InfoComm: Bozzword: Distractions


By Joe BocchiaroVice President of InfoComm Standards and Industry Innovations

There it goes again. I shudder. Every time someone with a deep voice hits a certain tone, there is a rattle somewhere over there. The presenter just said “certainly,” and as I anticipated that response, I anticipated the rattle. I look over there but there is nothing to be seen. Everyone else in the audience also looked over there. Perhaps the speaker grille is loose. Perhaps the acoustic wall panel is not screwed down tightly. Maybe the metal studs are rubbing against each other. I think about sympathetic vibration, and how difficult this problem would be to find. I want to go over to the wall and smack it to see if it will stop, but I don’t, and sit patiently in my seat, pretending to pay attention to the presenter. I think that this is how crickets make noise. I wish the transformer would finally fall off the loudspeaker, short it out, and make this horrible buzzing stop. There it goes again. I hope they don’t play any music through this thing.

There is a black bar on the right side of the PowerPoint image and the top is tilting to the left. At least it’s in focus. The template is completely white and has line after line of bullets with black letters. It hurts my eyes to look at it. The presenter is reading each bullet, line after line, in a monotone that is shutting down my brain. Every so often he walks in front of the screen and is dazed by the projector light. He keeps advancing the slides too far and then apologizing and going back again. He keeps saying things like “and again,” and “at the end of the day,” and “obviously.” The only obvious thing is that I am getting annoyed and I’m not understanding anything out of this.

I focus on the distractions.

I try not to look up at the ceiling because there is a video projector up there with many colorful cables hanging down from the ragged hole in the ceiling tile that a galvanized pipe also extends out of. I wonder what the pipe is attached to. I’m glad I didn’t sit under that! I wonder what the purple cable is for. It’s longer than the others. I notice microphones on the ceiling and I wonder what they are for, as we seem to be conferencing out of the room using a speakerphone on a table. The people on the far end cannot hear what is being presented and keep trying to ask for it to be repeated. But whenever they unmute, we hear echoes and noise.

What I mostly hear is a fluorescent bulb humming away as it flickers. At least it’s the same color as the others, except one of them, on the other side of the room, which looks yellowish. I wonder if they ran out of the blueish ones. I wonder why all of the lights are on, including the ones in the front row that are washing out the boring image on the screen. I think maybe they can’t turn off the front row, and I look for the light switch. There it is — a lone switch by the door with a beige wallplate proudly defining it. It is next to the projection screen plate, which is white and decora. That is next to a thermostat, which is gray. There is a brushed stainless plate next to that, which is slightly higher up than the others. Maybe for the window shades? I wonder if the electricians used tape measures from different countries. I speculate whether someone designed all of this and actually drew it that way, maybe to see if anyone would notice.

I do.

I can hear the muffled voice of the presenter from the room next door, punctuated by muffled laughter and muffled applause, with some muffled music. I try to listen and understand what they’re talking about, but I can’t. It sounds like a lot more fun over there, though. I wish I was in the presentation next door. But not now that’s drowned out by what I think is someone rolling a heavy cart down the hall outside our room. I wonder what’s on the cart? Chairs? Danishes? Coffee?

I could use some coffee.

Sorry, that’s all for now, as it appears the presentation is ending. I know this because the screen went black except for little white words at the top that say, “End of slide show, click to exit,” and the presenter just asked if there were any questions. Nobody clapped, and this is not a standing ovation, it is people reaching for their bags and jackets. I hear people sighing. Maybe I should go talk to the presenter, but I notice that the oak lectern does not match the gray laminate in the rest of the room and I can’t bear to go up there. I sure hope there’s no exam on this!

“Well,” I think, “we sure have our jobs cut out for us in audiovisual standards development.” I think, “It’s a good thing that Monk from the TV show wasn’t here.”

The presenter accidentally turns off the lights when he tries to raise the screen. Perfect.

Sound maddeningly familiar? Join Joe and others from InfoComm Standards and Innovations at their plenary session, Monday, June 10, at InfoComm 2013 in Orlando, Fla. If you can’t be there, tell Joe how you handle similar distractions in the Comments section below.

Joe Bocchiaro is vice president of InfoComm Standards and Industry Innovations. He previously was an InfoComm Academy Senior Staff Instructor. He has worked as an audiovisual design consultant with Constantin Walsh-Lowe LLC and Electro-Media Design Ltd. Before that, Joe was vice president of Media Technologies and senior engineer with the New Jersey systems integration firm A.V. Services Inc.

This column was reprinted with permission from InfoComm and originally appeared here.