Telepresence; the Cure for Bright Shiny Object Disorder

Telepresence kind of freaks me out. I admit it.  While I say it would be great to meet my clients/peers in person, telepresence really is the next best thing.


Why does it freak me out? Because unlike a regular video or voice-only conference call, people can see what I look like, what my hair is doing that day, if I am fidgeting or making faces. It makes me aware of how terrible my habits have become since we have become more and more remote and have become dependent on email, voicemail and texts more and more often. While those are effective ways to convey information, they aren’t as personal.

I have come to find out that Telepresence is not a video conference. My bad habits of being distracted by whatever bright shiny objects were in the room went unhindered with regular videoconferencing. The pictures were dark, the screen kept freezing, and voices were jumpy or scratchy and usually had a delay. I could have been doing jumping jacks during those meetings and no one would notice.  A very recent article in CNN says that “FaceTime and Skype are not replacements for actual face time because other studies have found that people tend to multitask while on video calls.” No wonder.

That isn’t Telepresence.

Telepresence actually brings a live interactive experience to everyone participating.You can see every eye-roll, hair-flip, twitch, smile and every other nuance of an in-person meeting. You actually feel like you are there.

When you are talking to someone face to face, you wouldn’t check the news on your Smartphone or at least if you are over 17 years old, you shouldn’t.

About those bad habits I have acquired of multi-tasking while on a conference call. I admit it! I have been doing it so long it is like a sickness, I call it Bright Shiny Object Disorder since anything new can pull my focus even when I am in a meeting.  However, a telepresence call puts you face to face which, at least temporarily, cures my multitasking sickness. If you cannot fidget you are more apt to absorb more of the information being shared in the meeting.  In fact, there is a lot of data these days about how multi-tasking is not that effective anyway.

Bottom line: If you are interacting with someone like me, a Telepresence call is a great way to get them to sit still, pay attention and retain more of what is said.

And if you are someone like me – Here are 6 tips for a successful Telepresence call.

  1. Avoid wearing loud, crazy patterns and neon bright colors in your clothes; they can translate as busy or “Hot” to the other viewers. Instead, stick with a solid color. A medium blue works best.
  2. Pay attention. A Telepresence call is just like a regular meeting (remember those?). If you are playing with your phone, looking out the window, having side conversations, it will be picked up, just the way it would if everyone was in a room with you.
  3. If you are not presenting, sit still and be quiet. The telepresence camera knows to move to the person/room that is active.
  4. If you MUST fidget, quietly tap your foot. That doesn’t show up on camera.
  5. SMILE! Just like in person, a friendly smile goes a very long way.
  6. Have fun. Just like an in-person meeting, this is a great opportunity to get to know everyone and foster the bonds that can carry your personal and business relationships to the next level. Be yourself, just not the fidgety, multi-tasking version of yourself.

As for the hair… Hats? Wigs? I don’t know. If you have any good ideas, I am open to them.

So, what do you think?  How do you handle telepresence conferences?  How will video change the way business is conducted?  We look forward to your comments on this important topic.
Sybil Fitzpatrick Lead Product Marketing Communications AT&T About Sybil