is probably the majority of the situation, people don’t want to but yet we are forced into these situations because well there’s only so many I don’t know insert job descriptions X in Boston and then after that you have to go find people elsewhere some people don’t want to move or you know what do you do when you have these situations? So yeah the hybrid scenario is sort of the reality of it and I think things like Meeting Owl are definitely bringing us closer. So what are then your tips for some hybrid meetings, so one of course using the meeting owl but how do you make them more inclusive? I bet there are some more facilitation things that you guys are doing.
Rebecca: That is a great question, I will say my mindfulness again, I think it is always important if there is a meeting facilitator he or she should always think equally about those of those in the room and those outside the room. Have the folks outside the room not participated in a while, why is that maybe they had nothing to share or maybe they feel like there hasn’t been a moment, just being mindful is number one. Part of that mindfulness this is funny, I have gotten really good at noticing visual cues of remote folks when they want to talk or they are about to.
Lisette: It’s handy when you have videos right because you can see they’re like they are taking a breath because they want or they are raising their hand also like back in school.
Rebecca: Yep, yeah absolutely and so there’ve been some instances and I called people out for incorrectly too, I would say ‘oh Erin did you have something to say,’ and she is like ‘oh no I was just, just…’
Lisette: Brushing my hair, stretching.
Rebecca: But sometimes it is like ‘oh thank you that is helpful,’ so that is mindfulness and then I would say I mean it sounds really elf serving to say hope you have a three sixty camera I don’t mean to be self-serving but we have seen benefits of that improved experience really, really impacting the nature of the conversation. So really think about the technology that you have and the experience it’s creating I would say start every meeting on time you know what else is terrible? Joining a meeting and no one is there. It is so cruel and you are just sitting there thinking am I was it this link, am I….
Lisette: And then double checking everything like time zone link.
Rebecca: So always start promptly is really important think about the visuals that you are using, are you presenting are you writing on the whiteboard, can you make those equally accessible to everybody, make sure they cans see the same information that’s really important, and I have also found I mean this is good for any meeting if you can send an agenda and discussions beforehand this is really good because then everyone is in the know of what is to be discussed and feels prepared and that is just good for peoples working style regardless if you’re remote or not and so I found it is especially important in this type of environment and something we try to do.
Lisette: Do you think it’s more important for the prep work in terms of this hybrid meetings than it is for every, you know if you are just having a meeting and everybody is in person.
Rebecca: It is hardtop say it is more, it’s more important I would say it is essential anywhere but in the very least I can see an instance if you’re remote and maybe you are learning how to how to include yourself and it is a new style for you if you feel even more prepared you are at least removing that barrier to entry if you will. Yeah so that is what I would say to that but no matter what I think it is the best practice for any meeting.
Lisette: Yeah indeed I mean people who come unprepared it’s like why are we there, plus there is so much in online meetings. I always say that there is a… you should use a combination of asynchronous and synchronous communication. So while you are together in one meeting that is one form but there is all the prep work and the follow-up and that could be done, I mean that is all done remotely you could get really creative in how that happens so you know visuals and prep and yeah. Indeed you guys must have great meetings at Meeting Owl.
Rebecca: We, we work very hard, I like to say we drink our own champagne if you will.
Lisette: So much better than dog food, I really like that phrase, love it.
Rebecca: I much prefer champagne. A mentor of mine gave me that phrase once and I would say, we don’t have it 100%. We don’t, and we never will and that’s not bad because that inspires us to think about what we might want to create for this world in the future. And that’s a-okay and so we, we do our darnedest, we’re mindful, we try. And so I would say that that’s the environment we need to create and cultivate ourselves as a company culture in order to innovate in this space.
Lisette: So with the Meeting Owl then what are sort of the minimum requirements? What kind of rooms are they good for?
Rebecca: Great question.
Rebecca: Yeah, right now the best space for the Meeting Owl is I would call small to mid-sized room where you can be within six-ish feet, six to eight feet or somewhat that. There are plenty of customers who go even further, that’s cool. I’m excited to hear about it, but we want to make sure you have a setup that’s a great experience. You mentioned what the benefit for folks in the room, the setups is really easy. I like to explain it as the smartest darn Webcam you’ve ever used. And so it’s USB to your computer, whether it be an interim computer or your laptop, and then you can use it with whatever video conferencing software you prefer. We found that people often use many and so it’s good to be university, excuse me, universally compatible in that case. And then you select the Meeting Owl’s, your mike, your speaker, and your video and you’re good to go. And so really bringing that sophisticated experience but with extremely simple setup is very, very important to us because we believe in a world in which this can become a standard for every conversation. And so if that’s the case, how do we make sure it’s extremely easy to use? And so that’s the other part of the story.
