A few weeks ago, I realized the reality of our virtual realities. Half way through a webinar I was leading for a group of speakers, one of the participants proceeded to stand up, remove his t-shirt, apply spray-on deodorant, and put on a different (presumably fresher) t-shirt.
“It all happened so fast,” you can imagine me saying to my therapist. “I couldn’t respond quick enough.” I was stunned and in disbelief, does he know his camera is on, or maybe he’s an exhibitionist?! Compelled to hold it together, I quickly created a private chat to the organizer of the event in hopes she could facilitate a private chat to the gentleman. I wanted to be the one to message him privately and alert him that his camera was on but my attention was split, responsible for managing the time and engagement of all the other participants simultaneously. In the moment I made the executive call to focus on the large majority, and kept the flow of the content moving forward while managing questions flowing into my inbox about the workshop topic. It seemed as though no one else had noticed…not even the organizer of the event. How could this be?! This created another quandary…are people desensitized to this sort of behavior or too appalled to say something?
“If you see something, say something” is the quote that comes to mind. We all need to do our part to make our virtual realities more realistic because they are not going away, and they are not getting better without effort. This is one of the many reasons why I’m an advocate for turning web-cams on and coming to meetings “web cam ready.” Yes, it means we have to shower and floss, and the ROI is more connection and more reality.
I’m still grappling with what I could have done differently to save face for this man who (I believe) wasn’t aware that his camera was on but I failed. Over the years I’ve seen dozens of people behave in ways they wouldn’t have, had they known their cameras were turned on but this takes the cake. The good news is, this person had established credibility earlier in the session, so this wasn’t our first impression of him, that said, a favorable impression can change quickly if given the opportunity. Although I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time, the bigger issue here is lack of awareness. Look both ways before you cross the street is analogous to checking your camera’s on / off switch before logging on. Treat every on-line communication interaction as if you’re meeting a colleague for the first time, and keep your shirt on.
If you haven’t already watched, “A Conference Call in Real Life,” a hilarious depiction of what it’s really like to join a conference call, enjoy!