Are we in a Zoom meeting or a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch?

by | Oct 29, 2020 | Community, COVID, General Interest

This article was originally published on the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin June 4, 2020 and is reblogged with the permission of the authors.

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Michael heard me yell out “come here quickly” and he ran the few steps from his home office into my home office. There on my computer screen were live pictures of Amy’s toilet, Robert flossing his teeth, and several other people upside down and right-side up.

As we scrolled to view the other participants in “gallery view,” we saw more than a few lower body parts, foreheads and some unmentionables. Was I watching a recent broadcast of “Saturday Night Live?” No, I was attending a professional seminar via Zoom.

Zoom and other webinar platforms have been around for a while. Zoom was initially used mostly by small to medium-size businesses, neighborhood groups and for social purposes. With the arrival of COVID-19, Zoom has become mainstream for just about everyone regardless of age and business size.

Socially, many people are staying connected or reconnecting with old friends with Zoom happy hours, game nights, family reunions and the like.

Michael continues, “I had never heard of Zoom before COVID-19. Now I am a regular user, reporting that Zoom has integrated itself into the legal world, becoming a lifeline for many attorneys. Courts are moving many of its cases forward with the help of Zoom, conducting court sessions for statuses, pretrial conferences, case management conferences, hearings and more. I am meeting current and potential clients via Zoom.

“At my firm, Harrison & Held, we are working remotely, yet we stay connected with weekly family law department meetings. In addition, and my partners and I meet regularly via Zoom to conduct the business of the firm. Although Zoom and similar platforms have not, and I hope will not, replace actual face-to-face contact, I and many of my colleagues that I have informally polled believe it has allowed us to keep our practices and cases moving forward. We use the waiting room feature for security purposes.”

“When the shelter in place started, not everyone was ‘Zoom ready.’ The first day of sheltering, I was interviewed by a local CBS producer, and she did not yet have Zoom in place and interviewed me via Skype, which, unfortunately, did not turn out too clear. Two weeks later, during an interview for a second story, we were both ready to Zoom and the quality of the broadcast was much improved.”

Attorney Kerry Peck, managing partner at Peck Ritchey LLC, agrees with Michael. In addition, he has taken his many scheduled speaking engagements and moved them to Zoom webinars. His firm is looking into using a different web-based platform as well. “It is a wonderful thing. There was a slight learning curve, but my firm and I are all ‘Zoom ready.’”

We spoke to Gail Niksic, a community resource consultant with Elderwerks Educational Services located in Palatine. She has been putting on in-person workshops and seminars for more than 15 years. She said, her company was an early converter to Zoom meetings with the mentality that the show must go on. She and her company quickly changed their format to online and became self-taught Zoom experts. Gail says, “We decided to convert to this platform. We didn’t want to cancel our programs that were already scheduled out, so we adapted them to webinars right away.”

Susan Scatchell, business development director of Gentle Home Care and previously a law firm marketer, holds board positions in several networking and professional marketing groups. She quickly changed the structure of the meetings to Zoom format and became her industry’s Zoom organizer to keep everyone connected. Scatchell offered some pointers, “First and foremost at least look professional from the waist up, and wear business casual for networking or professional meetings. And remember to mute your video before you stand up to leave your workspace. Your day pajamas may not be too flattering. We understand participants are sharing space while working from home so minimal interruptions are expected.” She continued that, “if you are sharing your screen with a PowerPoint, keep it simple using pictures and having 3-5 bullet points. Engage your audience. And one final piece of advice, rename yourself to you or your business. Attendees are not going to know who you are by your kids iPad or “Cruiser.”

Both Peck and Niksic report that their online presentations are attracting as many registrants and attendees as their prior in-person programs, some with close to 300 people online.

There are different Zoom rules if you are a host, or an attendee or participant. There is a free version of Zoom that allows a 40-minute session, and paid versions that are preferable for business use. If you are a host, you can control many aspects of the meeting, including the chat, allowing, or not allowing audio, video and who is allowed into the meeting. Make sure to give your participants a two-minute warning before the meeting ends.

We put together a Zoom tip list for you. If you have other tips to offer, feel free to email them to us, and we can add them to a future article:

  • Log on before the scheduled time to deal with unexpected connection issues.
  • Find your square. See if you like how you look and stay there.
  • Check your audio and video before entering the meeting.
  • Know where the “mute” and “stop video” buttons are.
  • Make sure your lighting is in front of you — face a window or lamp.
  • You can rename yourself, adding your email address after your name.
  • Meetings can be recorded.
  • If you share your screen to show a slide deck or document, have it ready to go.
  • Close all other windows on your computer screens so you are not sharing private documents.
  • Add a virtual background unless you have a home office.
  • Consider wearing a lapel mic or use a microphone if you are a Zoom presenter.
  • Boost your internet service.

Our cousin, Debra Levie from Art Alive Programming is an arts educator. She quickly invested in the equipment necessary, including a webcam, to keep her business going and moved her programs to a web-based format. Together we created the following Zoom terminology list:

New verb: To Zoom; Zooming.

New nouns: Zoominar; Zoominees; a Zoomer.

New meanings: Being Zoom ready; being Zoomed out; Zooming along.

New Jingle: “Hey Zoom” (sing to the tune of “Hey Jude”).

Some form of Zoom is here to stay. We recommend using a web platform or Zoom to your advantage. There are many opportunities. Susan Scatchell adds,” Zoom networking meetings are so nice — we don’t have to drive anywhere, there are no parking issues, and the conversations are meaningful — we are getting to know people in different and more intimate ways.”

For Michael and me, we are social people and miss the face-to-face interactions, but for now, Zoom is the next best thing, so we are on board and “Zoom ready.” We miss seeing you all!

Marla Levie Craven is the wife of family law attorney Michael Craven. She spent decades as the owner of a marketing consulting company. Many of her clients were law firms and attorneys.

Michael C. Craven is a family law partner at Harrison & Held LLP. He is a member and officer of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and has long been fascinated by the world of legal marketing.

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