6 min read
Last week I promised to talk about modalities, and I’m holding myself to it. It might sound less interesting than princes and drag queens, but stick with me. It’s not something anyone’s talking about, and it is interesting!
Let’s start with what “it” is. I know “work modalities” sounds like the topic of some dreadful MBA lecture, but I don’t know what else to call them. (If after reading this post you think of a better term, please let me know 🙏🏻.)
Think back to two years ago when things were normal and most of us worked in offices…
You check your schedule and you notice you have a budget meeting in the Star Trek conference room in 10 minutes. You get up, go to the kitchen, make yourself another cup of coffee, and make your way over to Star Trek.
You walk in and your colleague Joe is already sitting down at the conference table.
What did we just witness? A completely normal meeting, broken up into three parts. Before Carl walked in, you, Joe, and Mary were networking. After the meeting started, the four of you were collaborating. And finally, you went back to networking before leaving.
Networking and Collaborating are two meeting modalities.
Now, I want you to fast-forward to six months ago: everyone working-from-home.
You check your schedule and you notice you have a budget meeting in Carl’s personal Zoom room in 10 minutes. You get up, go to the kitchen, make yourself another cup of coffee, and make your way back to your home office.
You log into the meeting room and see a message telling you that the host will let you in momentarily. You turn off your camera. Mute. And check Twitter. Suddenly your reading is interrupted.
Pretty different experiences, right?
One modality: Collaborating. No networking.
When you have one meeting like that after another, without the social breaks, it’s exhausting.
We need to network.
Traditional video conferencing platforms don’t allow that to happen. They’re optimized for work, even though net is an integral part of work. As we often say, Zoom is tiring because it lacks humanity.
If you’ve used Toucan you know it’s a completely different experience because we’ve designed Toucan to allow seamless transitions between all three modalities: networking, collaborating, and presenting. A typical meeting – like the one I described above – is what we call a modal sandwich: [networking][collaborating][networking].
Now, let’s consider a bigger event, like a company all-hands.
Two years ago.
I’m not going to bother re-playing this whole scene as a Zoom presentation. You can easily imagine what it would be like. You, Mary, Joe and Carl all sitting in your respective home offices watching the announcement. No networking. No personal drama.
From the perspective of modalities, this scene is a bit like the meeting room scene, but more complex.
We start with Networking, and then move into Presenting. If I’d played it to the end, we would have of course ended with more Networking. Inevitable.
But something else interesting is going on. Two groups of people – You/Mary and Joe/Carl – are networking simultaneously. And you’re speaking with each other during the CEO’s presentation.
This is, of course, unimaginable on Zoom. But with Toucan it’s not only possible, it’s the norm. On Toucan you can network with a group of people before a presentation and then watch that presentation together. And you can still speak to each other, while listening to the presenter.
By re-thinking how video conferences should work, by allowing parallel Networking, and by allowing seamless transitions between three different modalities, Toucan is re-injecting a critical human element into virtual work events.
We’re all looking forward to going back to our offices, but it’s very clear that most of us aren’t going back to our offices full time. Some of us aren’t going back at all, and some of us are only going back part time. Virtual work is here to stay. We’re doing everything we can to make sure Toucan supports that work while respecting the humanity of everyone involved.
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Rabbi, driving instructor, and acrobat in parallel universes.
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