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Paul Richards of PTZOptics: “Would be to meet with a purpose”

The most important lesson I have learned is that teams need digital organization. Our team was ahead of the curve because we used Slack, Google Chat, Zoom and other technologies before COVID. But, with everyone working remotely, we quickly realized we needed to organize our digital lives on Google Drive. This meant a complete reorganization […]

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The most important lesson I have learned is that teams need digital organization. Our team was ahead of the curve because we used Slack, Google Chat, Zoom and other technologies before COVID. But, with everyone working remotely, we quickly realized we needed to organize our digital lives on Google Drive. This meant a complete reorganization of our shared folders and continually asking our team members, “Where did you save that file?” By organizing projects online, we can easily collaborate and share complex ideas even without the use of Zoom. When we come up with a plan for a new project, I like to spend time myself outlining all of my ideas on a Google Document. Then inside of that document I will link to other documents and projects that are inter-connected to the plan. In this way, the flow of the overall plan can stay straightforward, and collaborators can easily click a link to dig further into the progress or portion of the plan.


We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Richards, Director of Marketing for PTZOptics and creator of StreamGeeks. He is the author of several technology books, including The Online Meeting Survival Guide, Helping Your Church Live Stream, Live Streaming is Smart Marketing and The Unofficial Guide to OBS. Richards teaches over 50,000 students on UDEMY on live video production, mobile streaming and more. He has hosted the official NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show in Las Vegas and is a thought leader in the industry, contributing regularly to publications such as Church Production, Rave Pubs, AVNation and others.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started? Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

A pivotal moment in my career was the first time I used Zoom. At this time, in 2014, Zoom had only two sales people. Our lead engineer Matthew Davis introduced me to the first affordable pan, tilt and zoom webcam on the market made by a company that no longer exists. I remember showing the folks at Zoom some of the new and emerging USB communication technologies available in the ProAV space. It was clear that an entirely new market for video communications was on the horizon.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are so many, but this one by C.S Lewis is something I completely agree with: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” After having three children, I love how perfect we all are at the beginning of our lives. It’s too easy to forget that we are still perfect, but it can just be difficult to put that into perspective.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Being a good communicator is a crucial skill for my role in marketing. It took a long time for me to develop good communication skills, and I credit my wife Lauren. We have been married for over 10 years, and she has helped me develop communications skills at home which have translated into my career. Lauren is from St. Louis, Missouri, where I have found they take things a little slower than we do here in the northeast. Over the years, I have learned how to slow down and say the things that I truly mean. It’s a skill that I am still developing, and I recognize in this department I have to thank Lauren.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

I love having in-person meetings. I can be a dominant force in our small marketing meetings, which can work very well when I can share my creative energy with a room full of people. In person, I’m able to jump up to a whiteboard, get a laugh, and push my team to think differently and take chances.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

When we are meeting online, my creative energy can get squashed simply because it doesn’t bounce off the walls, if that makes sense. In marketing, a successful campaign depends on those creative components. Is the content fun and does it catch the viewer’s eye? These types of intangible ideas can be fleeting even during the best meetings. I believe teams that do creative work are impacted by work from home greater than many other job types. HubSpot published a telling survey here, that shows 66 percent of marketers agree productivity has dropped.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space? (Please share a story or example for each.)

The most important lesson I have learned is that teams need digital organization. Our team was ahead of the curve because we used Slack, Google Chat, Zoom and other technologies before COVID. But, with everyone working remotely, we quickly realized we needed to organize our digital lives on Google Drive. This meant a complete reorganization of our shared folders and continually asking our team members, “Where did you save that file?” By organizing projects online, we can easily collaborate and share complex ideas even without the use of Zoom. When we come up with a plan for a new project, I like to spend time myself outlining all of my ideas on a Google Document. Then inside of that document I will link to other documents and projects that are inter-connected to the plan. In this way, the flow of the overall plan can stay straightforward, and collaborators can easily click a link to dig further into the progress or portion of the plan.

