In my day job, one of the things I do is convert video-recordings of presentations given at my organization’s live events and turn them into OnDemand products.
I’ve historically made the argument that a presentation that goes especially well live does not equate to a video we should feature. We had a conference last year, and there were a couple of problems with one of the presentations— there were some audio problems with the file, and the speaker spoke with an accent.
I absolutely hate that sessions on video where the speaker has an accent get savaged (sadly almost without exception)— I don’t think it says nice things about unconscious bias— but it is statistically accurate. And when you combine it with the legitimate audio problems in the file, it almost didn’t matter how brilliant the speaker was, I knew it would be the lowest rated session in the package we were offering and we’d get complaints. And it was and we did.
I was thinking about why that is— it’s literally the same speech and delivery in both cases— why would one be the highest-rated live session and simultaneously the lowest-rated replay of a grouping?
I think it’s this: First, the audio problems. Because they weren’t a factor live, they are clearly an important factor in the replay’s reception. Second, I think there are a lot of intangibles involved with being at a live event that can offset minor irritations. Maybe you had a good conversation with the person you are sitting with, just before the session began, and that rosy glow is helping improve your mood overall. Maybe you caught up with an old friend, made a new friend, or just feel good because you’re taking a positive step, in being at the conference, that you feel good about. Maybe you’re just glad to be out of the office doing something different, that day. Maybe the speaker is more human to you, because you bumped into him in the hallway and he was friendly about it, or he said something funny just before the recording started.
That’s not to say that there are no intangibles when you’re watching the replay. But usually, you’re by yourself, you’re doing it to check a box for continuing education credit, and you might be stressed about earning a short amount of CE in one time. Maybe you’re sitting alone in your office watching it after hours— maybe you’re catching it on an iPad just before you’re drifting to sleep or while you’re working out. But you’re probably not thinking about the new friend you made or how you’re making yourself better and more competitive— it’s an “eat your vegetables” moment that requires you to stay there, looking at the screen, almost against your will. And you probably paid good money for it (not that you didn’t pay for the conference, but again, lots of intangibles with a conference). It’s easier to pick nits.
One session at a recent conference wasn’t a home-run. The speaker was not at the top of his game and didn’t deliver an especially compelling presentation. The argument here was “but his content was really good, even if his delivery was off.” I’m sadly of the opinion that it almost doesn’t matter how good his content was, because his delivery was off. But in person, you could excuse it— it was over lunch, and you got credit for going to the lunch, even if you mostly blew the guy off. Maybe the lunch was tasty, or you graded him against the curve of phenomenal presentations you saw that day, or you had some other experience of how brilliant a guy he was, off-stage. Watching that on video later, no matter how tasty your snack was, I don’t think there is a huge well of residual “they’re not all going to be winners” feelings. I think it feels a lot more like “that’s an hour of my life I’m never gonna get back.”
Any other theories about why the same thing experienced through a different medium provokes such a different reaction?