Well, all right, you may have seen worse - this is, after all, the era of PowerPoint audience-abuse - but here's my experience from yesterday.
Picture this. We were sitting in a lecture theatre. Directly in front of us was a very large screen, at least 3 metres by 5 metres, covering most of the facing wall. It was brightly lit up with a slide of the outside of our theatre. We could focus on little else. Off to the left, in a dark corner, was one micro-lamp (on a lecturn) above the presenter's speech notes, reflecting enough light off the page for us to just make out his face. Huge bright screen, tiny bulb in a dark corner - the only sources of light. He talked about agriculture. The slide showed us the theatre - for the entire presentation.
Not one thing the presenter said had anything to do with the slide. Zero connection.
Worse. Think about how we humans take in messages from a presenter. It's well established that two thirds of us respond to visual stimuli more than any other stimulus. Less than a third respond best to sound. It was difficult for almost all of us to pay attention to the presenter's message. It was hard work.
Now, to the point - for all of us who do have relevant PowerPoint slides, but over-rely on them, turning our audiences into hypnotised chickens. Do you want your message to sink in?
Only show a picture on the screen when it specifically illustrates the point you're making right now. Then turn it off!
How? To turn the screen off but keep PowerPoint alive, create what I call a sleep slide. It's a slide that's all black. (Yes, just black, though it helps to insert a small mark in one corner so you can recognize it yourself.) Make the black sleep slide your number 1 slide and return to it (1, enter) when the relevant slide you're showing stops being relevant. So, you'll show nothing.
Yes, now the audience will turn and look at you.
Get over it. People sell ideas better than pictures. Wall-to-wall PowerPoint is audience-abuse and it kills the impact of your message. Surely a no-brainer.
For more on how to work with a sleep slide, see my blog Insert a sleep slide
Bizarre, isn't it? Direct eye contact was left behind when we moved our presentations and meetings online.
In almost every screen encounter, when someone speaks to you on screen their eyes drop down to find the picture of you. Okay, yes, your rational mind says they're talking to you. But your eyes say they're not talking to you. That contradiction is significant. Our instincts - built on millions of years of evolution - say, This person is not meeting my eyes. The price is high.
The price is a loss of trust, loss of engagement, and loss of impact of your message.
For full online authority, we must get our eye contact under control. Here's how. In the next few paragraphs, 'camera' means built-in webcam (top of screen), or external webcam (clipped to top of screen and plugged into a USB port), or any external camera plugged into your system.
To every person at the other end, you're now meeting their eyes. It feels weird to do it, because you'll feel that you're not meeting their eyes. It will need practice. I have a small smiley-face right next to my camera . Seriously. It helps me stay focused there.
Not at the same time, of course. Why both? Because as that person speaks to you, you'll need to see their body-language. If you don't, you're relying just on their words - which can be a disaster. But you also need to look at your camera, to show that same person that you're meeting his or her eyes. Which leads to this question: how much time do you spend on their image and how much on your camera?
Once you've taken in the speaker's body language, favour your camera.
My solution is not perfect, but it does give you significantly better contact with online human beings. We all know that online meetings are inferior to in-person meetings, but they are the reality of the age and will be with us long after the pandemic rides out of town.
One more hint. If your app allows, move the image of the person you're speaking to (or listening to) as close as possible to your camera. On Zoom it's simply drag and drop.
I look forward to the day technology embeds my camera in my picture of you.
Let's make it work. Let's be strong on screen.