The eDisclosure Information Project has a new website. It introduces a new way of offering our video and other services to a wider range of clients in a way which makes opportunities, for them and for us, out of the apparent gloom of a locked-down world.
One change was always due to happen anyway, and that is the ending of the sponsorship relationships which have served me well since 2007. Long before the coronavirus hit, I gave notice that sponsorships would end by 31 March 2020 and that I would spend April developing a new model. There were several reasons for this. It limited the range of potential clients in a consolidating market which was in the hands of ever fewer players. Sponsorship became a hard concept to sell – the idea that sponsors could have whatever they wanted for their annual fee seems harder to fit into budgets than a defined set of tasks for a fixed fee, even though the sponsorship fee represented very good value for those who took full advantage of it. It came to give poor value to me, not least because adding videos to the existing offerings meant I had to do much more for the same money, and pay the fees and travel expenses of my techie sons who did the videos.
All these factors – the problem of marketing an undefined deliverable to a smaller class of potential clients while earning a diminishing return for more work – could be met by ending the sponsorships and moving to a model under which I offer a service for a fee, do the work and send in a bill.
The website sets out what those services are – video interviews, webinars, podcasts, panel moderation and writing. They are offered to all comers, not just those who sign up for a year’s sponsorship, and while eDiscovery / eDisclosure remains the main focus, the skills and tools can be turned to any subject.
If this change was going to happen anyway, the timing is good. The coronavirus, and the consequent limits on travel and in-person events, makes it necessary to find other ways of sending out information and messages. This is not an ephemeral thing – we will not go back to the old ways of doing things when lockdown ends. This is partly because there will be new barriers and burdens for travellers, but it is mainly because the weeks of lockdown have encouraged new thinking about interacting with people in a business context. Not everyone has taken to working from home and communicating by Zoom or Skype, but many have, and even those who dislike it will give it grudging acceptance once they are confronted again with the burden and cost of queueing at airports to fly with unfriendly airlines via unwelcoming officials at grim airports en route to barren hotels.
I used to attend several of these events in a year. I quite liked them, for the opportunities to take part in panels, the chance to do interviews, and mainly for the people I met there. Their attractions were waning, however, and the expense was growing, even if much of the cost was picked up by others. I am not the only one who will be glad if that normal is replaced by something else.
Eric De Grasse, Chief Technology Officer of Project Counsel, has written a long and interesting article on this called Converting on-site conferences to on-line conferences will never work without the right structure and technology. How to “solve” online events. He quotes Project Counsel’s founder, Gregory Bufithis, as saying that after disruptions, we turn to new approaches, but always:
we start by making the new thing fit the existing ways that we work. Right now, we are taking post-COVID “new new” things and applying them to the “old old” ways we used to work.
Eric De Grasse goes on to consider what events will look like in the ever-changing idea of what “normal” is. He has a lot to say about the format of online or hybrid events (something covered also in a BizBash article called What will hybrid events look like?
He ends with some helpful tips for those who find themselves participating in virtual events.
I missed Legaltech in New York because it coincided with a hip replacement. The virtual Relativity Fest London was a great success. Relativity has announced that its main event, Relativity Fest in Chicago, will be online from 21-23 September. ILTACON, due to take place in Nashville, has become the virtual ILTAON from 24-28 August. There is nowhere to go even if we were minded to travel.
The shift to virtual events deprives us of our usual opportunities to record our video interviews while many eDiscovery people are gathered in one place anyway. That set us thinking about how to replicate, as closely as possible, the quality of the video interviews for which we usually lug around our cameras, lights, audio equipment and tripods.
We did some experiments, with the gracious cooperation of Gráinne Bryan of FTI Consulting in Ireland, and ended up with two videos, one of which was published here…
…with a blog post here. The other will go up shortly.
Anyone can line up two speakers on Zoom, press Record and publish the results. We want two distinct video and audio streams, with the ability to colour them properly, to cut them together or separately, to insert other media where relevant, and generally to aim for a high-quality product. At my end, we have lighting, multiple camera angles and good audio equipment, but the aim is to expect no more from the speaker than a half-decent webcam and a well-lit room. Those who have a high-quality webcam, a decent microphone, and a good light source will look better for it, but they are not essential.
Webinars are back in fashion as in-person events disappear. Shortly after lockdown began, I moderated a webinar for ACEDS on the subject of post-Corvid eDiscovery. We asked if that could be done by video, and ACEDS obliged, giving us Zoom-like multiple windows within the webinar interface. It adds quite a lot to the delivery burden – looking focussed at a camera for an hour is demanding, as many have discovered in the last few weeks – but it was fun to do and we got a good audience.
Relativity Fest London delivered a full programme of talks and panels. A panel discussion is really just another form of video webinar, but one fitted into a wider programme. I have always enjoyed moderating panels; to be able to do so without leaving home is immensely appealing.
Interviews, webinars and panels delivered virtually are part of what Greg Bufithis meant in the quotation I gave above about “making the new thing fit the existing ways that we work….taking post-COVID “new new” things and applying them to the “old old” ways we used to work”. Both the articles to which I link above (by Eric De Grasse and BizBash) hint of exciting new ways to deliver events, particularly so-called ‘hybrid” events which mix in-person and virtual elements.
That’s all great, but these are very much in development and they sound expensive. They will also tie up a lot of resources. Our ambition is to make it easy to get information out to those you need to reach. My aim when moderating discussions or doing video interviews has always been to minimise the time taken up by the people involved. Being able to do that without anyone leaving their office or home gives a significant benefit to everyone involved.
The former sponsorship model imposed limitations on what I did. For one thing, I had to confine myself, more or less, to the sponsors’ interests and to eDiscovery. I also had to keep my nose to the grindstone because there is no bottom to what can be said or written about eDiscovery. The new model leaves me free to take on work, or not, depending on whether it is interesting, lucrative or both. I can do the things I enjoy – mainly the videos and the webinars and panels – without the rest, and I can work with my sons where that is appropriate. We can spend time devising new ways of using the equipment we have amassed over the years and finding new things to do with it.
I will confess at this point that I was intending to stop work in 2020 and turn instead to travel and working on my photographs. I planned to develop my own video skills instead of relying on my sons to do it for me.
Then, suddenly, new and interesting opportunities arose. It is quite hard, I found, to abandon decades of involvement in an industry which interests me and which has done me well. The website sets out what I would like to do which competes in interest with the leisurely life which I had planned. Looking outwards, it competes also with anything else on the market for those looking for ways to promote their eDiscovery / eDisclosure services.
If you are interested in any of our services, please do get in touch.