July 22, 2020

One Small Thing: A Simple Feature for Better Online Meetings

Like many of you with “laptop jobs” that have been working remotely for the bulk of this year, I’ve been spending a ton of time on Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, or whatever other flavor of video calling. It seems like in addition to every meeting become a video call, half of all phone calls became video calls too. (If we need this many video calls, with “Zoom fatigue” creeping in on us, is a question for another day.)

With this change, we find ourselves doing a ton of virtual presentations. As screensharing has evolved over the years, we’ve thankfully grown from just being able to share the whole screen, to being able to exclusively sharing an application window. Fantastic, nobody has to see our messy desktops and awkward notifications.

But in our line of work, with a lot of presentations and multimedia content to share, that still isn’t quite enough. Exporting presentations as PDFs and showing them in Preview is fine for sharing some reports, but if we want to run a presentation with builds and animations, we were stuck running Keynote and sharing our whole screen. It works, but then we lose our ability to keep notes in another application, research answers in a browser, chat via backchannels, or even see our audience. It would get even clunkier when you had to admit guests from a Zoom waiting room.

Thankfully, Apple’s latest version of Keynote has solved this pesky nuisance with a simple feature: “Play Slideshow in Window.” Find it in the “Play” menu up top, and then the application just that, plays your presentation as if it was full screen, but in a separate window that you can select for sharing. Animations work, videos work, interactivity works — and there is no “chrome” around the window with titles or buttons to get in the way of your message.

Here’s a little doodle of how I organize my space now when I give a presentation on a video call. This lets me see everybody’s reactions, access questions and comments in chat, and keep notes organized in Evernote. Beyond meetings, I’m also excited to use this setup for teaching class when we get back in the fall, and running virtual events like our next Queens Tech Night later this year.

Was this the biggest problem facing humanity? Of course not. I recognize how fortunate we are to even be able to do our work with everything going on. But we’re also grateful to be able to do that work just a little bit better with things like this.

About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, just released his first book – Simply Put, and works with some cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

Get my new book, it just came out.

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