Category: video

Doing It on Zoom

With the Coronavirus Pandemic, many people can only attend events that are held on-line. Zoom has become all too common for some of us. It can be a dry, lifeless platform, but there are a few techniques and tricks you can use to help make Zoom presentations engaging. Below are eight tips for you.

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

First though here is a little something extra to consider. When people come to Zoom presentation or workshop (or are forced to attend for their work or school) they come with both stated and unstated needs and expectations. Yes, they expect the Zoom will be about the topic advertised, but emotionally people also come with hopes and needs they may not fully realize affect them.

These days people are isolated and alone. They may feel frightened and unsure of the present and the future. While you cannot meet everyone’s emotional needs, you can anticipate some of them and attempt address them through the activities you design for your presentation.

  • Many people are looking for a connection with another person. Just giving small groups of people a chance to connect in a break-out room can be the highlight for someone.
  • People want to be seen and heard. Acknowledging people by just saying their names is a start. Depending on the type of presentation, you will be able to engage people in ways that affirms them and their presence.
  • Some people feel anxious in Zoom and easily fatigued. Allow people options to opt out of activities. Also, if the session is longer than an hour, give everyone a bio break and stretch breaks.
  • People need an escape. While it is impossible to give a presentation without any reference to the current pandemic, you can create a space where we can leave that all outside the Zoom for a time.
  • Finally, it can be very helpful to people’s mental health to travel in time Post-Covid. Ask participants, Once the Covid Pandemic is truly over, and you can go out freely & safely, what is something you plan to do to re-engage with the world or to celebrate?

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Instagram

Eight Tips for Engaging and Memorable Zoom Meetings and Presentations

  1. Keep it short! If your normal presentation is 60 minutes, try to brung it down to 30 or even 15 minutes
  2. Switch it up. On Zoom adults have the attention span of 11 year olds in a classroom before they go on the playground. Keep it engaging by switching up the presentation style at least every 10 minutes. If you talk for 5 minutes, then switch to a short film, then switch to an interactive poll.
  3. Use engaging, high resolution images. Zoom is a visual medium, so when talking, put up some slides of photos that enhance what you are saying. You can find excellent images for free at UnSplash.
  4. Keep text on slides to the bare minimum. You want your audience listening to you, not reading. Unless you want them to read, then put up the text and be quiet.
  5. Make it interactive. Even in little ways, get the audience to participate. They can respond to a poll, share something in the chat, or even do some hand motions at your direction.
  6. Look into the camera. You want people to sense you care about them and are interested in them.
  7. Get assistance. The bigger the presentation, the more help you will need to pull off a creative, engaging, presentation with few distractions. Create a small team to help with some of the tasks like letting people in from the waiting room or collecting questions through the chat, so you can focus on your presentation.
  8. Practice! Ask a friend or friends to sit in on a Zoom rehearsal. The more you practice the smoother it will flow. It will also give you more confidence. Whenever I am looking for feedback, I always ask, “If there was one part I should not take out, what it is?”

Relax and have fun. People are not just there for the content you share, but also for the opportunity to connect with you and others. If you mess up, don’t get flustered. People relate to people who are imperfect.

If you want to see how I model some of these practices, here is a 15 minutes presentation I gave for the BTS Center’s book study of Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis.

Peterson Toscano’s Presentation from The BTS Center on Vimeo.

Featured Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Queer Eye for Disaster Relief

I am obsessed with queer responses to climate change. If someone faces threats and challenges when it a beautiful day out, things only get worse with the weather. Climate change is a threat multiplier. We have always had storms, floods, droughts, and heatwaves, but climate change magnifies these making them bigger and badder. Similarly, threats people face because of their identity, mobility, health, etc also increases with the more extreme weather events.

Homeless LGBTQ youth face many risks and dangers on sunny days. These explode with extreme weather, especially when they don’t seek shelter. Up to 40% of homeless youth avoid shelters.

