Tuesday mornings are sacred at the digital marketing firm Covalent Logic.
Employees don’t arrive late, nor do they schedule client conferences. Instead, they sit behind their computers at 8:45 a.m. and dial into a webinar that enables them to witness a professional version of Show and Tell with fellow staff members.
Show and Tell sounds like the freeform stuff of elementary school. Indeed, there’s an element of unstructured whimsy to the company’s version. Employees take turns playing host to a 15-minute presentation of things they find inspiring, such as websites, experts and thinkers, software or even their children.
There is one rule: Employees can’t talk about work. The team signs off by 9 a.m. and goes back to cranking out custom websites and digital marketing plans for companies around the state and around the country.
Show and Tell started during the summer, Covalent Logic founding principal Stafford Kendall says, and it has become a popular way for her staff members to become inspired, feed one another’s creativity and remain connected. The company has grown during the past six years from its original three-and-a-half employees to 17, who are spread across offices in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette.
“The most important thing to me is that we establish a connection between staff because we’re not always together,” Kendall says. “We lose those moments where you might chat while you’re making coffee. We want to be able to capture that in a forum where everybody gets to be the storyteller.”
Senior graphic designer Stacey Vincent began a recent Show and Tell by panning around the company’s two-person Lafayette office, while employees in Baton Rouge and New Orleans commented on what they saw. For most of them, it was their first look.
Vincent also shared three visually driven websites that she regularly uses: photo cataloging Flickr, handmade arts marketplace Etsy and virtual bulletin board Pinterest. She declared the sites to be industry pioneers, finding them efficient and inspiring in her personal and professional life. The webinar format enabled her to click through some of the features of each site while participants observed and commented.
Show and Tell is intended to help the team coalesce, Kendall says, adding that it also has important workplace byproducts. The get-together stokes creativity in a sector that demands new ideas and approaches, and it also gives employees a chance to practice webinars, a collaborative web-based presentation that has become one of the company’s bread-and-butter client services.
Show and Tell helps Covalent Logic employees practice working in a webinar environment, founding principal Stafford Kendall says. It’s an important 21st-century skill. “In face-to-face conversations you have visual clues for when people are finished talking,” she says. “But on a webinar, you can end up with too many interruptions or with people not speaking at all.”
Unlike conference calls, she says, webinars allow the presenter and organizer to see who is paying attention to the screen and who is opening e-mail accounts or other programs.
Covalent Logic’s biggest change has been a considerable increase in out-of-market clients, Kendall says, adding that connecting with these clients in a meaningful, personal way can be a challenge.
“Coffee works great with in-market clients,” she says. “But with out-of-market clients, you have to find new ways to build the relationship so you can learn new things about them. For us, the more we know about the client, the more we can do for them.”
Show and Tell gives staff members regular exposure to webinars used solely for strengthening relationships, which helps them think creatively about using the medium with clients.
Webinars can be designed in a variety of ways, depending on the size of an office, the type of material presented and the manner by which participants respond. A presenter can share everything on his or her computer screen, share a single application or simply show a prepared presentation. Participants can respond by voice, group chat or instant messaging. The presenter also can choose to mute the group.
“We do a lot of webinars for our clients,” Kendall says. “They’re so much better than a conference call because everyone can look at things together.”