Zoom has been wildly popular in the time of the pandemic shutdown–to the point where it’s become a generic catchall for all videoconferencing technology. (In fact, that’s how I’ll use it here: for “Zoom,” please substitute whatever system for videoconferencing you are presently using.)
And there’s a good chance you’re using one. People are using it for deliberative meetings, for casual video calls, and for playing Pictionary with their family members. In my family, we’re using Zoom, Skype, Duo, and FaceTime depending on the people involved.
Within a few weeks after the pandemic shutdown, Zoom memberships expanded twentyfold, and if you needed technical support you were in big trouble. After hackers started providing infantile demonstrations of their prowess, security revisions to the Zoom platform forced users to re-learn how to administer their systems.
But this post isn’t about that; really, it isn’t about Zoom at all. It’s about what happens when a technology challenges the status quo.
Deserved attention has been paid to the many losses that have taken place as part of the COVID-19 emergency; less has been paid to those who have actually done well in the emergency. Fact is, many people who do very well in person lose that advantage online, and others who don’t do so well in person come out just fine in an electronic exchange. There are losers, of course, but there are also winners.
Boomers like me, relatively comfortable in a physical room, don’t always come across well when the room is virtual. And some who don’t present well in person suddenly become Zoomers: videoconference stars.
Regardless of the technology in question, some people–regardless of silly generational stereotypes–will figure out how to use it, while others cluelessly miss opportunities. Don’t be one of those.
Early in the Zoom tidal wave, it seems that on every conference there was at least one person who had mysterious trouble: their audio didn’t start, their camera didn’t work, they had trouble entering the call. (Progressive Insurance even created a parody ad on that theme.)
Don’t be that person! If Zoom is the medium, use the resources available here to find out how the system works. If it’s another system, use the equivalent tools.
Beyond the minimum, become a Zoomer, a videoconference power user. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and act accordingly. I can’t do much better than to recommend Bruce Hennes’s article “Tips for a Better Video Call.” Read it, and follow the suggestions there. (I’ve switched shirts, lighted my office differently, mitigated the clutter, upgraded my webcam and mic, and repositioned the camera. Just saying.)
Those of us who present well in person – Boomers or not – have a responsibility to make sure that we do just as well in a videoconference. Otherwise, the Zoomers will eat our lunch.