I'm grateful for online meetings during this difficult pandemic time. I just wish I could hear them better ... among other things.

Audio and "other things" are the subject of today's post and this is something of a polemic.

Cameras are different!

The largest audience I've ever addressed was over 7,000 people. I'll take an audience over a camera ANY day.

I had an oral communication class in graduate school. Instead of an audience, we had a camera. Cameras are intimidating and different.

The differences are important. Here's a sampling of what I've learned over the years:

If you shoot (video, film or photo) someone looking upwards toward them, you make them look powerful.

If you shoot them from above looking down, you make them look weak.

If you shoot them from the side, in profile, you make them look dishonest.

The only neutral shot that makes them look honest is level and straight on.

Dim the lighting and shoot them dark and they look creepy and malevolent. (Think O. J. Simpson.) Making them a bit fuzzy will also increase the effect.

Photographers, filmmakers, broadcast journalists, and others will be fluent in all these techniques.

Shouldn't we keep this stuff in mind in our online meetings over ZOOM, YouTube, and other media? Of course!

Maybe people don't know all these little facts regarding our current digital meetings, but many of them can be worked out if you are attentive and think about what is happening.

Why? Why? Why? Why?

I'm mystified as to why serious technological problems persist week after week in our digital meetings.

In face-to-face meetings, local leaders will turn on the microphone but often they don't fine-tune things to make certain everybody can hear properly.

Somebody needs to visit the nethermost regions of the room and see just how the audio sounds during a regular real-live meeting with the kids shrieking. It does sound different than it does on the podium. I can guarantee you that.

If you are a teacher, for example, you need to also visit the nethermost regions of your classroom to determine if people can see your visual aids and if your writing on the chalkboard is actually large enough for everyone to see.

Leaders must take pains to ensure everyone can see and hear properly over digital meetings. Contact a variety of people in the congregation and ask them about their digital experience in church meetings.

Have any of you thought to just check with some people and get some feedback? I talk with my friends and acquaintances and hear some pretty interesting, and frustrated, viewpoints.

Since I have hearing problems myself, I talk with those I know can hear well. If they are having problems, I know it isn't just me and I feel justified in complaining to leaders.

Aargh! The kids noise ...

Also, the digital world produces some unique challenges. For example, our brains can selectively tune out children shrieking in a face-to-face Sacrament meeting. But in an online meeting, the technology seems to amplify this kid noise.

Maybe we need to do something about this.

What's happened to the digital audience over time?

Here's a nice tip: If your digital audience was large in the beginning, but is now steadily shrinking then something is wrong and you need to find out what.

Stalwarts, and I count myself among them, will persist in our digital and face-to-face attendance, even if we can't see or hear much. Others probably won't and they are joining the digitally disappeared.

Currently, on a good day, I might hear 30 percent. On a bad day, only 5-15 percent.

Wouldn't an increasing audience, or even a large stable one, suggest we are doing a good job of digital meetings? If the digital audience is steadily shrinking, that means something too.

Has anyone else thought about this?

The digital audience is part of the problem!

In our digital meetings, the audience has emerged as a significant problem.

I learned in a C-SPAN seminar for professors I attended in Washington D. C. that how something gets filmed can inject bias.

The only honest way to project anything is to film level and straight on in decent light without cutaways or distractions in its entirety.

This is why watching C-SPAN is about as exciting as watching paint dry. They WANT people to make up their own minds. They don't want to inject bias into anything.

For example, if a news organization cuts away to someone in the audience who is snoozing or picking their nose, this is the way to make a digital comment about what is going on.

The news organization is inferring that the speaker or event is boring or inappropriate.

Okay, consider what is happening on camera with the ZOOM audience or the visible home audience when some other media is being used to project our digital meetings.

Folks, it's the same thing.

People are not watching in rapt and polite attention. I have seen a variety of the following and I bet you have too.

People wandering around their home and in and out of the camera view.

Clutter on the walls and in the home distracting to other home viewers

People chomping on food

People interacting with various family members, often children

People laughing, giggling and sharing grins on camera with other household members

Close-up shots of clothing and various bodily appendages while someone carries their tablet or phone around or makes adjustments of some sort.

(For the record, I haven't seen anyone carrying a desktop computer.)

Cameras aimed at a window or large glass door. This shrouds everything in darkness unless someone is moving in front of the camera which cuts off the light and creates a strobe effect for those viewing it.

Views up people noses, generally from media placed on a table aiming up at the occupant.

Crotch shots and manspreading

I can go on. Do I need to?

My conclusion/solution: Turn off your cameras people!

Some of these things occur in our face-to-face meetings and they are universally considered rude. Why would they be acceptable in our digital meetings?

The Church has counseled us that Sacrament type meetings are better off being a one-way transmission. They shouldn't be interactive.

I'll bet my ward leaders and fellow members think I don't have camera or audio capability. Actually, I do. I choose not to use it. I leave a still picture for the ZOOM audience. People will be able to learn who I am and that I am present, but I won't be distracting.

Just a name, number or nickname on a ZOOM screen tile doesn't really help us learn any names or faces but there is nothing distracting about it.

Kudos to a few

Okay, in all my complaints, there are some truly bright moments and they deserve mention.

One brother gave his talk from the inside of his vehicle. It looked like a mini-van sitting in a drive-way. It turned out to be the first talk I could hear beautifully in the new and exciting pandemic digital church environment.

I was over the moon. It was a good talk too. I fired off an email and thanked him profusely. I didn't even mind the inadvertent photo bomb from the kids.

I got thinking about this later. The soft interior probably prevented any sound from bouncing off metal which is such a problem digitally. No echos in the mini-van and it produced perfect audio!

Another brother I know, barely by sight but have never seen operate in any official capacity in Church, turned in a magnificent digital performance in his Sacrament talk.

He was seated on a couch, I think, but the camera was aimed at him in a headshot and the bare wall behind him. No distractions, perfect audio, and a well-crafted, engaging, and thoughtful talk.

Haven't a clue where his wife and kids were.

It was mesmerizing. Can't thank him enough. Wish there were more like him.


In digital meetings we are on the Lord's time, doesn't this deserve our best efforts on every conceivable level?

I think it does.

Consider what you are doing and how you are doing it. Then, think of how you might change for the better.

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