- Posted by Jackie Labrecque
- On September 25, 2020
- communications, video
Handshakes. Remember those? The greeting for our “new normal” in this remote-working world is through virtual eye contact. Just as we would for an in-person meeting, it is important we are ready to engage the moment the virtual meeting has started. We want to be fully present on screen – with the shot set beforehand – so we can establish ourselves in the conversation and set ourselves up for a great engagement.
Making a Connection
Despite the awkwardness of staring at a tiny circle on our computers, it is critical to make virtual eye contact when doing any form of video communication, including media interviews, presentations, client meetings, delivering a video message or litigating in a courtroom. As we have been counseling our clients and presenting to firms across the country about successful virtual communication, remote working is here for the foreseeable future, and examining our virtual presence is as important as ever.
And don’t take our word for it. There is proof, according to psychologists who study it.
Fast Company journalist Mark Wilson wrote about this phenomenon in a recent article about eye contact at the DNC titled, “The Democrats pulled off a brilliant psychological maneuver at the convention.” He writes, “If the DNC was marked by any single change this year, it wasn’t just the loss of crowds but this addition of audience eye contact.” Wilson spoke with a researcher in this this arena and writes, “eye contact can impact your attention, your emotion, and even how you evaluate someone as trustworthy or intelligent.”
Each DNC speaker was essentially communicating one-on-one with the viewer. Wilson writes, “this unbroken eye contact draws our attention and likely makes it harder to ignore the speaker or look away from the screen.” Many speakers at the Republican National Convention took the same approach, though the camera switched angles more often, breaking that eye contact, and reminding us of this virtual medium.
Keeping Virtually Engaged
Our favorite news anchor has the same sort of relationship with us. They are having a conversation with us in our living room. They are looking us in the eye and delivering a message, and we keep watching because we trust them. Of course, news broadcasts and political conventions are only one-way conversations. When in video meetings, we are engaging in a two-way conversation and the reciprocal eye contact is key to keeping an engaging exchange. If we do need to refer to another screen or look away, just be sure to explain to your audience why your eye contact is drifting and then return to them as soon as you can.
A Few Tips to Ensure Virtual Eye Contact
- Look directly into the camera lens when delivering your message, resisting the temptation to look at those on screen.
- Because the lens is hard to see, some computers have a small light next to the lens for you to focus on.
- If your laptop or other computer doesn’t have this light, place a small piece of colored tape next to the lens to attract your eye.
- When you’re listening to someone speaking, be an active and engaged listener, using visual cues such as head nods and smiles, just as you would in person.
- Place any notes or other materials that you need to read from directly to the side or underneath your camera.
- And like anything, practice makes perfect as this will feel unusual or even uncomfortable at first, but in the end, it will have an incredible impact!
Jackie Labrecque is the executive producer of Poston’s Video Division, producing stories and compelling content for clients. She is a seasoned television broadcast journalist with 15 years of visual storytelling experience. She is also a member of Poston’s Crisis Communications and Litigation PR Division, helping clients with high-stakes issues. Contact her at [email protected]