The festival of WordPress
January 22, 2021

This is an archive of the January 2021 event

How to Have a Human Connection in a Covid-19 World: 2021 Edition

2020 wasn’t like anything we’ve experienced in modern days. The landscape has changed. How we communicate with one another has changed. Masks, online conferences, email, check-ins, text messages all have a more significant impact than ever before on how we connect with others — including our clients. Let’s talk about how to maintain a human connection with friends, clients, and coworkers. We will look at how COVID-19 affects our mental health with tips on how to be calm. Finally, we will look forward to 2021 and beyond what will be the new normal.

Speaker: Mike Demo

Time: 2:00pm UTC
Region: EMEA
Stage: Global Stage


Thank you so much for joining me today.

And I’m so excited to be

here at WordFest Live.

I’m sponsored by Big Orange Heart.

So let’s get right into it,

and hope there’s some value for you.

So this is called how to

have a human connection

to your clients in a

COVID-19 world, 2021 edition.

I gave this talk a lot last year,

and I started when it

was just kind of new.

We didn’t know how long

this was gonna last.

And we were just doing

the best that we could

with the information that we had.

Well, this is the first time

I’m giving the 2021 edition,

so hopefully you’re in

for a special treat.

My name is MikeDemo.

I’m an Evangelist for Bold Grid,

and I’m also the Lead

Handshaker of Web Ventures.

Bold Grid makes WordPress plug-ins.

Web Ventures invest in WordPress plug-ins.

And Web Ventures is proud

to be a microsponsor

of Word Fest 2021.

You can email me at any

of those email addresses, or

My Twitter is probably the

best way to get ahold of me.

I am most active on Twitter @MPMike.

And then my LinkedIn,

Facebook, and website

is there, as well, if you’re so inclined.

So 2020, [chuckles]

what can I say about it?

Think back to New Year’s Eve,

not the one that happened

a couple of weeks ago,

but New Year’s Eve 2019.

It was a magical time.

We were all excited.

We all had new resolutions,

maybe you saw some fireworks,

and it was gonna be the year.

It had a nice round number to it, right?

And it was just gonna be the year,

that goes maybe start a new business,

or start a new job, or move,

or take that vacation that

you always wanted to take.

Everyone was so excited.

New Year’s Eve is usually a

fun time for a lot of people,

depending on how you are.

So, and then the event

that defined 2020 happened,

pretty early in the year.

Do you remember it?

I certainly do.

It was the Australian wildfires.

Yeah, that happened less than a year ago.

And those devastating fires,

we thought it was gonna

dominate the news cycle

for such a long time.

And it didn’t, because

something that affected

a lot more of the world kind of happened.

And that was COVID, the

coronavirus, COVID-19,

and it changed how we

are gonna work forever.

It changed how we’re gonna

interact with people forever.

See, my job as Lead Handshaker,

and yes, that is my actual

title, is to connect with people.

Ali Nimons from,

you know, on Twitter,

she asked, you know,

explain your job in less than five words.

And I said, “I take people out to dinner.”

And it’s true.

And we need to, you know,

have that self care.

And we say it all the time.

You gotta have self care,

take care of yourself first.

You can’t take care of anyone else,

if you can’t take care of

yourself, but it really matters.

And that’s why organizations

like Big Orange Heart,

or Open Sourcing Mental

Illness, do such a good job

to try to give us a space to connect,

and to help us, you know,

have good mental health.

But how do you connect with your clients,

or your colleagues, or your friends?

Well, let’s forward back, you know,

to my last in-person event.

You know, that was after working at Miami,

it was at Mai Tai, and took a

group of people on the train.

And we, I love Tiki bars, if

you know anything about me.

So we went to a Tiki bar,

and this is what I used

to do for a living.

I used to take people out to dinner,

literally, that was my job.

Yes, it was a connect to

the WordPress Community,

and to meet people, and

to see if I can add value.

But really, it was just

meeting people where they are.

And my job had to shift,

once we went virtual.

And I’ve been really

struggling how to do that,

because I’m really, really,

really good at face-to-face.

You probably can’t tell, but

I’m actually an introvert,

but I at least worked for Disney.

And when you’re a cast member at Disney,

there’s onstage and backstage.

And I always thought going

into like a Word Camp,

I was onstage and it was

kind of like a performance.

And I do really well in face-to-face.

I can connect with people,

I can have conversations.

I can remember people’s names.

It’s a really, really good time.

And then we had, then COVID happened,

and everything went virtual.

You know, first I was like, “Oh, well,

I can’t go to WordCamp Asia.

That stinks.”

But at least I have, oh,

that got canceled too.

And that got canceled.

And then pretty much

everything got canceled

from a work perspective.

