In many ways I am lucky. I have a spacious flat with a large sunny terrace connected to it and a separate but connected office space. In this locked down time, these are true luxuries. However, we are not in complete lockdown.
We can go shopping for groceries at all times and I have a park close by where I can go for short hikes. They have recently started opening more shops, although some fear that it is too early to do this since quite a few people seem to have forgotten the social distancing rules. We will see what happens!
Workwise, I have been used to the home office situation for many years now, including already being familiar with video conferencing and other digital tools that make working and (social) distancing possible. So I haven’t had to adapt much to the new normal created by this cunning virus.
Of course, we’ve had to press pause on some ventures because of the crisis, such as ongoing research projects we’ve been conducting on TV channel strategies. I usually produce 10 to 12 profiles a year on German-language TV channels. I also work on updating their program schedules and strategies. The only thing TV channel executives know these days is that things are changing rapidly without any clear indication of a new direction. No channel managers want to talk about their strategies during this situation.
What is more severe is the absence of little treats, the meetings in great locations, the business lunches, and, of course, conferences and trade shows.
It is the first time since 1994 that I have not been in Cannes for MIP-TV, and I am missing personal meetings with business partners who have become good friends over the years.
We are lucky that technology has advanced so much over the last 20 years that we are able to do so much of our work from home. To make it clear, I am busy — busier— than I had hoped for. A lot of my work targets the future, when the lockdown is over, and business can fully restart. I am busy forging partnerships for the institute and for the media project we hope to launch in late summer. I am often requested for podcasts. And I recently started co-hosting webinars.
Being regularly interviewed for professional podcasts during this time of social distancing has required some unplanned investments as I’ve had to purchase some professional gear to make things run more smoothly. But this is something that probably would have had to be done anyway sooner or later.
Therefore, the coronavirus is a booster for digitalization. We are now getting used to new ways of working that will for sure last beyond the crisis. Many of our meetings will remain online. I agree with the outcome of surveys concluding that online meetings are more efficient. We are less distracted and more focused on the core issues. However, there are also several disadvantages: You cannot approach a speaker at a webinar after his gig to arrange an interview for the following day. And how often did I bump into somebody on La Croisette between meetings and manage to solve a burning problem I didn’t realize could be handled that easily? Or how often did I get introduced to somebody at a party who later became meaningful for my career? This cannot happen online, at least not for the time being. Therefore, I am positive that conferences and trade shows will return, most likely in an altered shape.
Of course, working online creates its own challenges and requires discipline. I wanted to co-host my first webinar wearing official type of attire. The day was hectic and when the webinar started, and I saw myself on the screen, I realized I was wearing my Spiderman cartoon T-shirt that I got in the late 1990s at some MIP press junket. Oh well, another lesson learned the hard way!
Dieter Brockmeyer is a journalist, TV industry expert, co-founder and director of Innovation and Technology, Internet, Media and Entertainment of the Diplomatic World Institute in Brussels.