April 9, 2020
I attended my first video teleconference last week. Before the start of the virtual gathering, a special meeting for the Tecumseh School Board, I had never heard of Zoom. Now that I’ve been initiated, I’ll say for the record I’m a fan, almost.
Still in my pj’s, hair in an out-of-the-way pile on top of my head, snacks within reach, I sat at my computer typing notes faster than I can write by hand. The Zoom window was open on of half my screen, and the meeting agenda open on the other. I had already minimized the other documents from the agenda packet before signing in, which made them quickly and easily accessible as needed.
It was easy. It was relaxed. And I was especially thankful to learn Zoom doesn’t require you to record yourself, or even have a video camera connected, to participate.
I’m not big on selfies, especially the moving picture versions, and from my make-shift office set up at home, the background in my video would have captured dirty lunch dishes in the sink and leftover pizza still sitting on the stove. I mean, what’s the fun in working from home if I have to look presentable AND wash dishes before every public meeting. Sheesh.
There was, however, one thing I hadn’t expected. And it may turn out to be the biggest selling point of all for any current, and even future, videoconference meetings.
Before today, the last two Tecumseh school board meetings I attended were joined by no more than 15-17 people, including the school administrators and board members. In comparison, the less familiar high-tech version had 27 participants and viewers signed into the meeting.
That may not seem like much, but if that many people had been physically present at the school board office, it would have been a packed room.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, a non-metropolitan school held an official meeting viewable by most anyone with a cell phone or computer with an Internet connection. Barriers such as transportation, location, work or family time constraints, physical disabilities, and much more disappeared for those interested in tuning into the meeting.
Heck, I didn’t even have to put on shoes or brush my hair. And I saved 30-40 minutes, round trip, in drive time by not leaving my kitchen to physically attend the meeting.
These virtual meetings are currently happening around the globe out of necessity, but virus or not, reducing the number of barriers to public access is huge.
It may quite possibly end up being one of the most positive “side effects” born from the COVID-19 pandemic –– at least as long as video selfies remain optional and I don’t have to wash dishes before logging on.