And then our season tickets

to our local soccer team,

for our football club, got canceled.

Our season tickets to our

Broadway series got canceled.

Some concerts got canceled.

My wife got furloughed for a little bit.

It was kinda scary.

And we were all in our little bubbles.

And here we are in 2021,

we just had the new year.

And are we any better off

than we were in the summer?

Yeah, there’s some good

things coming, right.

We have some vaccines.

People are starting to get vaccinated.

Some good things are happening,

but lock downs are

continuing, or strengthening,

hundreds of thousands, if

not millions, you know,

people are dying on a weekly

basis, and getting sick.

People are losing their jobs.

I’ve been really fortunate, you know.

I’ve been able to stay employed,

but I had to figure out

how to shift the focus,

you know, from physical to digital,

and kinda how to have that connection.

So when we look forward to 2021,

I think we need to push out of our minds

that, well, I just need

to make it to June.

And then everything

would be back to normal.

We’ll be back at WordCamp,

we’ll be traveling.

I just need to make it till fall.

And then everything’s

gonna be back to normal.

That’s maybe not gonna happen.

And if last year taught us

anything, for me anyway,

having these mental blocks of saying,

“Well, I have a cruise booked

in October, so that’s safe.”

And then having those mental

blocks being torn down,

even took a bigger toll on me.

So let’s look at how we can

have a human connection,

’cause that’s what we’re

here to talk about.

So this is what we used to do.

We can’t do that anymore.

However, you can do things

like this virtually.

You can you know, get on Zoom

and cook a meal together.

You know out of different

virtual WordCamps,

Liquid Web and Nexus have

done like have a chef come on,

and everyone made like

nachos, or cheese steaks,

or whatever the case is.

So, you know, you can

have virtual happy hours.

Now, we’re kind of all sick of, you know

having Zoom meetings that last forever.

But, find different ways

to connect with people.

And breaking bread is

a good way to do that.

It’s a little weird, but you

know you get over it over time.

You can do video content like this.

It’s a great way to connect

with your customers.

Some cool ideas with video content.

I just ordered something from a store,

and they sent me an email and it said,

“Thanks, Mike for your order.”

And it had a Pit Video in the email

of my specific order, getting packed up.

It’s a little thing, but

it was kinda cool, right.

And it made me, you know,

appreciate that interaction.

I gave a webinar months ago,

and the organizers gave me

a list of all the emails

of the people that attended.

So, you know what I did with that?

I put them on my mailing list,

and I spam the heck out of them.

No, I got one email from them.

And that email, wasn’t an

offer, wasn’t a sales pitch.

It was a video thanking

them for their time.

I got 150 attendees or so.

Did I take one video and

send it to 150 people?

No, I literally recorded a personal video,

for every single person.

The average length was 24 seconds.

From beginning to end,

it took me less than

four hours to do that.

But the response I got was amazing,

and the business impact is way beyond

the cost of the four hours.

And in the video, it wasn’t a sales pitch.

It was just saying, hey

Bill, hey Julie, hey Amy,

thank you so much for coming to my talk.

If I could do anything

for you, just hit reply.

If you wanna read the

transcript of the webinar,

link’s down below, have a great day, easy.

So if you’re using video content,

try to find unique ways to do it.

And with everything I’m

talking about today,

none of this is quick

ways to get rich quick.

It’s ways to try to have

meaningful connections.

If you’re not genuine in any of this,

it’s gonna come through,

and it’s gonna be a waste of time,

and possibly a waste of money,

depending on what you

decide to do with it.

Email is another great way

you can connect with people.

Yes, I know we’re all

sick of email, right?

Again, I don’t mean an email newsletter.

I’m talking about just a plain text,

plain text email, on people’s birthdays.

Or here’s a great tip,

contact someone on their half birthday.

Everyone gets contacts on their birthday,

no one gets contact on

their half birthday.

Ask how their kids are doing,

ask how their pets are doing.

If you have a CRM,

start recording the details

of who they are as a person.

Because they’re not

doing business with you,

because of your product or service.

They’re not.

Yes, you have to have a

good product or service

and you have to fulfill the

need that you’re offering them.

But most people are all

about the relationships.

And we used to get this

by doing meetings, or calls, or dinners.

And I’ve been doing this for years,

but it’s always been face-to-face.

And I had to shift to virtual.

So I started sending a little email notes,

just one or two sentences,

asking people how they’re doing.

Happy New Year.

I appreciate you.

Let me know if you anything.

Phone calls, phone calls are great.

They’re so underused.

And I know what you’re thinking.

I hate phone calls.

Nobody likes to get called.

Everyone says that, everybody says that.

I’ve talked to so many people,

when I did agency work,

we had thousands and thousands of clients.