Lisette: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, how many conference rooms have you gone into where you have to call the IT department in order to get the meeting room started even, I mean, it’s getting better over time, but that was sure my life for a long time in the corporate world, as you just have to call somebody from IT because the equipment was so hard to use. So yeah, it sounds so Meeting Owl literally is just plug and play. You plug the USB into the computer, it works with all different kinds of video conferencing systems and there’s really nothing to do, it auto adjust to the people who are speaking in the room.
Rebecca: Yeah, because going back to Mark’s great story, that individual who swiveled the camera with great intention, that’s great. But at the end of the day you need to focus on your discussion, not your technology. So we want the meeting owl to be making those decisions of what is the most important things that you should focus on right now based off of who’s talking, etc. And so we want that, that experience to happen automatically. So you can just do what you need to do, which is talk.
Lisette: Right, right. Like the tech, don’t let the tech get in the way. Like you’re there for the conversation. So it sounds really good, but what is it about, what is it at Owl Labs that you guys struggle with this hybrid form of working? Cause it really is the most difficult. If everybody’s remote, that’s one thing. If everybody’s in person, that’s another thing. Everybody has their own challenges but this hybrid style of working always trips people up. What is it that you guys find difficult?
Rebecca: Oh, that’s interesting. I would say I love the company [inaudible 20:38] meetings, our meetings are still not perfect. They don’t always run on time. We try our very best, but we still suffer from that. I would say we move really, really fast and so just always reminding yourself, who else needs to know that that is not in the room right now? Who do we need to share this with? And a, I think we do really well, but that’s always something that you need to improve. I would say uh, I also love, uh, speaking about career growth and support. We found that visibility is really important for career growth. And then you think, well how is one visible when you’re not physically there? And I would say that it’s a little bit different in that case. How can you be present within the conversations that are happening on slack? We use happen to use Slack or the conversations that are happening on video calls or what you’re contributing or things like that. So you have to change how you think about visibility. I think we do relatively well, but that’s a good skill that I think people are learning at this moment.
Lisette: So how to be more visible, how to work out loud so that colleagues know what you’re doing and that you don’t get forgotten when raises come around and reviews come around.
Rebecca: Of course.
Lisette: How does feedback then work at Owl Labs, how do you guys give each other feedback? Is there like an annual performance review or monthly sessions? What does that look like?
Rebecca: Yeah, we do. It’s, I would say we do formal things annually and feedback is just a regular current, especially on my team. I meet with everyone on my team every single week, which is a mix of getting things done, as well as the how you doing and feedback or whatever it may be, depending on what’s going on. But I believe in those active conversations and that happens consistently no matter where someone is working. Uh, I would say that’s a key piece. It hasn’t been much of an issue. Oh, another thing, I’ll give an example actually. It triggered in my mind, I believe in feedback is best when it’s in the moment. So a mistake would be, oh wow, this, this remote worker needs some feedback. I’ll wait until the next meeting that we have a video call. No way, there’s no reason why you couldn’t just say, ‘hey can we just hop on a call really quick and I’ll share this now.’ Why would I keep that great feedback from you just because you’re not here? I would say we’re pretty strong at that, but that’s not always the, the first instinct that someone might have, especially at other companies. And so I would say as long as you use the same best practices in the moment, frequently nothing’s a surprise and do have a formal process because that’s important and everyone gets that opportunity, you’re in good shape.
Lisette: Yeah indeed, so instantly, a lot of people have this mindset of when I’m working at home, I’m away from the office, I’m away from my colleagues. Cause that was sort of the 1980s style of telecommuting in some ways. You know, it’s like you have a work at home day and you were just out of communication everybody knew because I was supposed to be the deep dive day. But now it’s more, like no matter where you are, you have to be in constant communication with the team not constant but regular communication I would say.
Rebecca: That’s true.
Lisette: Yeah, it seems like the culture in that is changing a bit. Okay, so let’s see. Uh, you said that you use Slack for talking, of course, meeting out for your meetings. What are some of the other tools that you guys use?
Rebecca: We use Zoom frequently, that’s the primary video conferencing software. We happen to use let’s see other tools, we use all the whole Google suite. We live in Google Docs. Uh, we live in a shared PowerPoint, excuse me, shared slides, Google slides I would say, dated myself a little bit there and that’s really important. We use them both for presenting as well as planning. I actually love using Google slides for planning. It’s really interesting reporting, things of that variety I would say, what other tools? Those are our primary tools. We’ve tried lots of productivity tools, we’ve tried Airtable, we’ve tried Trello and sometimes we’ve found that that changes based off of teammates style and interests. It’s more important about, it’s not what tools you use, it’s your intention of using them and so that’s been really interesting evolution for us as a group as well.
