Making eye contact is the single most important thing you can do to improve your connection and level of engagement. But in order to make eye contact virtually, you must look directly at your camera. This means you are seemingly faced with a tough choice:
A) Look at the camera and make your customer feel seen and heard, but miss out on their reactions, or
B) Read body language virtually by looking at your screen, but fail to make eye contact (or constantly break it) appearing to your customer as uninterested, distant, and even untrustworthy.
Fortunately, this does not have to be an either/or situation. I teach several techniques that allow you to read body language while maintaining critical levels of eye contact with your customer through the camera. They require no new tools or technology. In fact, you already have the power within you to apply one of them right now!
Hello Peripheral Vision!
Perhaps you’ve experienced narrowly escaping a collision with another person crossing the street, skiing down a crowded slope, or navigating a busy grocery store because you’ve seen them in the corner of your eye. This is your peripheral vision at work. If you’ve ever played any fast-paced sports, like basketball, soccer, or football, you may have even relied on that peripheral vision to identify open teammates or avoid opponents.
Peripheral vision gives us the ability to see objects upon which we are not directly focused. It was an important tool for our ancestors allowing them to quickly distinguish between an approaching predator and a potential meal. Now it’s an effective skill for allowing us to assess our customer’s attention and interest in a virtual meeting – while maintaining a strong visual connection with them.
Most people have never consciously leveraged their peripheral vision. But now is the time to call on and develop this latent skill.
How Peripheral Vision Works
Most people have much stronger peripheral vision than they realize. While your sharpest vision is at the center of your gaze, your sight doesn’t disappear at the edge of it. Instead, the sharpness and clarity of what you can see decreases gradually the farther you get from your central focal point.
This means that while your eyes are focused on your camera, your peripheral vision should allow you to see major movements or changes in your customer’s expression and body language, like:
- Turning their head (indicating distraction)
- Crossing of the arms (indicating possible resistance)
- Leaning toward the screen (indicating interest)
- Nodding (indicating agreement)
- Major changes in expression (indicating a change in feeling)
This is great news for everyone who needs to communicate and build relationships virtually!
Using Your Peripheral Vision to Read Body Language Virtually
Here are a few simple steps in order to access your peripheral vision virtually:
- Change your platform settings to allow for the largest possible view of your customer on your screen. This will make it easier and increase the accuracy of your peripheral vision.
- Hide your own image. You don’t need to see yourself and it will only distract you.
- Move images close to your camera. Many platforms will enable you to move the images around on your screen (use gallery mode in Zoom, floating view in Webex).
- Pin your key customer closest to your camera. Some platforms allow you to secure a person’s image to one spot so you don’t have to search for them every time someone else enters or leaves the meeting.
- Focus on the camera. Once you have set up the images to optimize your peripheral vision, place your central gaze on the camera. With your peripheral vision you should now be able to see changes in the body language of those participants nearest your camera, all while maintaining eye contact with your audience.
Don’t be alarmed if it feels unnatural at first. You’re fighting a lifetime of making eye contact face-to-face. With proper practice, you can develop and rely on your peripheral vision to help you read your customer without continually breaking the connection you’ve worked hard to establish.
There are times when you will want to (and should) get a closer look at your customer. For information on how and when to facilitate these micro check-ins, as well as surprising insights into what your customer’s body language virtually actually means, check out my new book, Look Me In the Eye, below.
Feel free to check it out if you’re looking for more tips on how to engage customers and drive more sales on video.Get your copy today on Amazon!