I did my first Skype visit last week. It was with the students of a publishing course being taught by Simmons College at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, that needed a guest speaker. My visit was scheduled for Friday, which is the dress down day at the office, so I wore a dress shirt with jeans and sneakers and donned the spare tie I keep in the office. I looked presentable from the waist up.
I told the story of our history as an independent publisher. Since LEE & LOW is a small publishing house, people are often unfamiliar with the company. We try to seize every opportunity to inform people about our mission to bring diversity to children’s books.
Skype lends itself well to visuals because a book’s illustrations look sharp on the computer’s built-in camera. I had to keep reminding myself to look into the camera instead of the window where the class was looking back at me just below the camera so it would appear that I was making eye contact with my audience.
Time flies when you’re Skyping, and an hour shot by in a New York minute. I think the sound quality was good as far as the class being able to hear me, but people in the classroom had to move closer to the computer in order for me to hear their questions. The class was out of focus to me, which may have been due to the fact that certain webcams are equipped with auto focus while others are not. Despite these small technical inconveniences, I was able to see people nodding their heads in response to what I said and hear them laughing at my attempts at humor, which made me feel like I was truly there.
Years ago I tested an early version of Skype, and I remember how awful the connection was. No problem now—this connection was fast! A few emerging collaborative applications that add desktop sharing and whiteboard capability to Skype look promising. I cannot wait to test them. It was also good for me to get a sense of what Skype visits are like firsthand because we are encouraging our authors and illustrators to participate in our new Skype program. This will enable them to keep visiting schools, even those faced with budget cuts, and stay connected to their readers.
I would love it if some of you would share your Skype experiences—good or bad. I think this is a really exciting opportunity to bring people closer.