Monthly Archives: August 2016

Tech: where “no, it can’t be done” usually means “well, yes, technically it can, but…”

Earlier this year I was completely delighted to learn that it is finally, finally possible to easily share your iPad’s screen in a web meeting using Zoom (see how here). It’s easy, responsive, and really works.

Since then, when people ask me if they can use their iPad to graphically record remote meetings, I’ve been saying, “Yes! Just use Zoom and it’s quick and easy!” Which it is, and they do, and life is good. Until someone says, “But my company only lets me use WebEx. Can I still share my iPad?”

This is where I typically say, “No, you can’t.” Not because that answer is technically true (it’s not — you actually can share your iPad using WebEx), but because the hurdle from HERE to THERE is pretty darn big.

And that’s just one example. There are so many things about remote meetings that actually, yes, you can do them, if you’re willing to do a bunch of research, possibly buy some new equipment, do some trial and error, and put up with it maybe not working the first time every time. In my experience, most people aren’t. They quite understandably want to be able to do the thing they need to do quickly, easily, and without a lot of extra expense and setup. And if it’s something where I look at the steps and think, “No, thank you,” then it’s a reasonable bet that anyone asking me if it’s possible isn’t going to want to, either.

So if you ask me “Can I [insert your idea here] in a web meeting?” and I say “Not really,” feel free to follow up. Whatever it is might be possible, if you’re the experimental sort.

A delightful way to make virtual eye contact

In my Rules of Order for Virtual Meetings (first installment, rule B1), I recommend looking at the camera on your computer or device rather than looking at the video window of the person you are talking to, in order to simulate eye contact. Weird for you, much more natural for them: from their point of view, you are looking directly into their eyes. From yours, though, you’re looking at a tiny light and there’s lots of distracting stuff in your peripheral vision.

I received this photo today from Brian Tarallo, a colleague who took that advice and ran with it. To help himself remember to look at the camera (and probably feel less weird while doing it), he created a little paper avatar. Look closely and you’ll see a hole punched out where the avatar’s right eye should be. That goes over the camera, so the camera is ‘looking out’ from the avatar’s eyes. Brian can look at the friendly little avatar — which gives him a face to talk to — and make perfect eye contact. In this case, the paper is a sticky note attached to his mobile’s screen so that the hole remains over the camera. The same idea could be applied to any webcam where the camera is close to the surface of the screen (like Mac laptops and desktops).

Photo of Brian's solution

Look ’em in the eye! Photo courtesy of Brian Tarallo.


I just love it. What an elegant solution!

It might be trickier if you’re using one of those eyeball-shaped USB webcams, because it might be hard to get the hole to line up with the camera in a way that doesn’t cause the paper to obscure the camera’s view. But smartphones, tablets, and computers with built-in cameras should work just fine.

Thanks, Brian, for allowing me to share your idea and photo, and Ben Tinker for being the guy behind the sticky.