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21. Cameras

Janelle Barlow Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Many people are afraid of video cameras despite the smallness of today’s portable cameras. People feel exposed and vulnerable looking into that black lens. If you are interviewed on a television show, the host will tell you to talk with him or her and not look into the camera. That rule, however, does not apply to videoconferences. You are trying to replicate the feeling of an in-person meeting with distant sites, so looking into the camera is important.

The camera can be your friend if you follow a few simple tips:


The next time you have an opportunity,watch a big sporting event on television. Notice the audience reaction to the television cameras.

Most people are sophisticated enough to know that when that red-lighted television camera is pointed at them, they are being transmitted across the ether to a huge home audience. What an opportunity!

Naturally, they want to see themselves as the home viewing audience will see them. So, they turn to the gigantic screens that most sports arenas display all over the stadium to catch the live feed. They—and the viewing audience at home—see a nice side view as all the heads turn. Too bad no one has invented a monitor that we can simultaneously look at and simultaneously see ourselves head-on.

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30. Anger and Other Negative Emotions

Janelle Barlow Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Anger signifies that something is important. We do not get angry about issues that are unimportant to us. So when we see someone else get angry, we become curious to know exactly what will happen next and our interest level peaks.

When you write an angry e-mail and send it immediately, it is a very quick display of your anger. Anger on video is even more immediately displayed—and amplified. The nonlocal site will no doubt play and replay your message, if recorded, attempting to figure out what you really meant.

Save your anger for after your videoconference or for in-person meetings. While you are on camera, breathe when you feel yourself getting aroused and irritated. Avoid talking when you are angry. If you have a tendency to easily get angry, write yourself a reminder note about not getting angry and place it on the paper you have in front of you. Although surveys note that about 40 percent of people express anger in meetings, it is best avoided in videoconferences.

Like anger, many negative emotions—sarcasm, resistance, arrogance, negativity, gloating, bitterness, distrust, and even indifference and disappointment—come across strongly on camera and are commonly expressed in meetings. They are best avoided in a medium that amplifies them.

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16. International Videoconferences

Janelle Barlow Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


It is easy to offend someone from your own cultural group—when you intend to offend. It is even easier to offend someone outside your cultural group—without ever knowing you did so. Here are some ways to avoid this problem.


One American businessman has a strong habit of making the “okay” symbol with his hand (the thumb and forefinger forming the letter O) whenever he agrees with something. When he is on the telephone, this habit doesn’t matter. However, in many parts of the world, that gesture is a rude one, in fact, among the rudest.

This particular businessman developed a strong, supportive relationship over the telephone with one of his Brazilian female colleagues. They made a great team, she sourcing manufacturers and he defining product requirements and quality standards.

Then this distribution company got a videoconferencing system.

Now the woman could see her colleague’s habitual “nasty” gestures. Because of her unwillingness to say what was upsetting her, it took quite a while to sort out their subsequent miscommunication. The problem slowed down a project the two were working on, and to this day they don’t feel as good about each other as they once did.

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Janelle Barlow Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The last twenty years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of articles written about customer complaints. Many are solid, research-based articles; others offer mostly advice about this difficult subject. When A Complaint Is a Gift was published in 1996, Barlow and Møller plotted the sheer number of articles published on complaint handling. Since then, Barlow and Maul have gone back to see what additional articles have been written since 1995, once again using the Dialog database as a basic source. Here’s what we found.

Clearly, the interest in this topic has not waned, though the increase in articles on complaint handling does seem to be leveling off. Recent articles range in topics from the simple and direct, “How to Handle Customer Complaints,” to the complex and research based, “Why Don’t Some People Complain? A Cognitive-Emotive Process Model of Consumer Complaint Behavior.”1 Within this growing body of printed research and advice, however, there is little discussion of the verbal interaction between service representatives and complaining customers. Since this is precisely where the highest component of emotionality resides, there clearly is room for more research in this area.260

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4. Should Your Meeting Be a Videoconference?

Janelle Barlow Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Meetings can be called for different purposes: brainstorming, listening to a speech, covering an agenda step by step, meeting the legal requirements of an annual board meeting, training, problem solving, collaborating on a medical decision, strategic planning, team building, introducing new people, reporting and updating, or selling.

Of course, not all meetings work well as videoconferences. For example, technical training seems to work very well in many virtual meetings, whereas staff motivation does not work nearly so well in a virtual meeting. Shared brainstorming among five different people across a huge geographical area is a clumsy use of VC, unless they go off-line to brainstorm and then come back to share ideas.

If this is your first foray into VC, give yourself time to learn from your own experiences. As you become more acquainted with videoconferencing, you can adjust and fine-tune your use of the medium. You will definitely go through a learning curve. Let every videoconference in which you participate be your teacher.

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