Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

The Videoconference Debate Continues

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m disappointed you’ve come down so definitively on the side of people who think participants in virtual meetings should willingly show their faces. In my experience working from home, most of these “virtual meetings” are really just conference calls with cameras. No visual aids are being shared. We talked on the phone for over a hundred years without being able to see one another and it worked fine, so why do we now suddenly need to show our faces?

I don’t need to see my co-worker's basement office, their laundry room or their dog licking itself in the background. Being off-camera lets me discreetly tend to other work while I listen to the conversation, whereas having the camera on obligates me to sit and stare attentively at a little dot so I appear engaged. Seen only from the shoulders up, this is a type of “performance” that negates nuances of body language and expression anyway. It doesn’t replicate the feel of a face-to-face meeting, and we shouldn’t pretend that it does. -- Camera Skeptic

DEAR CAMERA SKEPTIC: I agree with you, to a point. I do not believe the camera has to be on at every moment through your calls, especially if it is not common practice for your company. I do believe, however, that seeing your face when you are speaking to people adds a bit of dynamism and gravitas that can prove helpful, especially when person-to-person engagement may not return any time in the near future. By the way, videoconferencing is not new; it’s just expanded. Many businesses conference in remote participants all the time and have done so for years -- via phone and projected image.

My recommendations are not meant to create more pressure on anyone. I do believe, however, that seeing each other’s faces occasionally on videoconferencing calls can give you a leg up in terms of people remembering you in relation to the ideas you present and as an active team member.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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