Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

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.

When you're speaking, look directly at the camera

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 smiley.png. Seriously. It helps me stay focused there.

When you're listening, look at the image and the camera

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.



Interested in training in presentation skills?

We can help your presenters engage their audiences – whether they are speaking at major conferences, presenting to the community or colleagues, or speaking up at a meeting.

Learn more