“What skills should I be learning right now?” is a question we have been asked by several economic developers. We have all been thrown into a new work environment that requires a new set of skills. We believe virtual meetings, collaboration, and site visits are here to stay to some degree. Companies and organizations have seen their travel expense budget go to zero while maintaining operations. This ‘forced pilot project in remote work technologies’ has shown that at least some work-related travel can be eliminated. We came up with our Top 10 List of skills economic developers should learn to work efficiently in the new landscape.
- Get really, really good at virtual meeting technology. Use tutorial videos to get proficient at Zoom (or similar platform) features like screen sharing, whiteboard, drawing, polling, etc. Also familiarize yourself with new security features of virtual meeting platforms such as password entry and waiting rooms.
- Go beyond the technology and spend time thinking about the structure of a virtual meeting, agenda, and how to appropriately engage everyone. It is easy to lose people in virtual meetings. Develop a lead off slide on how the meeting will be organized. Think through how and when to ‘mute all’ or ‘show my screen’ for the meeting to run smoothly. See our recent blog on remote meetings.
- Become an expert on virtual collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and the like. Our firm piloted Teams with a small project then expanded to cover more complex projects.
- If your organization has not invested in Customer Relationship Management software, now may be the time. EDOs are surveying businesses about the impacts of COVID-19 and using the results to inform the BRE program. A CRM tool will allow you to track business engagement and follow up.
- Since you will be making more presentations remotely, refresh PowerPoint skills to ensure presentations are visually engaging. Adding video is one way. See the note below about video.
- Use virtual reality technology to conduct site visits. Companies and site consultants were already using virtual reality tours pre-COVID. We think companies and consultants will expand this technology to save on travel costs.
- If virtual reality tours are not in your budget, upgrade the flat 2-D site plan with a 3-D site plan, drone video tour, and virtual building presentation.
- Video was emerging as a main marketing tool pre-COVID. It will be even more important as people ‘visit’ your community virtually. Videos for your website should be professional but short videos posted to social media can be done with your phone. Learn the basics of recording and editing short videos.
- Invest time in honing social media skills. Update the organization’s profile, photos, and connections. Learn to use scheduling tools to make sure posting does not take a back seat to the pressing tasks of the day. However, review the posting schedule to make sure the posts you scheduled last week are right for this week.
- Stay on top of the news. During this crisis we learned that a marketing message today may be inappropriate tomorrow. Things are changing quickly. Use Google alerts, sign up for text alerts from state agencies, and update the agencies you follow on social media to stay current.
EDOs that can virtually present their community in a professional way will stand out to prospective companies and consultants. Think of it like investing in an awesome new meeting facility or board room to initially meet with prospects because your ‘virtual meeting facility’ is what will make the first impression. So, reallocate the unused travel budget to professional development – you will not need it for travel any time soon!