Things went well enough this week. I’m glad to have closed out my adventures with virtual presentations. Delivering a talk while sitting at my desk is a lot different than walking out onto a stage and delivering. The emotional experience is different. The energy in the room is missing. It feels a lot more like they pointed over your way at a specific time and said go. You have to be ready to deliver at that specific time and you don’t get any of the natural adrenaline from stepping out onto the stage. In my case nothing was happening in the background. It was absolutely quiet and I just had to make eye contact with the webcam and try to keep the pace constant.
This time around I dropped notes into the PowerPoint slides at the bottom with about 10 things per slide that I wanted to make sure got covered. That meant that along the way if for some reason I needed to look down at my notes, then it was pretty easy to make that happen. One of the things I do when giving a talk is set a piece of paper on the podium with the general outline of my talk on it. That gives me an easy to view order of the stories to tell during the talk in case I need access to that reminder along the way. The point of the last two paragraphs was to try to explain that giving a talk in person is a lot different. You have a sense of the mood of the audience. You have context from the previous talks. Most of the time you know a bunch of people in the room. Delivering a talk online is totally different. Honestly, to me it felt more like recording a training session than it did delivering a talk. I could have written down the entire thing and delivered it like reading from a teleprompter. That is something that I have practiced doing and it works well enough if you are used to that tempo of delivery.
One of the more interesting pieces of technology that I got to use during the talk was a virtual background. As part of the Zoom application settings you can open the “Virtual Background” tab and quickly choose a virtual background or upload one. In my case it was easy enough to click add the image provided by the virtual conference team. I just remembered that it was probably a good idea to go back into the Zoom settings on the application and revert the virtual background to none before the next time I attend a meeting on this desktop. I was surprised at how easy it was to turn on the virtual background and immediately disappointed at the rendering and how strangely it responded if you moved around very quickly. Maybe it was the image that was selected that made it hard for the algorithm to render the virtual background in real time or maybe it is just one of those things that works well enough to be ok, but not well enough to be awesome. That sad part about the whole virtual background being introduced is that those folks did not get to see my office as a backdrop during the talk. This is mostly disappointing due solely to the fact that I had cleaned my office and even gotten out a level to make sure the picture frames were perfectly lined up. It was probably time for me to clean up my office anyway and I’ll have to get over it being blocked out by the virtual background.
On a side note the ability to have a virtual background is probably a really awesome feature for people who do not have a home office like the one I’m occupying at the moment. Being able to just put in a professional background is probably a great feature to introduce to help make meetings more professional no matter where you are. You could be sitting at an airport and it would look like you had a professional background. At the airport you would really have to hope your noise cancelling microphone and the software that algorithmically focuses on your voice were working seamlessly.