Virtual Absurdity

Virtual Absurdity of 2020 Summed Up In Just Two Stories

Virtual AbsurdityVirtual Absurdity of 2020 Summed Up In Just Two Stories

Two totally absurd stories came across my virtual desk this virtual morning that were simultaneously hilarious and sad, depending on your mood on any virtual day.

The first story concerns “bookcases.” This is not code. Bookcases. Apparently, a big trend among expert virtual trainers, professors, television personalities and entertainers are to place a bookcase in close proximity. In fact, there is a whole new profession of interior designers who specialize in virtual training backgrounds. Books are chosen to achieve a certain sense of education and “class,” meant to impress virtual audiences with erudition and even political “bent.”

Let’s hold on to that image, and skip to a story that appeared in the New York Post on February 11, 2021 entitled: “Professor realizes at end of 2-hour Zoom lecture that he was on mute.”

The incident occurred in Singapore but could have happened almost anywhere.

The professor is a university math teacher at National University of Singapore. He droned on for two hours before he realized that not one of his students heard a word he said because his mic was on mute.

The professor even asked the class questions and when no one responded, he slogged on in any case. He was at fault, not the students. To their credit, the students unsuccessfully tried to contact the professor – with no luck. He apparently saw his cell phone ringing like crazy, but as he was lecturing, he didn’t answer his device. He has promised to make up the lecture and, in the future, to leave an emergency number.

Two Ends of the Same Virtual Candle

The two incidents reflect much that is wrong with virtual training. Taken on one hand, they are absurd, and on the other, they encompass some major problem areas that have still not been addressed; virtual absurdity.

As a virtual keynote speaker and virtual trainer, these absurdities reflect how 2020 failed many “students,” no matter their ages or education levels.

In terms of the bookcase story, the proliferation of “experts, opinion-makers and social media influencers” in this period has been staggering and frightening. As someone who has been speaking on important issues such as corporate ethics, sports ethics, and sexual harassment prevention for more than twenty years, I am alarmed that someone might purport to be an expert in communicating important issues by nailing a diploma to the wall and having a bookcase filled with unread titles.

My experience, honed over hundreds of lectures, breakout sessions and keynote speeches are intended to move and motivate audiences to higher ethical awareness. Instant expertise, created by props, is disturbing because it doesn’t convey message so much as the appearance of a message.

Onto the seemingly absurd, two-hour lecture where the professor doesn’t realize he has muted himself, and the students are unable to communicate, has far deeper meaning than a waste of time.  It strikes to the current, widespread dissatisfaction of virtual training from high school algebra to HR classes to corporate executives.

Obviously, the example given of a lecture at National University of Singapore is somewhat extreme but speaks to the “deafness” displayed in innumerable virtual classes over the past 14 months or so.

Virtual Training Associates is acutely aware of being in touch with each student. The topics of corporate ethics, sports ethics, and sexual harassment are far too important to be left to speaker not connecting with audience. With these topics, especially, a failure to impart the material is more than simply a waste of a few hours; it can result in scandal, fraud, negative publicity and smashed reputations.

Yes, the two examples may be taken as virtual absurdity, or a warning that virtual training – when not taken with seriousness and purpose, may be worse than no training at all.



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