We’ve all been there. You’re tired from the weekend, or you don’t want the distraction of seeing your own facial expressions while you’re speaking. Heck, maybe your hair just won’t cooperate and after two years of remote work you’re tired of wrangling it into submission.
But should you keep your camera off during a remote proceeding?
For our videographers, that answer is a resounding no.
SPCC’s in-house legal videographers have spent the last two years on Zoom, sometimes all day. One thing they mention frequently is how often participants keep their cameras turned off. In their opinions, the positives of keeping your camera on far outweigh the negatives. Based on our videographers’ comments and concerns, here are three important reasons why you should keep yourself on-screen.
1. Communication Is More Effective When Everyone Can See and Be Seen
Our videographers see this scenario all the time: a questioning attorney who does not have their camera on takes a breath. The witness thinks they are done and starts to answer, only to have the attorney continue. The result is a jumble of words and apologies that are hard for the court reporter to transcribe.
This goes for other circles besides the legal world. Speakers who accidentally talk over each other can make a presentation look disorganized or unprofessional. In a work meeting scenario, if the team is trying to strategize or plan but some of the participants aren’t on video, it can be extremely difficult to communicate effectively. It may cause everything from simple misunderstandings when multiple people talk over each other, to one participant monopolizing everyone’s time by not acknowledging the non-video participants or letting them speak.
Furthermore, some people rely on seeing the face of whom they’re speaking to. These people may need to see mouths moving to fully understand what is being said, or they may feel they are at a disadvantage if they’re not receiving nonverbal communication (such as facial expressions or body movement). For court reporters especially, seeing participants talk is an essential part of being able to keep up with the pace of the spoken word.
All in all, keeping your video on can do everything from helping a court reporter write at 225 words per minute, to helping someone with an auditory processing disorder stay engaged, to making sure everyone on your team feels valued.
2. It’s Easier to Tell if Someone is Having Connectivity Issues
This is a big one for our videographers. When a participant’s camera is off, it is difficult to tell if they develop an internet issue. Our videographers have seen everything from an attorney missing an answer because their internet lagged and no one knew, to a court reporter who lost internet mid-sentence and missed almost a minute of testimony because her name remained in its thumbnail long after her computer froze up. It looked like she was still in the meeting, because there was no way to tell she was frozen until Zoom finally dropped her.
In those situations, if they had kept their cameras on, our videographer would have seen their video freeze in real time and could have spoken up. But with no video, silence due to tech issues can be easily mistaken as a pause for thought – and it’s utterly impossible to tell the difference. The same goes for work meetings. You may come up with the perfect idea or answer to a question, but if you’ve frozen and your camera is off, no one will know you’ve spoken.
3. It Keeps Everyone Engaged While Dealing with Remote Work
Everyone has handled the past two years differently. Full remote, hybrid, in-office but still meeting remotely – you name it, we’ve all had to deal with it. It may sound corny, but being able to see participants’ faces during meetings really can make everyone feel connected to each other. Even though most workplaces have re-opened, not all of your coworkers may be back in the office yet, and many court reporters are still pushing for remote proceedings out of an abundance of caution and increase in work flow.
Your remote meetings are important, and you and everyone else deserve to feel comfortable and confident. Next time you find yourself on Zoom, leave that camera on.
Thank you for this!
Being on screen also allows everyone to know whether there are unauthorized people in the room which can cause a breach to confidential proceedings and it can also help people understand those who may not enunciate clearly. As one who is often asking questions to participants, I rely heavily on not only what is said but how it is said and seeing a reaction may cause me to miss a response of which I need to be aware.
I’m also not a fan of talking to myself, and when my screen is nothing by squares with names, that’s what I experience. I never know if anyone is listening and whether they are there the entire time! They may miss some of my best work!
You’re very welcome! You bring up an excellent point about confidentiality. That sort of thing worries our videographers, too. And nonverbal communication is so, so important. Thanks for reading! 🙂