The Foreign Service Journal, April 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2022 51 FS KNOW-HOW With virtual meetings and hybrid arrangements likely to remain standard practice, this primer is bound to come in handy. BY ROB I N QU I NV I L L E HOWTOBEA ZOOMING SUCCESS Robin Quinville recently retired after 33 years in the Foreign Service, specializing in European foreign and security policy. She began her career in Stuttgart just before the Berlin Wall fell. Her last assignment was as chargé d’affaires in reunited Germany. I confess: In the deputy chief of mis- sion (DCM) course, I multitasked during media training. Why? Because the U.S. ambassador to Germany was a media professional. I knew one thing for sure: I would never have to go on camera. Big mistake. My cozy thought bubble burst when the ambassador left for a new job in February 2020, and COVID-19 arrived. Suddenly, everything we did was on camera: staff meetings, town halls, policy discus- sions with government officials, public speeches, media inter- views. Sure, there were times we could get together (small groups in big rooms). But for the most part, the pandemic meant our work—in all its facets—was filtered through our screens. The Foreign Service adapted. So did our contacts in the gov- ernments and organizations we work with. Formality slipped away as some of our starchiest overseas colleagues suddenly turned up from their living room, relaxed in a polo shirt and jeans, for a vibrant bilateral debate. What mattered was keeping our dialogue going. We were navigating new cultural norms together. We flexed, we adjusted, we learned. And we realized: We can do better. So as we look ahead to the next stage (hybrid model, anyone?), here are five hard-earned les- sons to help us be a zooming success. Set the Stage In real life, we make sure to know the run-of-show before we head to the event. Howmany attendees? Will we speak from a podium or in a conversational format? Seated at a table? Who are the other speakers? Will the host collect and select the questions? We need the same answers for events in the virtual world. Howmany folks will be on screen? Just the speaker and host? A “panel” of five? Are presenters speaking off the cuff, or delivering prepared remarks? For an international or overseas audience, what language is expected? Do the organizers have a logo back- drop they want you to insert electronically? What does it look like, and do we want to promote their brand or our own? Is this “just” a live transmission, or will the organization record it and post it? Do we agree? Are we expected to moni- tor the “chat” function, or will the host? If it’s a meeting with an official, who else is in the (virtual) room? DEEMKASTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK