I may be showing my age a bit but I’ve been working in the video industry for more than 16 years. I’ve taken a few breaks from the action but I made my first foray into video for collaboration and learning in the mid 90’s. In fact, in July I celebrated my eight year anniversary with Polycom. Before that I was working for a small company based in Silicon Valley, California that pioneered interactive distance learning (IDL) solutions. The company was small but mighty and had a bragging list of top name customers that included HP, General Motors, Ford, Safeway, Social Security Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and others.
In the “early days” of collaboration solutions, the only way to realistically get live video to hundreds or thousands of people was via satellite. And because of the delay in getting to space and back, the video was typically one-way while any audio return travelled across the good old POTS lines. One-way video is a bit limiting, of course, and can even leave you a little confused when executives from Fortune 500 companies recognize your face from that demo you did last month but you don’t have a clue who the blazes they are.
Needless to say, a lot has changed since then and two-way video is a much better way to communicate and collaborate. It probably goes without saying but I am a raving fan of video and will sing its praises from the rooftops given the opportunity. All told, I’ve been drinking this particular brand of champagne for many, many years which means I’m pretty comfortable in front of a video conferencing camera. (Now a movie camera is a whole different story.)
Through the years, I’ve had my share of video faux pas, of course. As a part of our alpha testing for new software releases at my previous company, we would regularly do internal broadcasts from the quality assurance (QA) lab. I seem to have a special skill for unearthing bugs in technology products so I was often asked to be the “on air talent” for these broadcasts. Now folks who know me (or have seen me on video) will agree that my nose is not my daintiest of facial features. Come to find out, when you sit really close to a webcam in a space challenged QA lab, that particular feature gets even more enhanced, shall we say. A far end participant grabbed a screenshot that prompted me to exclaim, “Why didn’t someone tell me my nose was so big?”
But do you know what? Most of my colleagues didn’t mind that I wasn’t at my video best. Of course they were a friendly audience and I wasn’t making a formal presentation to my executive team, demoing the solution to a big customer or interviewing for a great new job. I was simply meeting with my peers and doing my job… through the power of video.
So my suggestion to you is, don’t be scared of video. Find a safe environment, like a team meeting or a water cooler conversation with a remote colleague, and just start doing it. It’s always a good idea, dare I say “best practice,” to check your self-view when you first join a call and certainly don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if you were in the same room, aside from wearing those bunny slippers of course. Otherwise I encourage you to go ahead and jump into the deep end of the video pool and let some great products and services help you enjoy the ride. A wise man once said, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933)
And if you would like some coaching on video etiquette, Polycom’s Amy Barzdukas has published a blog to help you avoid the most common pitfalls. Video really is the best way I know to Defy Distance in the Workplace of the Future.
In the meantime, be yourself, have fun and BYO bunny slippers.