Lisette: And is that, so is everybody allowed to choose their own set of tools? I mean it sounds like, you know, you need Slack of course for everybody, but in terms of like workflow in different groups, like one team could choose Trello if they wanted another could use Air table, whatever they wanted, and it’s fine?
Rebecca: Yeah, I think that is absolutely the case. I wonder just for sake of being really realistic, how that will scale as our own company grows. I think that’s something that is fine at a group of sub 50 that might be something we want to reflect on long-term. I’ll actually give a shout out to my former company, Hubspot. Hubspot had an extremely successful Wiki and that Wiki was a centralized communication tool that worked across some hybrid teams, offices as it grew, etc. Uh, that’s not something that Owl Lab has today. We use Google Docs as our main tool in that case, but that that would be interesting to see how it changes.
Lisette: It’s true because as you scale, you have different requirements of course, and when you’re trying to align people, so it’s a good reminder actually depending on the team size, um, what people are doing on that. Okay and what about hiring, I don’t know if you’re involved with hiring colleagues, but I’m really curious because not everybody can work with this style, right? The hybrid, I mean, it sounds like you can be in the office, you can be fully remote, and you can be fifty/fifty. Is that weird for people who are coming on the team or is it getting more normal?
Rebecca: I think for us especially, it’s getting more normal. We’ve hired and I’ve hired in every category, I’ve hired folks without ever meeting them in person, which isn’t always so delightful when you finally get to alike.
Lisette: ‘Like oh, you’re so much taller than I expected.’
Rebecca: That can happen and so we’ve, we’ve done that actually a handful of times. Uh, there’s, I mean, there’s really no reason to do that. Otherwise, I would say sometimes for really impactful leadership roles, we’ve flown people out if they are going to be remote and live somewhere else we’ve done that. That’s been a great tool to do a mix, but usually the first handful of conversations were remote, so that’s worked well and sometimes if they happen to be local, we’ve done everything, well actually not even then we’ll probably do the first phone call or two remotely and then in person from there and so it’s really been a mix and it hasn’t been an issue for us. I will say if the person is going to be remote the majority of the time, I like to have a really thoughtful conversation about their style and where they’re most successful and make sure they’re not making a sacrifice that could put them at a disadvantage on a personal style level. So that’s always really, really important. And I talk to where they get their energy from, how do they visualize them working remotely? Have they done it in the past? What were the pain points, etcetera? We’re hiring a wonderful new designer who’ll be based in LA, so diagonal across the country if you will. And we had wonderful conversations about her style and I think she’s going to be very successful. But that’s an example where it would be crucial that the person feels supported and enabled in that environment because you want to make sure you can do your best work, number one that’s the most important thing.
Lisette: And do you find that there are some people that can’t do this or where they find out what the style is and they’re like, ‘no, that’s totally not for me.’ Does that ever happen?
Rebecca: Uh, it has happened for me personally. I actually, before I joined Owl Labs and I was figuring out my next move I was in a very final conversations with a company, I won’t share them because I didn’t go there. So I don’t think that’s fair. Uh, that would have been a fully remote position and some self-reflection. I thought, you know what? This is an amazing company. I really respect, I don’t think this is for me and it’s a bummer, but I think it’s more important for both of us that I’d be realistic in this moment because I want to make sure wherever I am, I’m as most impactful as I can and should be. So that was important.
Lisette: And could you go back to being 100% in the office?
Rebecca: Oh, what a wonderful question. I haven’t been asked that.
Lisette: I mean, given you’re somebody that loves, like for people like me, if people ask me like, ‘oh I would you go back to the office,’ it’s like ‘hell no, not unless I absolutely had to, you know?’ But for people like you that really get their energy and extroverts, they get their energy from being around people. I wonder like once you’ve had the taste of having the choice of being remote or not, like could you go back?
Rebecca: So that’s really fun, you’ve caught me off guard. I think I could for the right opportunity, the right world. But then I also wonder, I say that’s so, so not natural to today’s world.
Lisette: Like the freedom is nice.
Rebecca: Yeah, and so I guess yes I could and I’m almost lucky. I am lucky that my style allows for that because I know a handful of people who couldn’t take that moment reflection and say, and they wouldn’t say yes, it would be a much bigger sacrifice. It’s hardly a sacrifice for me because it’s my preference. And so I would say yes I could and I feel fortunate that my style allows for that because I know too many people where they would be at a much bigger disadvantage than I would be, because it would be thwarting them from doing their best work depending on what they had going on, their preference, their needs, their project in the moment.
