Ah Counter Experiment and Report Summary from February 6, 2017

Technology Setup

I experimented with a visual setup for the first time as the ah counter in our online meeting. Here is a summary of what I did on the technology side:

  • Set up a green screen background in my physical space
  • Used streaming software (free version of XSplit in this case) to alter the video feed using text, images, drawings, etc. In particular, I used a digital whiteboard to tally the items of interest and display them on screen in real time.
  • Fed the streaming software’s altered video (rather than my direct camera feed) into our meeting software
  • Captured screenshots of the final result for sharing after the meeting

Ah Counter’s Report

I kept tallies for our group as a whole. This focused on the use of ah (46), um (16), and so (24). The major thing I noticed in the overall group was that almost everyone says ah and/or um the moment they first engage with the group. Coming online from being muted is a bit of an “awakening” that leaves us uncertain of our connection (ah = “testing 1, 2”) or flustered and searching for what to say.

I also kept individual tallies for the presenters of prepared speeches. These were more detailed than the whole group. Ironically, compared to the group, there was very little use of ah and um.

  • Carole’s speech was generally quite clear with minimal use of filler and unnecessary connection words. Ah (0), So (8), Um (2), And (4).

  • For Paul, I noted the use of a few additional transitions. Ah (2), So (5), Um (0), And (19), Double Clutch / Restarts (6), Now (1), Well (4), OK (1), Needless to Say (1). Notably, Paul made heavy use of the word “and” to start thoughts and fill gaps.

How to Keep the Video Fixed on the Speaker

Our online meetings platform is RingCentral Meetings, which is based on the Zoom video platform (thank you to RingCentral for sponsoring our account). By default, the software decides which video to feature on screen based on where it detects sound. This works well during a conversation or an interview, but when someone is giving a speech we do not want the view to be shifting away from the speaker to an audience member who may have coughed or made some other noise.

On a desktop computer, you can “pin” the video feed you want to be featured.  Each viewer needs to take that action (it’s not controlled by the meeting leader).

Here is the explanation from the Zoom documentation:

Pin screen allows you disable active speaker view and view a specific speaker only.  It will also only record the pinned screen/speaker. Pinning another user’s video will only affect your local view, not the view of other participants.

  • Right-Click on PC or Left-Click on Mac the users video to bring up options
  • Select pin video