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Looking on the bright side in the new normal

Meetings at work have long been derided as not-really-work. A popular internet meme classifies meetings as “a practical alternative to work.” Now that meeting online has become the new normal, more and more meetings remind us that Zoom fatigue is a real thing and that face-to-face communication is much more normal and communicative.

It’s not real life. It’s TV.

But let’s accentuate the positive. Online meetings are video. And a lot of what people in business need to communicate can be communicated more efficiently with video than in any other form. So why not make the most of it?

If you accept that showing up for an online meeting is like appearing on television, then you quickly realize the importance of good video quality. Viewers, who have been watching TV all their lives, expect quality video.

Good lighting makes it easier to pay attention. Your laptop’s camera and microphone may not be up to the task. Poor quality audio (which includes any sound coming out of a tinny laptop or smartphone speaker) makes listening stressful. A sketchy camera makes you look sketchy.

Presenting out of the box

Fortunately, manufacturers, platforms and app makers are working hard to redefine the new televisual normal. Built-in computer cameras and speakers are getting better. Platforms offer customized meeting software, like Cisco’s Webex software for legislatures.

Useful interactive add-ons (e.g., polls, whiteboards) give people something to do, and foster collaboration. Task and project management tools (e.g., scrum boards, time tracking) give participants something to look at besides people in boxes.

And there are new tools like virtual backgrounds to jazz up the boxes. Included among many add-ons for Microsoft Teams is “Together Mode” introduced last year, which can gather everyone in a nice virtual room instead of individual boxes.

Unfortunately, without a green screen, virtual backgrounds can detract from your appearance, as ghostly black shapes follow your every move. Even a vigorous nod of agreement can look dubious in a virtual room. An inexpensive (<$100) green screen fixes this and gives you lots of additional creative options.

With a green screen you can take full advantage of meeting presentation software that lets you share the screen with visuals. The most versatile tool of this type I’ve run across is mmhmm. The app’s “copilot” feature allows two people to link their presentations and control the slides or videos or smartphone screens on the screens of both presenters. No one needs to fiddle with screen sharing permissions. Instead, at any time during the meeting, you can start hosting a lively TV show in your own window. Seems like an interesting cure for many of the ailments induced by online meetings.

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Bruce McKenzie

A writer with a background in public broadcasting and corporate marketing communications, Bruce McKenzie pioneered the “2-Minute Explainer®” brand video for technology businesses in 2004. Customers have included numerous enterprise technology companies (Cisco, IBM, BMC, Brocade/Broadcom, Software AG, CA Technologies, CompuCom) as well as B2B startups. Rebranded “Technology Business Video” in 2017, the company today produces a variety of “tactical” videos to reach buying team members throughout the sales cycle. We take everything marketers want to say and transform it into short videos that communicate stuff buyers want to know. It’s basically what good writers do, made visual. Visit www.techbizvideo.com to learn more or set up a chat about tactical videos with the Technology Business Video professionals.

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