Some of them Fortune 500 companies.

They would tell me to my

face, “I prefer email.

I am too busy, email is what I prefer.”

Guess what?

When I called, they were

happy to hear from me,

because you know what we talked about?

because if I’m calling, if

it’s not a scheduled meeting,

I’m usually just checking in

on the person, not the project.

And people love talking about themselves.

They love talking about their kids.

And phone calls to have

these personal connections,

can go a long way, and it’s free.

Notes, physical notes,

mail, ah, gotta love mail.

You know, it helps the postal services,

and people like getting stuff

in the mail that’s not a bill.

It can be a note card.

It can be a thank you.

It can be a birthday card,

or half birthday card

like we talked about.

It can be a gift,

and we’ll show some examples

of that in a little bit.

But people love getting stuff in the mail.

And what they like getting in the mail

more than cards, is what I

call lumpy mail, packages.

And this works really well,

if you’re trying to get

a hold of like a CEO

or someone higher up,

that might be a prospect.

If you send a package to a

CEO or president of a company,

they will be the ones opening it.

If you send a letter,

their secretary opens it.

But most boxes get opened

by the person their addressed to,

’cause it’s like a

present, it’s like special.

I’ve taken this a step further.

And you know how many meetings

I’ve got in by just sending the people

I can’t get ahold of through

traditional reach out methods,

a telegram.

Yes, an actual old school telegram.

There’s a couple of

companies that still do it.

And it has to be hand delivered

and signed to only the recipient.

If you go to an actual

legal telegram service,

not one of the, we print out

a telegram looking thing,

and mail it to them.

No, an actual telegram service.

That’s something else you can do.

Telegrams can get expensive though,

’cause you pay per character.

Embrace your weirdness.

Think about what you like,

and what the person you’re

interacting with likes,

and connect with that.

‘Cause weird stuff is

what’s gonna get noticed.

People remember experiences,

and they talk about them.

They’re not gonna remember

that your cost was 20%

less, in 10 years from now.

They’re not gonna remember

that you have 9.99% uptime,

They are gonna remember

the custom stuffed animal

of their new puppy that they got from you.

They are gonna remember

a handwritten card,

when their daughter got married.

These are the experiences

which will actually help you in business.

It will help you exceed.

And it works beyond just clients.

Think about your colleagues,

think about your friends.

Think about everyone else

you touch in your life.

Right now, more than ever,

you need these reach outs.

I know I certainly do.

Christmas, I sent more

gifts this Christmas season,

holiday season, than I ever have.

Mainly ’cause I like hearing

how people like the gifts.

Yes, it’s fun to get stuff too,

I’m not gonna say it’s not.

But when I send a gift to someone,

and if I’ve sent a gift

to you you’ll know it,

because I’ll be like

calling, did you get it?

Do you get it?

Did you get it?

I’m awful at secrets, by the way.

What did you think?

What do you think?

I sent my CEO of my company a board game

for him and his family.

I asked him weekly, if he’s played yet.

Going on a little over a year,

still hasn’t played it yet.

Maybe I picked out the wrong one,

but it’s the thought that counts, right?

People are gonna remember the experiences.

They’re not gonna remember

your products or services.

If you have bad products or services,

they will remember that.

But they’re gonna talk

about the experiences.

And how do you have memorable experiences?

You embrace your weirdness.

Use some pictures of actual

things I did in 2020.

I sent out custom mugs to people,

at the beginning of the

COVID, with a little note.

Which cost me like $18, shipped.

Bottom left, I sent 80 pounds

of pasta to random people

in the WordPress Community,

Upper left, mascots, stuffed animals,

the company’s mascots,

that we’re thinking about

doing business with.

Bottom right, boxes of cookies.

I’ve sent hundreds of

boxes of cookies out there

throughout the years.

And upper right, you

know the View-Masters,

the little click the reel things.

This is my pitch deck.

There’s a company I’m

trying to reach out to,

where we just had an initial call,

that we thinking of maybe investing in.

They get a box with some sweets,

a business card, and this.

And all my slides are 80 retro,

literally in the View-Master.

This has been one of the

best investments I ever did,

and it’s fun.

And you know what I

hear from these clients,

even, or prospective clients later,

even if we don’t do a deal,

they go on eBay and buy old school reels,

and show their kids

what they used to have

as a toy, before VR.

People remember experiences.

And they’ll also remember help.

So President-Elect Joe Biden.

He is calling for a

National Day of Service,

on one of our holidays called

Martin Luther King Jr Day,

National Day of Service.

This was started

right before the first Obama

presidency inauguration.

Well, when I was filling out the initial

volunteer in my community,

it asked, do you want to

commit to an hour a month,

five hours a month, or

like 10 hours a month?

