Our new abnormal II: A zero-‘zoom’ game

Published June 27, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Philip Cu Unjieng2 copy


“How effective are your Online Communication & Presentation Skills? And are you committing the same “bad habits” as others, when negotiating this new medium?”

Sitting in on the webinar, Upgrade Your Online Presence & Delivery, that Issa Litton and her 1Lit offers, there were so many takeaways and tips that I was amused thinking how all the things I was hearing would make great material for this column. For whether we like it or not, so much of our lives, and living, has resumed on this medium during quarantine. No matter which app we subscribe to, whether it’s Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, there’s the inevitability of us having to go online to bring a semblance of normalcy, or “business as usual,” to our lives.

To fill you in, Issa has been hosting live events and televised programs for over 20 years now. Even with my personal bias, I can confidently say she’s regarded as one of the most trusted, professional, and competent of hosts. When the COVID pandemic struck, she effectively transitioned to Online “events” — the GoNegosyo forums and the Rajo Laurel Fashion Show, just two of her more visible engagements. These webinars are her way of giving back, sharing the online learning she’s amassed, with whoever is ready to enroll. And I know the corporate world has sat up and taken notice, asking her to customize her modules for their sales and marketing teams.

So peruse the list of online “cardinal sins” below, and tick off how many you’ve encountered… or are guilty of. It’s made our New Abnormal Online lives a fountainhead of humor and fun. So let’s laugh and learn!

A Pipi-tsugin Matter- Don’t you just love it when someone rambles on, or earnestly stresses a point with matching hand movements, while on ‘Mute’? You have to remember that it can be controlled by the ‘host’; so if you’re not looking at the microphone icon, you may not even realize that it’s been disabled. This one has me in tears of mirth when it happens, begging for sub-titles.

Old MacDonald’s Nursery School — This is dedicated to the ones who go online with pets in the immediate vicinity, or with small children that you can’t control. Beyond the now famous one of pet cats getting into a rumble while their journalist/owner was broadcasting from home, I’ve also watched one guy talking while a rooster was crowing and a dog then started barking — and you couldn’t hear a thing he said. Find yourself a “safe place” when going online.

No Means ‘Noo’ — You have to remember your laptop is now functioning as a camera, and ideally, is elevated to eye level, and not just lying on your table or desk. Otherwise, there are instances when all we see is your forehead; or worse, when you move in too close, your nostrils and nose hair. Elevating will also avoid the halo effect, which happens when your head is blocking some ceiling light

Black Lives Matter — I’ve attended so many meetings when there’ll be that one person who won’t turn the camera on. As a result, there’ll be six or seven of you, but one little screen is permanently black. You see his or her name on the bottom of their screen; but that’s as far as you get. And yes, there have been those meetings when that decision to keep the camera off may have been super-smart!

Deer in the Headlights — This one is caused by a faulty or unreliable Internet signal, reminding me of those scenes in a movie when you’re driving at night along some deserted forest highway, and out of nowhere, there’s a deer standing frozen in the road. I also think of Batman and his arch-villain, Mr. Freeze. At first, you may not even be sure if the person is just very still, concentrating on what’s being said; when in actuality, he or she are gone, and they have to dial back in.

To Hear, or Not to Here — For the ones who refuse to wear earphones, or just insist on going Online without their hearing aid. Every two minutes or so, he or she will interject with a repetitive “Ano daw?” So I love this one, as they show up, but they’re not even here at all. And woe to them, if no one is taking minutes of the online meet; they’ve attended, but only in spirit.

Ilaw ng Tahanan — Lighting is still important during these online meetings. I don’t mean invest in a ring light or be professionally lit. But just be conscious of the effect you’re creating with what illumination you muster at home. Just that I saw one where his face was well lit, but it was completely dark behind him — and it was creepy, like he was some stalker or malevolent presence.

Bein’ Green — Let’s talk about virtual backdrops. They can be downright distracting, or you blend into them if you’re wearing apparel of the same color or design as your virtual background. Mind you, there are some nice backgrounds and I’m not saying you shouldn’t use them. Just be aware of the effect your chosen green-screening will produce with you in the foreground. I’ve seen one with clouds constantly moving from left to right – too distracting!

“Bare-ing” Tagalog — Don’t you cringe for the guy who’ll show up for his online meeting topless? Ready to impress on you how important fitness is to them during the quarantine. I just hope they don’t take this mode of non-apparel to their business meets. There are women who’ll indulge in their own version of this — in work-out outfits and/or drenched in perspiration, while constantly mentioning that they’ve just finished their yoga, Pilates, or CrossFit session.

Your Mental Attendance Is Required — This happens when you scan the other screens, and find someone who’s perpetually looking down. That’s the giveaway that he or she is on their smartphone — texting, reading their new messages, or even scrolling down their social media feeds. Here’s where a nominal degree of courtesy is required; especially for the person who is speaking.

So how many of the above could you identify with, or made you laugh to yourself? Issa holds her webinars at least once a month, so you should check out the 1Lit FB page for the next one. Given that this is our immediate future, it’s best to put our best face (& voice) forward in this medium — to be more effective and, hopefully, produce the desired results.

(For comments and reactions, reach out to [email protected]; or my FB and Instagram Philip Cu-Unjieng accounts)