The “Career Column” in the 9/26 issue of The New York Times was devoted to professional virtual meetings. Good advice was given: don’t eat potato chips during the meeting; take your headset off before you head for the bathroom; don’t wear stripes.
But, as I thought about why virtual meetings can be so deadly and why we would have to be warned not to eat potato chips, one of the answers was because it’s not a “real” meeting. We’re not meeting; we’re not able to pick up, assess, build on, or counteract the energy of others.
We’re advised in the column to “use the same kind of body language and facial expressions as in a face-to-face meeting,” which implies that a virtual meeting, like a virtual world, is theatre and requires the suspension of disbelief. We need to “act” as though we’re in a meeting, even though we’re not.
If all the participants were acting (or pretending), then potato chips and bathrooms would no longer be issues.
But we would still have the problem of technology usage. If we look at the camera and talk to the microphone, we are substituting pieces of equipment for the people we would be looking at and talking to in a meeting. The speaker must also be an actor, speaking through the technology with his or her imaginary audience.