Enough with Presenting On Zoom Already!

by Michael Rickwood

It’s March, 2021. The numbers continue to rise, vaccines are rolling out slowly (here in Europe anyway) and governments and communities remain at loggerheads about what to do going forward. There is a general expectation that this status quo will continue to the end of the year and businesses are continuing to either postpone large in-person gatherings or are adopting alternative ones using the tools we have at our disposal.

The basic human need to get out there, see the world and meet each other has been put on ice. We still can’t even go and see a movie or dance around a handbag in a dark and noisy place.

I sit here about to give my 30th webinar since the pandemic broke loose looking at a flat screen, remembering to look into the camera and keep my gestures visible, while seated or standing (which is better), wondering and hoping 2019 will come back. But the truth is, we know we can’t turn the clock back, and those who understand this are already making their way forward. The truth is, even once the virus has been beaten back we will still have THE underlying issue which is climate change. Governments all over the world are signing agreements to reduce emissions, and businesses are working to offset them or demonstrate their commitment to sustainable development goals. The bottom line is that until we have the commercialisation of planes that use other technologies to fly, business air travel via fossil-fuelled planes will decline. This, folks, is what they call the new normal.

So the world continues to turn. People need to connect, deals need to be made, ideas presented and strategies formed – but my goodness, there has to be a better way to get together than Zoom or Teams.

So, I don’t know about you, but this new normal, despite some advantages, could be seriously improved when it comes to connecting with others. So I decided to open the conversation here. What else can we do to communicate with each other apart from two-dimensional screens and earbuds to get us through the next decade?

In short: Virtual Reality. With rapidly accelerating connectivity, VR technology is looking increasingly strong. We at Ideas on Stage recently partnered with a VR firm using a headset to simulate rehearsals in front of a virtual audience with programmable responses. But this could go further in event participation, both as a presenter and as a participant. Consumer headsets such as Quest and Oculus-Go are not expensive, but prices rise quickly for more business-focused ones such as the HTC Vive Pro and Valve Index. Manufacturers are working to make these sets lighter year on year.

Apps/software that are appearing on the market to go with these things, like Spatial, Immersed, Glue and Engage to name a few, are offering some really cool experiences to get together in aesthetic environments with tactile tools to exchange and connect. For a relatively small investment and a manageable learning curve, every business professional can enter, I believe, into a more rewarding and intimate remote working structure. Not just for presenting but for collaboration and problem solving.

As I sit here and type this, I foresee great opportunities for this burgeoning market such as the desire to create made-to-measure virtual meeting landscapes and avatars. There are challenges too however such as compatibility over all platforms, a need for more sophisticated cybersecurity, the Segway factor (you can’t mix business and stupid avatars) and very importantly eye care. Working with a headset on all day will not be good for your eyes.

Online events and presentations will be transformed, and Zoom presentations, at least, will be a thing of the past. For presenters, content and delivery will always need to be on top form: as the experience improves, any sub-standard presentations will, by contrast, make an even worse impression than they do today. Technology always evolves faster than people do, so it will be up to presenters and meeting organizers to work hard to keep up and level up.

And we will be there to help them.

That’s all for now: I have another Zoom meeting to go to…