I personally committed

to five hours a month.

And this doesn’t have to

mean being at a food bank,

since they have, there’s lots

of ways to do it virtually.

And again, you don’t have to

sign a pledge or anything.

But, if you can genuinely help people

it’s gonna pay back dividends.

A good friend of mine, John

Rampton, used to own

He owns, and used to own

He writes for like CNN, Forbes,

a lot of those big

magazines and publications.

He said, “For every 10 people,

I know I’ll get this much money.

For every a hundred people,

I know I’ll get this much money.

These are people I help,

and for every thousand people I help,

I know I’ll do at least

a million dollar deal.”

And he isn’t saying, “Hey,

let me sell you something.”

He isn’t saying, “Let me help you,

and now, here’s what I want.”

He’s just helping, and

naturally stuff pays back.

I believe in karma.

But you know when somebody helps you,

especially if they really help you,

genuinely and doesn’t feel salesy,

what do you want to do in return?

Usually ask,

suppose is there is there

anything I can do for you?

And this isn’t like the mafia,

like how I’m gonna call it in my favor.

But they generally wanna know

if there’s something they can do to help.

And maybe there is, maybe there isn’t.

But you know, maybe they have some clients

that like could use your services.

And say, well, you know,

“If you could send out

something to your email list,

I’d appreciate it.”

Or, “If you know anyone

that’s looking for this,

just keep me in mind.”

Or, “No, I’m fine.”

And they’ll naturally just

talk about it over time.

Being able to be of service,

and have a servant attitude.

I am a member of CMX Pro.

CMX is an amazing online

community manager,

like an evangelist portal.

And I always say, “You have

to have a servant heart

at community for evangelism.”

You’re not there for your company.

You’re not there for your APIs.

You’re not there for you product.

Yes, marketing is what, and

sales are what pay the bills.

But if you’re not truly helping

the members in your

community, or in your circle,

or your clients, or your friends,

it’s just gonna look

shallow and ingenuine.

And sometimes this stuff can be simple.

I noticed people having

a hard time early on,

so I helped organize a

few virtual escape rooms,

where different people that

work with this community

came together and we

need an escape sometimes.

That was a lot of fun.

And there was no agenda

behind it, besides I’m bored.

I’m stuck in my house,

and you are probably too,

let’s do something together.

I know a lot of people

doing virtual karaoke,

virtual board game nights,

there are so many different

things you can do.

But the point of this is,

give, without the

expectation of receiving.

Participate in things

like Big Orange Heart.

Invite people, and it

feels like church, right?

Invite a friend to service

on Sunday. [chuckles]

But really, like Big Orange

Heart does their meetups online.

Like, you know, they helped

power the Word Camp, London meetup.

And the platform’s pretty darn cool.

And they do a great job.

Invite someone to come to that.

Maybe they’ll meet someone else.

You can do things like lunch club,

which is where you get matched up

with someone in your community,

and similar interests.

And it’s a 20-minute commitment.

You know, I applied to be

a mentor for Lambda School,

which is one of the

online coding boot camps.

Think about how you can help.

Maybe serve on the board of

a nonprofit you care about.

But try to find stuff

you’re passionate about,

and engage with people in that.

And it doesn’t mean

you need to be on video

calls all the time.

Trust me, I’m sick of Zoom.

But it does mean you have

genuine conversations,

and you’re building real relationships.

I took the election

day, both election days,

the general election in the U. S.

and the Georgia runoff election.

I volunteered for a nonpartisan group

helping flag voter

disinformation on social media.

And I probably filed

over a hundred reports.

And some of those things

got national attention,

some of those reports.

You know, that I helped flag,

you know it went up to a specialist,

and then they talked to Twitter,

or Facebook, or whatever.

But, I was a small part of that.

And then, somebody attacked

me online, just last week,

for a very personal reason,

for being part of the LGBTQA+ community,

which I wasn’t public on

this, until this summer.

And it hurt.

But you know what made it better?

Friends online, people I know,

they were like, they

supported me publicly.

But then somebody in

the WordPress Community

donated to the Human Rights

Campaign, on my behalf.

One of the managers or staff people,

for the nonprofit I was volunteering at,

talked to me personally

to make sure I was okay.

And we go back to those

personal connections,

helping people, being genuine,

embracing your weirdness,

and just reaching out.

So with that, we have

reached the end of my time.

I want to thank you so much,

for you taking your time

to be with me today.

Please talk to me on Twitter.

I’ll be around during the event,

if anyone has any questions,

comments, whatever it is.

I would love to hear from you.

And thank you so much.

Again, my name is MikeDemo,

and my Twitter is @MPMike.

And enjoy the rest of Word Fest.


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