Marco Polo Isn’t Just a Game You Play in a Pool

Russell Lahodny

As I sit in my office for one of the last few times before driving across the country to the next chapter in my chamber career, I can’t help but think about all of the great people I have had the pleasure of working with—not just on staff, but including you, the members of W.A.C.E. In nearly six years as vice president, I have literally met hundreds of members and created lifelong friendships with many of you.

Having said all of that, the one thing that has bothered me about making my next career step is that COVID-19 has officially robbed me of my ability to say proper goodbyes to many friends, colleagues and even some family members. The good news is that even during a pandemic, there are ways around certain problems and my parting solution for you is an app call Marco Polo.

What Is Marco Polo?

Think of Marco Polo as a sophisticated pen-pal app that allows you to send video messages to family members and close friends. My wife, who is much more social than I am, has found it to be a blessing for her to feel connected with close friends and even work colleagues.

So why is Marco Polo better than some of the other options? Let me share a couple of examples.

First, you might think text messaging does the same thing. Well, even with all the plethora of emojis we have at our fingertips, they can’t always capture our current mood and we all know that text messages are void of tone.

With Marco Polo, you simply record your video, saying what you want to say, and send it to your contact.

Try to do a lot of videos over text messaging and you will quickly find your phone’s storage at capacity. The app stores the videos in the cloud, where they can be stored forever.

Another feature, just like text messages, is the ability to either chat one-on-one or create a group of family members, friends or colleagues. If you are in a fun mood, you can also add filters or voice effects to make things light and humorous.

Timing Is Key

Let’s face it, I’m moving to a new time zone and will now be three hours ahead of most of my family and friends. They may not appreciate me trying to Facetime them live at 6 a.m. when it’s 9 a.m. where I will be living.

So, you and the person you are communicating with can chat on your own time and when it’s convenient for them.

Free vs. Plus

Marco Polo is, like many of my favorite apps, completely free. With the free version of the app you can do pretty much anything you want. There are no ads to avoid, no limits to the number of chats or groups. You can add voice effects and filters for free and control the notifications.

So, what do you get with Plus? With Plus you can speed up playback, watch and send polos in HD, send voice-only polos, add emojis, take notes on a scratchpad, live text, send urgent notes, plus a few other features.

With all that in mind, Marco Polo has become a great way for me to stay in touch with my people during the pandemic, and now as I embark on a new adventure—and that makes it a lifesaver.

I want to say a quick thank you for all your comments and feedback on my column over the years. I look forward to staying in touch, so if you haven’t connected with me on LinkedIn, I encourage you to do so. Or, maybe send me a quick Marco Polo! See you around the chamber watering hole!

Russell Lahodny, former vice president of W.A.C.E. and vice president of local chamber relations at the California Chamber, is now president/CEO of the Columbia County (GA) Chamber.