[VIDEO] 7 Ways to Make Eye Contact in a Virtual Presentation

Oli Gardner
Founder of Outline
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[VIDEO] 7 Ways to Make Eye Contact in a Virtual Presentation

Making eye contact with an audience is easy when it’s an IRL conference on a real stage. But it can be really hard to do when you’re presenting virtually.

To succeed you need to use part imagination and part technique.

Here are my 7 favourite tips for making eye contact with an invisible audience in a virtual presentation.

#1 – Look at your webcam

Now that seems incredibly obvious, but it’s easy to forget to do it, we’re naturally drawn to images of ourselves.

So a good technique is to place your picture in picture video as close as possible to the webcam, which is most likely right in the middle and at the top.

That way, when you’re looking at yourself, you’re also looking close to the camera.

#2 – Don’t read from your slides

If you’re looking at your slides, you’re not looking at the camera. And the best way to stop looking at your slides is to be well practiced.

When you know your content, you can use peripheral vision to know where you are, which allows you to talk more freely about your point.

If you have a lot of content on your slides, that’s harder to remember, it gets a bit more tricky, in which case, you might want to use tip number three.

#3 – Ask the audience to look at your slides

If the audience is looking at your slides, they’re not looking at you, which means they won’t know that you’re not looking at them.

This works great when you have a lot of detail in the slides such as a series of data, a chart or a process diagram.

For example, you could say, take a look at this slide, you’ll notice in step three that you want to do blah, blah, blah.

And if you compare the values in column A with column B, you will see how different they are. Notice how I use words like look, see, notice and compare.

These are all good for directing the audience to spend time looking at your slides.

#4 – Pretend to be thinking

If you need to look at your slides for a quick reminder of what you’re trying to say. Pretending to be thinking can give you a small window of opportunity to do this, tilt your head gesture with your hands and kind of look into the distance as if you’re looking through your slides to the horizon a little bit like this.

Yeah, I’m still talking. I’m looking at my slides. I’m kind of doing this and I come right back to you. And you didn’t even notice that I did it. I’ll do it again. Yeah, I’m thinking about that. Here we go.

#5 – Vary your energy to draw attention back to you

Number five, very your energy to draw attention back to you.

Eye contact is a two way street and you can stare at the camera all you like, but if the audience isn’t looking back at you, the eye contact is lost.

And a great way to draw their eyes back to the camera view of you is to change your delivery in terms of volume or pacing.

This causes audio contrast, which registers as a reason to pay attention.

Changing your volume to whisper can be mysterious and intriguing, or increasing your volume or even shouting off mic like this causes a jarring moment but don’t have to wild because you don’t want them to turn down the volume or take out their headphones.

Similarly, when you slow down to make a really important point, or speed up to race excitedly through your point, you break the monotony and draw people back to your view.

A silent pause can also increase the contrast when you start speaking again.

#6 – Raise the height of your webcam to eye level

This prevents you from looking down on the audience. Nobody likes to be looked down upon and a downward angle might appear dominant which could make people want to turn away, and while there’s no difference in the amount of eye contact between the angles, raising your webcam so eye level creates a more friendly and personable angle.

This occurs most frequently when you’re using the built in camera on your laptop because the laptop screen can fold up and down which creates weird angles.

#7 – Increase the distance from you to the camera.

Now the greater the angle change from camera lens to the laptop screen and monitor.

The more noticeable is when you look at your slides. I’m really close to my laptop here. When I’m looking from here to here, it’s very noticeable, but in the distance it’s a much more shallow angle.

And you can reduce this angle by just moving the camera and your monitor further away from you. If you’ve got a webcam mounted to your laptop, that’s great. But if you have your laptop here, for instance, and have a second monitor set up and if the webcam you want to make sure you position as close to the lens as possible.

This requires that you have either a wireless microphone or you have the mic mounted out of you on a boom arm.

I have mine attached to the ceiling just up here on a frame. But you can also attach a boom arm to your desk. All right, that’s how you can increase the amount of virtual eye contact you have with your audience.

If you put these tips into practice, you’ll create a much stronger bond with your audience which is a good thing for everyone.