Thanks to our dear friend COVID, the other week my real-life writing group made the switch to Zoom. Lucky for us, I used my psychic powers and foresaw the nasty coming like a train crash in slomo. For the first (and maybe only) in-person session for 2022, I arranged for the writers to bring their devices so collectively we could be “zoomified” before said train wreck. It helped tremendously because the group was Zoom ready. Another in-person session for a second run-through would have been preferred, but beggars can’t be choosers. During the snap 2020 lockdown, there was no time to prepare, and the group entered a hiatus for 6 months. Eek! I digress.
As someone who is camera shy, starting out with people you know is great. They don’t care about poor lighting and if they see up your nose (well actually they do, thanks A for making me paranoid).
“I can see up your nose, Tannille.”
The iPad has a cruel camera.
“Move your hand, Tannille. We can’t see your lovely face.”
“No, I don’t think you want to.”
Maybe masks are a good idea after all…
Anyway, you’re all learning the wonderful world of Zoom together. Pressure is minimal. From the host’s point of view, Zoom is easy to pick up but give yourself plenty of time. I created two accounts, one set up on my laptop and the other on my iPad. And then called all my friends – me and myself. I did find adding contacts was a bit of a four-letter word job. In the end, I discovered, if both people manually send a contact request, one of the requests will get through.
Zooming isn’t the same as face-to-face, but it does a fine damn good job and, in some ways, excels. Hearing is no longer an issue. In-person, sitting around a large table, some members forget to project their voice, making it difficult to hear. The lips are moving, but why is there no sound? On electronics, the sound can be cranked up. Tip: remember to turn the sound back down or the next speaker can be a rude shock to the system. Most consumer devices seem to have decent enough mics for Zoom, but some older or cheaper models — Aw my ears. Speaking of “aww my ears’, nobody is to have two devices running Zoom in the same room. It creates fingernails on blackboard squeals. We learnt the hard way.
By the end of the Zoom meeting, members were comfortable, and the meeting felt like a regular group session — we covered a lot of writing “stuff”. Cameras just take a bit of use to. There were awkward silences… but we were in the middle of a 40c heatwave. The technology also enforced the one person speaks at a time rule. We’re normally a rowdy bunch — pole dancing and other such shenanigans. Being at home encouraged a couple of ladies to crack open a bottle of wine. In total there were eight of us (in attendance, not drinking). I purchased a zoom subscription. The free account only allows for 40 minutes. That would have been a pain in the butt being booted. It’s hard enough getting everyone on. Some prices are worth paying and I’m a martyr, what can I say?
Next Zoom meeting, we might try sharing screens. The feature might be useful for story feedback. Zoom is feature galore, but baby steps. Master one little feature at a time. One small step for Tannille, one giant leap for Tannille kind — note to self: lame joke, edit out.
In summary, as I wrote for the minutes;
This session was our very first Zoom meeting. Members were a bit more quiet than usual but using technology was a new experience. Everyone did really well navigating the app. We believe the next Zoom meeting will be even better, as we know what to expect. While nothing compares to face-to-face communication, members stated they could hear conversations better via Zoom. Being online didn’t hinder our writing group experience, as reflected in these minutes. In the future, we will explore other tools Zoom has to offer, such as sharing a screen (possibly useful for story feedback).