From an early age, we are taught the importance of personal presentation. Sit upright, speak clearly and correctly, dress for the occasion. The way we present ourselves is fundamental to our public-facing persona. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we are judged by our interpersonal skills.
To me, this is more of an opportunity than a burden. Simple actions like speaking more confidently, standing tall with your shoulders back (Jordan Peterson reference for you), or enunciating your syllables more clearly, can change the way people view you.
As we have spent more time online in the last two years, personal presentation is equally important, but there is more to think about. On Zoom, it still pays to speak clearly, sit upright, and look directly at the camera. But online communication has aspects that do not apply face-to-face.
Effective online communication requires a clean and crafted background, decent video quality and a clear microphone. In person, our voices sound crystal clear and most people (with their glasses on) can see us in 4K.
Having taken university classes online for two years now, and conducted tutoring sessions over zoom, I am accustomed to hearing the same advice time and time again: make sure your background is not cluttered, dress appropriately, ensure there is good lighting, make sure nobody distracts you.
You've heard these before. So where am I going with this?
These recommendations rarely relate to the quality of our inputs. I think the shift to online interaction and work is an opportunity to optimise for online communication. An opportunity to invest in technology that improves our audio and video quality.
I recently invested in the Shure MV7 microphone for my podcast. A byproduct of this investment was the realisation that high-quality audio and video is critical to successful communication.
We've all heard a podcast, or watched a video, where one party to the conversation is recording on their laptop's shitty in-built microphone and filming on a webcam that renders about as much detail as a cryptopunk.
Poor audio and video is a constant distraction from the message we are trying to convey. It is hard enough to vie for someone's attention and time. Don't make it harder than it needs to be.
The Shift Online
Now that we're re-opening, surely there's no need to fork out a few hundred dollars on audio-visual hardware. Possibly. But you'd be surprised how quickly we're transitioning towards an online existence.
The 'metaverse' has many meanings, but is broadly defined as 'the online world'. Literally. The metaverse is a digital world where anything can exist. 3D worlds with customisable avatars, land ownership, art galleries, conference centres, and much more. If you can imagine it, it's probably possible.
The metaverse has enormous potential. Digital worlds are not confined by the same constraints as the physical world. Although they may, one day, be regulated similarly. In their 'Guide to the Metaverse' report, law firm Reed Smith LLP outline a future in which people seek legal advice on matters which take place in a virtual world. Mind-boggling, I know.
My point is that our interpersonal interactions will likely be split between the online and physical worlds. As the metaverse matures, online and physical interactions may become homogeneous. Here's an example:
Gather creates virtual spaces for people to have conversations and spend time together online. Imagine 'going to work' by logging on and walking to your virtual desk. To speak to a co-worker, you'd walk over to their desk and their video would pop up on the side of the screen.
In summary, COVID has accelerated the development of virtual worlds and online communities. This is the norm now and still play a role in our interpersonal interactions.
With a higher quality microphone and 1080p webcam, I believe that we can produce higher quality content for online distribution and optimise our desk setups for success in an online world. There is no need to buy the best quality hardware, but a little goes a long way. A basic microphone and HD webcam to start.
See you in the metaverse.