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12. Moderators

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Moderators can make a multisite or heavily attended two-way videoconference enjoyable—even funny. They can set a tone and establish a theme. On the other hand, if they only enforce rules, they can create boredom. Nonetheless, a moderator must work from guidelines. Here are a few suggestions:

The moderator should spell out ground rules at the beginning of the videoconference. These should cover topics such as


It was clear from the beginning of the virtual meeting that no moderator was present. No one was in charge of making sure the videoconference went smoothly for this major technology company.

After a warm-up speech (which was not broadcast to the off-site locations),two panel discussions were scheduled for transmission. The panel discussions proceeded smoothly enough, though they were dominated by two people. These long-winded panelists spoke so long past their allotted time that no one else had an opportunity to ask questions.

Finally, an excited senior executive introduced the closing speaker of the morning. A lot of money had been paid to hire this speaker, an industry expert, and he was being broadcast to six locations around the United States. His message was to be the key event of the video-conference.

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Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Customers are not always right. They make mistakes; they forget things; they get confused. But customers are always emotional. That is, they always have feelings, sometimes intense, other times barely perceptible, when they make purchases or engage in commercial transactions. Some people dread shopping of any kind. Others define their lives by their purchases. Entertainment for them is a big shopping mall. Indeed, some people spend their vacations at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They even get married there!

No one is entirely neutral about consuming.

One thing is certain: no one is entirely neutral about consuming. In part this is because money is involved with consumption. British psychologists Adrian Furnham and Michael Argyle, in The Psychology of Money, summarize the complex variety of issues surrounding people’s emotional attachment to money: “Money is publicly disavowed, and privately sought after; and simultaneously, is the most important quality in the world, but spoken of as having little value.”1

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28. Distractions

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


When someone engages in distracting behavior, it often means the person lacks power or status. Children, for example, often behave in a manner that is distracting. Power, on the other hand, is broadcast by firmness and steadiness. Remember, your behavior will be amplified with videoconferencing. Here are some ideas to consider.


At one internal videoconference, a dominant person in the group clearly wore a toupee. How did we know? Because the hairpiece was actually askew. It was not only crooked, it came close to touching his eyebrows. It was black in color, and all the gray hairs at the nape of his neck stuck out.

No one felt comfortable telling him about the problem. So the conference started.

People held their breath, waiting for the hairpiece to fall off. Even the cameraman could not avoid fixating on the wig gone awry. Perhaps he did it unconsciously, but that cameraman kept panning over to the man’s head, ending up with a close-up focus on the toupee.

We have no idea what the toupee wearer’s message was, we were so distracted by his hair problem. We suspect that everyone else in the conference had the same reaction.

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36. Jewelry

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


When it comes to choosing jewelry for videoconferences, subtle is best. Avoid bright, shining jewelry. Remember the principle of amplification. Jewelry sparkles and catches the viewer’s eye. Necklaces and bracelets can bump up against microphones and create a distraction problem.

Some women normally wear many bracelets together as a set. If this is your habit, take them off when you are on camera. You want to look your best, and the bracelets will definitely pull attention away from you.

Earrings should be small. If you choose to wear diamonds, be careful that they are not so large and bright that they flash sparks of light into your viewer’s eyes. Even large gold earrings can reflect annoyingly large flashes of light.

Limit the ribbons, tiepins, and badges you wear. Unless you are a decorated military leader, leave the decorations at home.

Men, avoid the “Elvis look” and don’t wear gold chains and an open shirt revealing your chest hair.

People who have any visible piercings, other than subtle earrings, should remove the jewelry or studs before the videoconference, if possible. Although tongue studs may seem hidden, many of those who have them tend to stick their tongues out to feel the stud against their teeth. This habit creates a lizard effect and should definitely be avoided.

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2. Why New Habits Are Needed

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


We have come a long way from simply being excited about seeing people who are far away while talking with them to turning the technology into a necessary business communication tool.

Without developing the best habits, however, it is possible—even likely—we will completely misuse this visual medium, look awful, and be perceived in a negative way. And because videoconferences are easily recorded, any mishaps can be watched hundreds of times.

Jay Koenigsberg, founder and CEO of Vexcorp, Inc., a private IP (Internet protocol) network of videoconference services, has set up a network of branch locations across the United States. Jay points out, “The videoconferencing experience is either good or bad. There are no in-betweens.”11 In addition to providing centralized scheduling, and top-notch easy-to-use VC equipment, Vexcorp adds value by paying attention to what Koenigsberg calls the “total videoconference experience.” Vexcorp has experimented with paint colors on his studio walls and settled on a deep blue that is best projected across the public Internet. Chairs do not rock or swivel. Lighting is soft. All of the locations have their city site listed with the Vexcorp logo. This enables participants to easily identify the location of each speaker. These are small details, but they matter. Koenigsberg describes one of his competitors who set up a VC studio in a strip mall next to a Virginia beach. Everyone could see people walking by in bathing suits through the glass window positioned directly in the camera’s view.

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