Through a Glass, Darkly

Last week Susan and I traveled to Orlando FL for the Kingdom Advisors Annual Conference. Approximately 2,000 people attended the event. It was certainly the largest gathering that I had been to in some time.

Midway through the conference, I stepped away to host a virtual Practice Management Roundtable that I was leading for the Financial Planning Association of East Tennessee.

It was striking to transition from a large, in-person gathering of people to a small group of planners on Zoom.

Was I moving away from the future of communication or towards it?

If you believe Mark Zuckerberg, we can look forward to something like this:

I’m not so certain.

Stanford Professor Jeremy Bailenson examined Zoom fatigue in his peer-reviewed article published in Technology, Mind and Behavior.

He identified four potential causes of Zoom fatigue as follows:

  1. Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.
  2. Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.
  3. Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.
  4. The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.

The last point is particularly interesting. I generally don’t think of Zoom calls as difficult but upon reflection, it’s true.

During Zoom calls, listeners must work harder to understand whoever is speaking. This could be due to audio delays, poor audio or video quality, or the need to focus intently on the screen.

Likewise, peakers must exert greater effort to make themselves understood. Studies have shown that people speak 15% louder when interacting on video.

While I’m naturally an introvert, I noticed that most of my conversations at the conference were easier. I wasn’t making a conscious effort to do so but found that I could interpret body language, facial expressions, and even subtle movements to quickly understand the other person.

So maybe the metaverse is not the best place for better conversations.

Then again, virtual conversations are so convenient. This week an advisor told me he had a conversation with a client on vacation in Korea. Why jump on a plane when you can use technology to talk to anyone anywhere.

Will in-person meetings eventually feel as archaic as the horse and buggy? Or are we wired for being together in real life?

As the saying goes, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

I do know this – good communication always begins with seeing things from the other person’s perspective.

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