Polycom CEO Bob Hagerty got stumped with a technology question in a recent earnings call and YouTube subscriber "DancersDad000" (uhh, no comment) posted the video. We don't think it's a big deal that a CEO of a big company doesn't know every single detail of a product set. Indeed, Mr. Hagerty answered the question with a perfectly straightforward "I don't know" and the meeting proceeded on just fine. But what intrigued us is that this meeting was being webcast live and recorded for the video sharing sites, and things can and do go wrong.
We'd guess that there's a higher imperative for publicly-traded companies who are selling web and video conferencing technology to use the visual medium in their earning calls with investors. With the requirement for transparency from the SEC and the cultural expectation for transparency from the web-enabled, how could you not have video in your earnings meeting if you're a web/video conferencing company?
But it's not easy. Whether you've been on a senior management team in an earnings conference call or have been part of an important biz dev phone call with your sales team hovered around speakerphone, we all know the value of private and silent non-verbal communication. Urgent hand-gestures, head nods, note-sliding around the conference table, and raised fists of triumph are what a team consciously and unconsciously use to communicate among each other to perfect their message - hidden from view - to those at the other end of an audio call. There's value in the private, non-verbal, physical gestures among the team and it's been completely normal and ethical to do. It's like a football huddle. Or more accurately, it's similar to how a group of teenagers communicate in a finished basement when a mother perched at the top of the stairs calls down to inquire about what's going on. Business skills are honed early.
Today's live video webcasts are a sign of how video technology is changing cultural and social norms about what is "transparent" (read: moral) in business. We envision the Securities and Exchange Commission someday mandating the requirement that all earnings calls be webcasted under the unflinching eye of the video camera. (We can hear the phones at the SEC ringing in two minutes, conferencing industry lobbyists calling.) In the same way that writers don't make the best vloggers, telephone conference call adept CEOs might not make the best webcasted CEOs. All we know is that with the rise of these video events and after watching this video with the two executives under the spotlight, we're investing in stocks of companies that manufacture powder to take the gloss off of shiny noggins. Life in video reality.
February 15, 2007