I’m Ready for My Close Up

Today marks the beginning of a week’s worth of human resources training at work. After all, there’s nothing more exciting than sitting in a conference room for eight hours looking at power point slides and reading government hiring regulations. So what does this have to do with emerging media? Part of the discussion this afternoon centered around interviewing and some mistakes that had been made as a result of not interviewing people or only interviewing them over the phone. How can such mistakes be avoided? By using video conference (VTC) equipment. Not only does this give you the advantage of being able to see the person you’re interviewing but also helps to save money by cutting down on travel expenses.

Recently, Time ran an article on how video technology is changing the face of interviewing but it also highlights some of the challenges faced by interviewers and interviewees. In my office several people have done video interviews and prepping them was almost like prepping someone for a TV interview. This also highlighted the need for an additional skill set to be added to the PR toolbox which was video production. Lighting and the setting are important. Items like awards, photos and plants were strategically placed in the background and in some cases rehearsals were needed in order to get the camera positioned and zoomed in properly. Camera position is pretty important and since there isn’t a camera operator. An excellent example of this was a training seminar conducted by VTC, again in my office. In this case the instructor was an on off site location and when documents or power points weren’t on-screen the audience could see him speaking. The only problem was that the camera was stationary and as he moved in and out the camera was focused on his belt buckle.

Of course, like any other technology, it can be misused. It is an excellent tool for collaborating on a document or project since you can post it on-screen and make edits in real-time as opposed to clogging up   with multiple drafts attached to emails. Where it fails is when a call is scheduled and there is nothing for the participants to do but stare at each other, especially for long periods of time. This should be taken into account when considering using the system. In the training I designed for our office, I recommend people consider the use of place holders and occasionally focus the camera on the place holders instead of the people. There are stories of people using life-sized cutouts of themselves, but you have to zoom out the camera and make sure the lighting is bad for that to be effective. You can also look for items around the office, like calendars, puppets (there was a box of them in our storeroom that never get used for conservation education activities) or my personal favorite, the Mr. Potato Head in a Forest Service uniform.

Word of warning though, make sure you know your audience.

fs-potato-head

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2 Responses to “I’m Ready for My Close Up”

  1. kmhdesign03 Says:

    Video conferencing is great to cut down on travel costs for both national and international businesses. I’ve used the technology a few times to have cross-functional meetings with colleagues in some of my company’s global offices and have found it to be a great tool. It can be a lot easier to set up a video conference to address issues as they arise than it can be to circulate endless emails on the subject or even coordinate trips to various offices.

    While I have not yet received an invitation to join, I will be interested to see how Google Wave plays into the conferencing world. From what I have read thus far, the application allows users to join a conference at any given point in time, see what was talked about before they arrived, etc. It would be great if part of this application included the use of conferencing via web cams as an additional way of enhancing the interaction among users.

    • csrose118 Says:

      Recently we had an entire conference set up on “going green” that was broadcast via the web and video conference. Although people couldn’t view all the concurrent sessions due to the fact the conference was taking place on the west coast, they were archived and will be available for viewing for the next year online allowing everyone to benefit from the information rather than the limited few that could have been sent if travel was involved.

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