Lisette: Right and in terms of people then, I’m just, I’m curious about the Boston area because every region there are different sort of views and remote working is at a different level in different places in the world. So in the Boston area, we won’t even go as far as like the US but in the Boston area, is it becoming more and more common? Is it sort of a normal thing for most people that you interact with? You know, are there lots of co-working spaces set up? What, what is the scene there in Boston?
Rebecca: Yeah, there’s plenty of co-working spaces, lots that’s always great. I would say Boston to give an example, is it quite a bit of a tech hub? And so we’re lucky to have a lot of talent here, especially for technology companies. Again, I want to emphasize lucky, it’s likely a function of a lot of the universities in the area I would say. And so there hasn’t been as strong of a push for hiring outside of that geographic area. There hasn’t been as strong of a need, but that’s fortunate for our area. I would say what is growing is the interest in flexibility and the interest in offering flexibility in order to be competitive when hiring, that is growing quite a bit. I mean we have like Boston’s best places to work, flexibility is a key element of that. People are thinking about how they can offer that on their teams, so they’re a really interesting place to hire. So things like that I would say is a big theme. So less of the fully remote, I think that’s still transitioning, but a lot of the flexibility among the office workers.
Lisette: Okay, oh man and we’re running out of time, but I have so many questions still, but I’m still really curious. So there’s a whole bunch of conference room equipment companies out there. We’ve got the Polycom’s and you’ve got the Microsoft’s and the Cisco’s out there and so the Meeting Owl seems like such a simple relatively low-cost solution compared to the super fancy conference room equipment. So what is the, what would you say to offices? You know, they’re decked out in these, I mean, let’s not, we can’t, I mean if somebody has a telepresence room that’s a different story. That’s like another level of course where you’re really bringing people in. But compared to these expensive systems, what would you say to people like that? Like, scrap the system by a Meeting Owl and?
Rebecca: Oh man if you have one of those fancy telepresence systems, good for you and please invite me over so I can [inaudible 32:23]. I mean by all means if you can afford that awesome. That is very, very cool. The fact of the matter is many businesses cannot. The really important thing is video conferencing and strong video should not be rare. They should be a commodity, they should be in every conversation and so even in that world where you have that amazing company that has a telepresence system, I would say you should make sure you have something in every single room because there’s going to be a point, we’re probably going to hit it anytime now when there’s going to be someone remote in every single one of your meetings. And so if that’s the case, how do you make sure that you’re giving the best possible experience in every single meeting and every single room and so it’s always accessible. This needs to be fully accessible in order for this trend to progress and in order to make sure you have that equality or the best you can across your office workers and your remote workers, that’s what’s necessary. So I would say to those who haven’t had one and every room, well I don’t want to be self-serving, but I’ll just give you a little wink and I hope. So if that’s something that’s helpful for you, by all means, I’d be honored for you to check out the Meeting Owl and if you happen to have a setup and you’ve gotten feedback that either it’s difficult to use, or even those who are joining remotely aren’t feeling included. Well, that’s another trigger for you to consider if it’s the right solution. Because I think there was a time when that was fine, but now when we rely on this so much, it’s just a different expectation.
Lisette: Well, and it’s not even necessary anymore. It used to be necessary that we dealt with all these painful online meetings, and now the technology has just gotten so good and so smooth that there’s no reason to suffer I think. Does everybody have a meeting? I’ll use video. Is it standard?
Rebecca: Yes, I would say the only instances I don’t use video are when I’m doing a little productivity hack and I’m on a phone while I’m like marching down the street.
Lisette: That it happens?
Rebecca: It happens or in the car or something like that where it’s not safe. I would say every, every conversation is video. There’ve been times I’ve ever worked with, whether it be an agency or an outside partner or something like that and they’ll send a bridge phone line and I’ll say, I’ll make a little joke and say, ‘I don’t know how to have audio conversations anymore. I will likely interrupt you constantly and I don’t want to do that. So can we…? Here’s the link can we use this instead?’ So that’s usually the joke that we share because why and it’s worked great. There’ve been a few, a few organizations I worked with which said, which I’ve met in person after and they thought, ‘oh my goodness, I feel like I know you already. I don’t feel that way with my other clients.’ And I’ll say, ‘yeah, it’s because you’ve seen my face.’
Lisette: Yeah, you can build a relationship. I’ve worked with a woman for over seven years now doing just virtual co-working together. She’s one of my closest friends and I’ve never met her in person.