Second, would be to meet with a purpose. Zoom is our video conferencing platform of choice, and I would love to share our online meeting process with you. After reading “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni, I completely changed our team’s meeting frequency and agendas. Essentially, we went from, “let’s meet once a week” to let’s meet only about these topics in this way. For example, our last meeting of the month is a strategy meeting. This means anything can be brought up, except super specific tactical items. During strategy meetings, we table the small stuff and focus on the overall direction of the market and our marketing plans. Our tactical meetings have been transformed as well. We start each tactical meeting with a lightning round where I do my best to ensure equity of voice, giving each team member the floor to share their most important ideas or concerns. From here, we prioritize a list and get through the most important topics first. This way, if we don’t have time to finish at the end, at least we handled the most important topics that we could. I’m not a fan of long Zoom meetings that go for hours. Both types of meetings are incredibly helpful for our team to understand their respective goals and priorities. Following them, I share specific action plans with the rest of our company so that everyone can be kept apprised of our progress. These meetings help our team to determine if we are on track, and they ultimately inform the rest of our company on our overall direction. Finally, I value one-on-one communication, and I have an open-door policy with my staff so they know they can reach me via text, chat, email or phone.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

Thankfully, we haven’t experienced many communication challenges, as our workforce is very inter-connected through the technology tools and communication channels I already mentioned. Yes, we allow employees to use their own cell phones, and we provide a monthly stipend for their data costs.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

Our teams regularly use Zoom, Google Hangouts and Slack, which has channels and tagging features that help us to organize conversations effectively. As a technology company, we are always willing to try new apps and sites that create better experiences for their users. In this way, it keeps us fresh and open to trying new technologies.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

I know it’s a long way off, but tools that could accurately capture and analyze nonverbal communication

could be really transformative. Already, there are tools that can transcribe a meeting, and automated summaries and action items are on the horizon. So much is communicated in tone, facial expressions, and body language. This is part of why video is so critical to remote collaboration, and automated minutes or summaries have no way to capture that information. Imagine how powerful it would be to be able to analyze how your sales reps made their clients feel during product demos, or which part of a presentation regularly captures the audience’s imagination. A business could grow so much from that.

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

If anything, the pandemic has shown us that unified communications tools need to be easy to use and provide immediate connectivity. For this reason, tools should be easily adopted for anyone, just not the most technically savvy users.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

I recently saw the Microsoft Mesh product, which seems extremely innovative for team collaboration.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain? While collaboration is important, creative teams still need time to research, develop and create in ways that provide uninterrupted thinking. While the pandemic has highlighted our disconnectedness, there are valid reasons to isolate, get to work and then bring those creations to a larger team setting. Sometimes, I think we don’t give enough attention to this part of the process.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

We are still communicating with our customers through phone and email, as well as video conferencing and even through social media groups.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

As we would in a traditional in-office experience, I believe that specific constructive feedback should be given to people individually. This can be done in a phone call, which is nice because that person won’t feel singled out in a group setting or in a video conferencing setting, where many people are already feeling self-conscious.

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

We have done trivia games and other projects that are supportive of the larger community around us. During the height of the pandemic, our local United Way chapter needed some help raising money, and we led a live stream that featured a comedian. It was a way that both our team and the community around us could feel more connected in a fun way that also promoted a good cause.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve been blessed with a talented team, loyal customers and followers who join us every quarter for a virtual Worship Summit. This event teaches worship leaders and volunteers technical skills for video production and live streaming, helping houses of worship reach their communities regardless of their location. I am proud to work in this space because so many of our elderly friends and relatives have been isolated during the past year. We host this event for free, with people attending virtually from across the globe. I feel this has been a force for good.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Head over to our web site to see a list of my book titles, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel where we regularly live stream to help our customers learn more about integrating our technologies for a variety of use cases.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


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