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By David GordonDirector, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

There is an old French saying commonly translated as "The more things change, the more they stay the same." We are already thinking of 2020 as a year like no other. Yet, with the benefit of a little hindsight, we might come to realize that while many things changed, many things did not.

So what changed in 2020? Consider that:

  • Social distancing forced us to find new ways to stay connected with colleagues and clients
  • Attention spans got shorter as our memories got worse
  • Familiar cues, like body language and eye contact, required complete overhauls
  • Dress codes faded or vanished altogether

Is our new world really so different from the old one? Consider what has not changed — what, in many cases, has become more important than ever:

  • Eye contact is difficult virtually, so we notice its absence more than we used to
  • We feel more isolated, so "small talk" matters more to us
  • Virtual connection has become routine for everyone, so it is more important for us to keep our interactions brief and structured
  • We are all a little bored, so we are more likely to remember experiences that are different or fun

The takeaway turns out to be straightforward: If something matters more to you today than it did a year ago, it probably matters more to your clients as well. For the same reason, what seems trivial or tedious to you now might also be trivial or tedious in your clients' eyes.

Bottom line: What used to matter still does.