The Window to the Soul: Why Eye Contact is So Important
Beyond allowing us to stay connected despite having to be physically separated throughout the pandemic, Zoom, I think, has given us three important gifts. The first is the ability to see and speak with people from all over the world. I have made friends, real friends, on at least three different continents. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine having the ability to get to know people in deep and meaningful ways when I couldn’t even leave my house.
The second gift, which is the greatest gift of the three for me, is each person in Zoom having their name right below their picture. I have a terrible memory especially when it comes to names. Zoom made it look like I had everyone’s name on the tip of my tongue. (A post for another day is how important it is to use people’s names. People LOVE hearing their own name!)
The third gift is how close and personal Zoom allowed us to be with one another, again, despite being stuck in our homes.
The third gift is how close and personal Zoom allowed us to be with one another, again, despite being stuck in our homes. In a Zoom call (or Meet, Teams or Bluejeans for that matter) I can see each person’s face up close. I can look in their eyes and they in mine.
Due to limitations in technology, though, we can’t look in each other’s eyes at the same time (at least not easily). When we are looking at the camera, we aren’t looking at the screen and when we are looking at the screen, we aren’t looking at the camera. Now there are technical ways around this dilemma. There are a couple of affordable tools that will hang a webcam down over your screen like Center Cam and Plexi Cam.
My solution of choice is to use a teleprompter (you can find the exact gear I use at www.torahtechguy.com/gear). Placing my Zoom window on the teleprompter, with the camera behind it, allows me to look directly at the camera while also looking at the other people on the call. What I'd like you to take away from this post though, is not necessarily HOW to do it but WHY to do it.
One of my pet peeves is calling gathering in physical space - “in-person” and gathering in digital space - “virtual”. When multicasting is done right there is nothing “virtual” about it. It is as real as it gets. One key element of “doing it right” is building your own environment so you can look your participants and students in the eye.
When multicasting is done right there is nothing “virtual” about it. It is as real as it gets.
When I’m looking at you I’m sending the message that I see you and care that you are here. If I’m staring down and away from the camera at my screen or phone I give the perception I’m not totally engaged and present in the moment - with you. There is no content, no keynote presentation, no script more important than the presence we bring to an online experience. Making eye-contact with your “audience” is a key element of being fully present.
If you don’t have a teleprompter or some sort of hack to get your camera in front of your screen, it is strange and hard to look at a lens instead of another human face. That’s why creating your environment is so important. You will do your best leading and teaching when the technology gets out of the way and you are able to make meaningful connections with other people.
Hot Tip 🔥
If you don't have a teleprompter or one of these more affordable tools, place your camera or webcam just above your monitor and move your Zoom window at the very top of your screen. Some people put a sticky note somewhere nearby to remind them to look up at the camera every once in a while.