June 14

The Surprising Science Behind Eye Contact in Virtual Meetings!

I get asked all the time, "Does it really matter whether I look at the camera or not in virtual meetings?" The answer is a resounding “YES,” and here’s why.

Researchers from the University of Tampere in Finland have uncovered a groundbreaking discovery: virtual eye contact has the same psychological impact as in-person eye contact. Their study reveals, "Our results imply that the autonomic arousal response to eye contact requires the perception of being seen by another. Another person's physical presence is not required for this effect.” This means that just like in-person eye contact, virtual eye contact activates the vagus nerve, fostering feelings of calm, connection, and social engagement.

The Benefits of Eye Contact in Virtual Meetings

Simply by looking at the camera, you receive the same benefits you would in person, including:

  • Building Relationships: 

    Direct eye contact is one of the quickest ways to build a relationship.  Yes, you can build one without it, but it takes longer!
  • Conveying Confidence:

    One of the primary qualities associated with confidence is direct eye contact.  In fact studies show that leaders tend to make more eye contact than the general population.
  • Enhancing Credibility:

    Research shows we are more likely to believe, and be persuaded by, people who look us in the eyes.
  • Improving Engagement:

    Eye contact keeps your audience engaged because they feel like you are talking to them. 

Common Excuses:

And yet, I still hear the following Common Excuses from sellers:

"It's hard to look at the camera and not at the person on the screen."

"I can't read body language if I'm staring at the camera."

"It feels uncomfortable and unnatural to talk to a tiny dot."

I get it. These are all valid concerns. Looking into a camera to talk to another person is an unnatural act.  There is no reason anyone would be naturally good at it.  However it can be learned, and it’s well worth learning as the benefits of maintaining virtual eye contact far outweigh these challenges.

Overcoming Common Challenges

Let's address the common concerns one by one:

"It's Hard to Look at the Camera and Not at the Person on the Screen"

It is difficult to look at the camera when everything in your brain is urging you to look at the person on your screen!  Unlearning a lifetime of behavior takes more than a half-hearted commitment or sporadic attempts at it. Fortunately, the acting and on-camera professions have done the hard work for you.  They’ve discovered how to speak naturally to a camera and the exercises and techniques necessary to develop new muscle memory, which we teach in our Virtual Presence and Virtual Executive Presence programs.  

"I Can't Read Body Language if I'm Looking at the Camera"

While it’s true that looking directly at the camera limits your ability to read body language, there are several techniques that can expand your level of awareness and allow you to get a read on your audience, while maintaining relationship-building levels of eye contact with your customer through the camera. And, they require no new tools or technology, like this one involving leveraging your peripheral vision!

"It Feels Uncomfortable and Unnatural to Talk to a Tiny Dot"

Initially, talking to a camera can feel odd. However, you’re not “talking to a camera,” you’re talking to another person, who just happens to be “in” the camera.  This is also a technique that the acting profession has perfected, and you can use it also to become more comfortable talking to a camera.

Maintaining eye contact during a virtual meeting may seem challenging, but it's a non--negotiable skill in today's competitive digital sales environment. Elevate your virtual meetings, enhance your credibility, and forge stronger client connections. If you’re struggling to make eye contact on camera, you are hindering your ability to build meaningful relationships virtually.  Don’t put it off any longer.  Resolve to do what it takes to master this powerful skill and witness the transformative impact.

For more tips and comprehensive training on improving your virtual presence, explore my Virtual Presence Program and grab a copy of my book, Look Me in the Eye. Let’s transform your virtual interactions into powerful, trust-building experiences


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