According to

If at all possible, LGBT teens who are facing homelessness, or who are already homeless, should try to locate LGBT-friendly services.

When dealing with a crisis like homelessness, the last thing you need is a hostile or homophobic service provider.

Fortunately there are some of these LGBTQ-friendly shelters.

The Ali Forney Center in New York, has complied a list of such resources in 16 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

I see addressing homeless LGBTQ youth needs (in nice weather and nasty weather) as a queer family values issue.

Fellow queer Quaker, Brian Blackmore told me about the work of The Night Ministry in Chicago. “They have a mobile bus that offers temporary shelter, counseling, Health care and testing, and sometimes food. The people who work there are some of the most valiant and compassionate people I have ever met. Tikkun Olam realized.”

I would love to hear of your own experiences, insights, and ideas of how we can build stronger communities before disasters come.

LGBTQ Youth, Disasters, and YOU from Peterson Thomas Toscano on Vimeo.

I’ve gone full cowboy for this new book

Coming Out Cowboy

Yep, I broke out my cowboy hat and my Joan Crawford “Johnny Guitar” inspired shirt to review a new book: A Good Hiding by Shirley McMillan. This young adult fiction book does not shy away from serious issues: teen pregnancy, a gay teen in a homophobic world, alcoholism, death and dying, religion, and hiding out in a crypt with visits from a vicar with some big secrets.

13689679_10154182251190781_943308001_nSecrets and Friendship

In facts, secrets play a big part of this book. Some of the action comes from the unearthing of these secrets. But it is much more than a plot-driven teen drama, these are realistic characters with strong voices, believable voices experiencing real life problems and sometimes making big mistakes. It is also about friendship and determination.

Here is the description from Shirley McMillan’s website:

A Good Hiding is a Young Adult novel set in Belfast, exploring themes such as secrets, violence, homophobia and religion. It is told via first person dual narrative through the characters of Nollaig, a pregnant fifteen year old intent on running away, and Stephen, her best friend, a gay teenager who himself has had to escape a violent past. Through their encounter with an Anglican minister who has secrets of his own, Nollaig and Stephen explore what it is to be a friend to someone whose safety requires secrecy and lies.

Reading the book for the second time, I decided to create a video review. And although the story is set in the crypt of a church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I felt I needed to get downright country in my literary analysis (You can even hear Patty Cake, my horse in the background)

A Cowboy Review of A Good Hiding

Or Watch it on YouTube

A Good Hiding is published by Atom Books and is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Memory, Fantasies, and Guns

A video a week

These days I have been doing a video a week for my YouTube Channel, and I am taking requests! My good friend and colleague Noach Dzmura, requested,

I would like to see you take on the issue of gun violence. Specifically, how do we change our nation into one that makes no war upon itself?

I confess I did not know where to even begin. Gun violence is not something I speak about much, although like most people in the USA, it is often in my face. I let the request sit inside for a bit and began to think about guns and my own personal history with them.

A funny and disturbing memory unearthed

The first thing that came to mind was a funny and disturbing memory from my childhood home. The event actually took place after I had grown up and was home visiting. My dad surprised me with some real live gun action IN THE HOUSE. I had forgotten I lived with a trained killer. Here is my video: It Happened in the Kitchen. The day Dad freaked me out.

I spent more time thinking about gun violence in the USA. I realize we are not the only country to experience violence. My friend Shirley McMillan, a young adult fiction writer in North Ireland, grew up with violence that was all too common. While much of the conflict has subsided (but still simmers) the memories remain and I see it seep into conversations often when I visit.

My imagination has been hacked!

This got me thinking to how our imaginations get hacked by violence. This is the case for me, someone who has enjoyed years of “hero fantasies.” Suddenly these fantasies have changed and have grown troubling.

Here is this week’s video: Revealed! My secret fantasy

What about you?

I want to hear your thoughts and comments. Also, let me know of any requests or questions you want me to consider for future videos. And I would LOVE it if you shared any of my videos with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.