Lisette: So you can build relationships online, it takes a little longer of course. I mean maybe, maybe not, but you know, you’re not there in person, you’re not sharing Nachos together, and that’s a different story. But it is possible to build these relationships online. So yeah, I’m just a, I’m curious cause there are a lot of people who don’t like turning the video on and I’m like, you, I come on, you’re missing out on so much. But would you hire people if they said, ‘hey, I, I’d love to do this, but I won’t turn my video on.’ I don’t know if that’s even a question you ask?
Rebecca: Oh goodness, I would say because we haven’t come across that first in any of those conversations. In general, what I would say is you don’t go to a meeting with a paper bag on your head. So I understand the nature being camera shy. That is an experience that people have, however here’s the tough love. You’re being selfish in that moment. You’re being selfish because you’re not making it easy for the person you’re talking to connect with you because you’re self-conscious and that’s not fair and so I get it. I understand just brush your hair and brush your teeth and you’re good to go. I have joined meetings from video in all sorts of state of readiness and I would say to not put on your video is selfish and you should think about that.
Lisette: And it’s so easy to just put on the shirt, keep your Pajama bottoms on, keep your slippers on or just put on a shirt or a scarf. If you’ve got your Pajama top on, you can know you can accessorize just about anything, yeah, turn the video on.
Rebecca: Of course.
Lisette: Love it, so um, last question, two questions still. Um, advice for people who are just starting out with working remotely or with hybrid meetings. Let’s put it sort of on these, what advice would you give for people who are just starting out?
Rebecca: For those who are just starting out with working remotely? I would experiment, experiment with putting on music, not having music on, working in blocks of time, going for walks. Just see, just experiment with a lot of ways to break up your day. What you don’t want to do is just be glued to your computer and then feel stuck. So I would say experiment with that either day-to-day and get your own groove. You might find that you’re more like my style and you like being around people. And so maybe it turns out that half your day is at a co-working space or a coffee shop. So I would say experiment and find your groove. That would be my tip for remote workers and oh, and give feedback to your team. Turns out I love being interrupted, so don’t worry and if you need a quick hello, that’s, that’s a-okay. And you can call me on a video call or something like that. So I would say communicate with your team on how to support you best too. So that’s my tip there and then hybrid meetings, one I would say acknowledge it’s the most painful meeting style it is. It’s a fact and its okay, that’s why we acknowledge it so we can improve it. Two the best you can do for those in the room and it’s really those in the room responsibility, be mindful, think about the quality of the participation, think about the experience you’re offering because really the remote folks or the group of people you’re talking to or the other office, whoever it is, is really reliant on you in the room to create that strong experience. So be thoughtful for it and I would say from there, if you’re able to do that consistently, it will become a habit and that’s the good part. And then I would say question your technology. We’re lucky to be a really innovative society and think about whether it’s creating an experience for those who are talking to that enables them or thoughts them from being able to be at their best.
Lisette: Oh, that’s some great advice. I’ll include all of that in the show notes. So I love mindfulness is number one and question your tech and find your own groove because it is true. I mean, I would’ve had no idea that I liked working alone until you start doing it and then thinking like, ‘oh yeah, this is actually really good for me.’ So great advice and now we’ve gone way over because I always find people interesting. But you have especially good things to say today is I really appreciate it. My very last question though is the best way people want to find out more. What’s the best way to get in touch with you and to find Meeting Owl?
Rebecca: Sure, so in terms of the meeting out, you can, you can Google us and our company is called Owl Lab, so that’s our company, Owl Labs, the creators of the Meeting Owl, if you’d like to connect with me, Rebecca, I love Twitter. Twitter is my favorite, I am repcor on Twitter, R-E-P-C-O-R. So if you have really interesting articles that you’ve seen or anything like that, I always love checking those out but it’s really fun to connect with folks there.
Lisette: And I saw on your LinkedIn just as one more thing, you’re a serial Akapreneur that was pretty cool. So can you want to explain what that is because that also explains your Twitter handle I think?
Rebecca: Yes ah, that’s fun. So I mentioned at the beginning of the interview that my, my a home office is also a musical space and so the joke is that I have actually started two different A cappella groups from scratch in my life and both have been quite successful and I sing with one today called the A tracks, and so it’s a little play on my love of startups to technology, but also my love of A cappella. So I’m an Akapreneur and in A cappella you always have puns so it’s perfect.
Lisette: Oh that’s even better, yeah. Who Knew? Super cool. Well thanks so much for your time today. I hope everybody runs out and buys a Meeting Owl, they’re super cute as well as being very effective. They look like a little owl on your table so you can spice up your meeting room just by having one there and a thank you again for your time.
Rebecca: Perfect it was great.
Lisette: All right, everybody, until next time, be powerful.