Tech and annual leave have been killing me lately.
You never know how much you rely on someone until they’re not there. And that’s the case with the holder of our account email addresses.
Zoom decided this week to ask for a validation code to log in to my webinar account with them. It’s never asked me this before. But it requires it regardless.
I don’t have access to the email address that it validates via because the person who does is on annual leave. So I was stuck, with 45 seconds to go until the start of my webinar.
Safe to say that a reschedule is happening for that one.
And for the two other webinars that I have to miss due to technology issues? That’s down to my computer’s hatred of changing microphone inputs.
Issues with video calls are hardly limited to me. How many years have we been Zooming and Skyping and Teams-ing for now? And just about every call features someone with some issue stopping them from hosting or participating in the call.
So I’m taking a week off all webinars until I can sort this stuff out, access the right email address and get things back to where they should be.
Honestly, this past week hasn’t been good for my reputation.
I’ve kicked some great goals – like securing venture funding for one business and grant funding for three others. Thankfully, none of that required a Zoom call, so they ran smoothly.
But you’re only as good as your last Teams call, so I’m working on it.
Especially as over 60 people were waiting for these webinars to happen.
How we react under pressure says a lot about us.
It’s often said that you don’t truly know someone until you’ve lived with them.
I reckon you also don’t truly understand a colleague until you’ve seen them under pressure.
And I found myself under a bit of pressure this week.
Yet no one would have known it.
The reality is that these were webinars about digital and business skills.
I’m not exactly pulling people out of burning buildings for a living.
These webinar attendees are going to be ok.
All it takes is an apology email where I admit what happened, reschedule the webinar, and ensure I’ve addressed the issue before the rescheduled date and time.
Yet some people really struggle with this. And I used to as well.
If something went wrong, I would first scramble for a story to tell about why it went wrong. And then, if I had the energy left, I’d go out fixing the problem.
But I would never apologise.
And the one thing that people at the other end need most is acknowledgement of their disappointment and assurance that you’re addressing the problem for next time.
People are actually quite forgiving.
My webinar failures this past week were caused by my not checking that everything was ready in enough time to do something about it.
And that failed event was simply because I didn’t adequately promote it and remind people that it was on.
When we remove the story from the answer to “what happened?” we fly past the problem and to the solution. Indeed, by the third failed webinar, I knew the routine well and just admitted that I wasn’t adequately prepared.
Technology wasn’t the problem. I was.
The real reason why Zoom calls seem to be so much of a hassle.
The technology isn’t failing us.
Our lack of education about and preparation for our technology is what fails us.
We’ve had years to get used to the routine of Zoom and Teams calls.
And yet every call is like a séance at a teenage sleepover party where we’re feeling around in the dark asking, “Is anyone there? Can you hear me? I can’t see you….”
Preparing for a Zoom or Teams call isn’t about opening your computer and clicking the link.
It’s about testing your audio and then testing your camera, and if neither is working, we check all the connections and restart the computer in enough time to get on the call.
You know that old chestnut from tech support, “Have you restarted your computer?”
They ask that because around 80% of computer issues are solved by a restart.
It’s not the tech that lets us down. It’s our lack of preparation.
As I learned all too well this week.
Are we too reliant on our technology?
Well, of course we are.
If all electricity disappears and all technology turns to dust tomorrow, it will kill most of the world’s population within a year.
I don’t know how to hunt or forage for food outside of Coles and Woolies. And I certainly would have no sense of direction without Google Maps. And I don’t think we would know what to do without our mobile phones being in our faces.
I don’t personally have a problem with technology augmenting our lives. I see the value it’s added to us rather than those who crow on about us having “lost our humanity” from some idealised past version of ourselves that died 30 years younger, only mixed with people with the same skin colour and only ever left our village in search of food during a famine.
We look at teenagers slumped over their phones while walking and tut-tut to ourselves while we sip on our 700-calorie “iced coffee” that is little more than a bougie sugar-milk monstrosity and flip through our own Instagram feeds.
Would I want to live on a farm in 1277 in central France to escape doom-scrolling teenagers? No way!
I get to learn about fascinating new things every day. I get to teach others in far-off places. I get to communicate almost constantly with family 300km away. I get to travel several times a year for work. I get to email just over 13,000 people every Saturday morning.
Technology has enabled all this.
And yes, sometimes it doesn’t work quite right.
But that’s usually my own fault. And even when it’s not, it’s a tiny price to pay for a life that the French farmer in 1277 could only think of as some kind of witchcraft or sorcery.
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