Dear Ms. Smartphone: I co-founded and run a small charity (HouseOfGoodDeeds.org) building community and helping others through altruism. We’ve been growing lately, partnering with other organizations and expanding our offerings. We have occasional small videoconferences with our organizers and volunteers, 3-5 attendees, but we anticipate bigger turnouts soon. My girlfriend is one of our main organizers, and we often are in the same place when these meetings are scheduled. She thinks it’s appropriate for the two of us to share the screen together, while I think it’s more professional for us to each be on our own devices for group calls. Who’s right? Leon, NY
Dear Leon: I checked out your site and kudos for helping out so many people in need. You must be even busier here in the time of Covid. You raise a fine question about digital etiquette and why your girlfriend wants to be on the videoconference, with a single device.
It’s worth exploring why she sees this is a value added proposition. Try to tease out her reasons and see if they make sense. Perhaps she is striving to make it look like TV news or the late night shows, where commentators and experts sit around the table and chat. Maybe as the charity grows, that will happen.
But, for today, here are few things to think about: first passwords and the security you have on the device. Sometimes couples go through turbulent times, and you don’t want your charity to be in jeopardy. This can never be easy for couples are joined at the digital hip.
View it as a Visitor?
If unity is your main goal, then maybe the shared screen is the right decision. But, look at your meeting as if you were a visitor. Some platforms ‘zoom’ into the voice so when the two of your are online together that could be confusing. What is the partner who is not speaking doing? And, are the two of you in full view or cut-off, particularly with picture- in -picture? In that case, you might need to sit further from the camera. It’s essential that you make the quality and professional appearance of the video conference your primary concern.
During Covid, churches and charities have found novel ways to be tech-savvy and engage new audiences (or lapsing ones). Here’s a headline: When God closes a church, he opens up a browser window! Can you take a lesson from them and explore new roles that will be complementary for your business such as private chat rooms, or additional screens with pictures and text? The two of you could work together to plan better online meetings amplified by more screens (just make sure she does not zoom bomb you!)
On a personal note, I can honestly say that during the lockdown, my husband and I share a screen, but only for virtual happy hour. If I had to do that more often, I am sure I would want bigger technology and a larger drink.