In a world of video calls, listeners became speakers

Many of us dread public speaking. But the proliferation of video calls during the pandemic has created a new opportunity: Listeners became speakers. And speakers became more available.

After more than a year of forced remote interactions, we have learned a lot about what it means to communicate without being in the same space. We tackled unfamiliar technology, purchased new equipment, set up office or living room spaces in never thought of ways to minimize distractions or maximize the effects of the available light.

We were also painfully reminded that laughter over a birthday dinner with friends and the feeling of belonging when we share space together, cannot be replaced by the best video conference equipment.

Virtual conversations and experiences have transformed education, the Supreme Court, environmental conservation, our empathy, health care, research, book tours, politics, club meetings and panel discussions all over the world. And we are not done yet.

While many might be happy to go back to “how things were” – knowing we can connect and be with anyone at any time – has changed us, and the world.

New technology made it necessary to be better prepared, but also to have information available at our fingertips, while in a presentation. We are not stuck anymore, with only our index cards in front of us– now we have the flexibility to share documents at the click of a mouse, even if we had not planned on it. We can bring people in, mute them or ask them personal questions, and get instantaneous answers without disturbing the flow of another person’s comments.

An Opportunity Not to Be Missed

There is opportunity behind the now familiar question “Can you hear me now?” It is an opportunity to speak up, to connect, to make plans, to consider who we really want to spend facetime with and what is important to say. It’s a way to save gas, limit exposure, exert discipline.

An additional truth is that our newly adopted interactions give us opportunities not much explored and accepted before 2020. One of the biggest drivers of who gets to interact with whom has been physical proximity — a phenomenon observed in schools, the U.S. Senate, corporate headquarters, health clinics, council meetings, at book readings and during conferences around the world.

The advantage of today is that teachers, speakers, experts, celebrities, politicians, or grandma can be with us if wanted or needed without an expensive plane ticket, long drives, lengthy preparations, or security measures.

That's a change worth applying and celebrating!


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