SKYPE is an application that allows your image to be broadcast to another computer anywhere in the world. It is great for Skyping authors, experts, or even NASA scientists into a classroom. An entire class can “Skype” with another class anywhere a computer has a feed. The potential for lecture, collaboration and learning is unlimited. I thought it might be interesting to share the Skype experience from the point of view of the presenter.
I was fortunate and honored to be asked by the organizers of Edcamp Atlanta to Skype into their Edcamp for a Q & A session. I know many people have been in a room when someone Skypes in, but I thought I could share the experience from the other side of the camera. Skyping in as a speaker is not the same experience as a Skype call with a friend.
The first consideration on the call is the Time Zone. Proximity plays a big part in the need to Skype in the first place. Obviously, if you could be in a place in person, there would be no need to Skype. Time differences can be a big part of the planning for the call. I prefer Skyping west as opposed to Skyping east. California calls are always easier than those early hour Skypes to England.
The next consideration is what to wear. A big plus with Skype is that the only concern needed is for what shirt to wear. Theoretically, a Skype call could be done trouserless, because the camera only gets the upper part of your body. That narrows the decision to shirt and hair. The shirt decision is easy, but to wear a tie or not to wear a tie is always a question. My answer is consistently to not wear a tie. Hair is another story altogether. You don’t want to resemble Clint Eastwood as he addressed an empty chair in his now infamous YouTube video from the RNC. Come to think of it, he might have been better off Skyping that presentation.
Once you are settled with the final decisions, it is time to place your fate in the hands of others. They will make the call to connect, and then the fun begins. If you are Skyping to a room of people, the sound and picture coming from the simple computer alone will not be enough for them to see and hear. A large screen and a sound amplifying system will need to be brought in. Along with that comes the IT guy who must hook it all up. Of course you need to be connected for all of this to happen, so the setup is taking place on the screen before your eyes as well as the audience. Sound Check! Sound Check! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5……
Once the picture and sound are up and running and the audience has a perfect view of you the IT guy goes back to his office. What IT guys usually fail to do however is position the computer that you are feeding into, so that you can see the audience that you are addressing. With luck you might have a partial view of the group, but invariably it is always askew. If you are really not lucky, it may be facing the wrong direction altogether.
Now it is time to address the audience. Again with luck on your side, there might be a few people visible, but they are at a distance. Many of the cues that you would get from an in-person presentation are not visible on a Skype call. The worst part however is the Question and Answer portion. People do not interact with the TV version of a presenter as they do with a live presenter. Again, the cues from a live back-and-forth interaction are just not there. The sound system can also be a killer. If the moderator is using a microphone that echoes in the venue, then you have less of a chance of clearly hearing the questions being posed. There is a great possibility that you are answering a question that was never asked.
The very worst thing though is when you use a line in your Skype presentation that always elicits a certain response in a live presentation, but here, in the world of Skype, nothing happens. Of course it can’t be the fault of the line that you used, because it always worked live, so the only answer is that the audience can’t hear you.
The question: Can you hear me?
The answer: Yeah, we can hear you just fine!
So much for my career in standup comedy.
I am most thankful however that in my Skype presentation to the Atlanta Edcamp, as I sat in my neatly ironed Hawaiian shirt and pajama pants, shoeless, and sockless, none of these things happened. It was a flawless presentation on connectedness for educators followed by an active exchange of questions and answers.
I am most grateful and honored to have been asked by the good folks of Atlanta Edcamp to participate with them in this wonderful professional development endeavor. I truly hope I didn’t disappoint.