Video Conferecning and Eye Contact
When we are presenting using a webcam we want to be able to replicate what we see and do live i.e. gestures, body posture, facial expression and eye contact. This is not easy. We can to a certain degree control what we do, but we can’t control what our audiences does.
A lot of the presenting we do today in VC requires us to do a whole range of different tasks while presenting. We have to manage the technology, monitor the chat room and manage our software, which requires us to to be hands on and close to the computer. We do similar things when presenting live, but we can move away from the technology when we are done.
The advice that follows is taken from research on working one on one with a client, but I think we can still take some lessons from their findings. (Grondin et al. 2020)
The context for these guidelines is that we want the audience to see as much of us as is practical and for us to maintain eye contact as best as possible. We are going to assume that we are giving a presentation that doesn’t require us to have a lot of interaction with the technology. Either we just have to load it up and click through some slides or we have someone else doing that for us.
We can easily deal with all verbal and nonverbal elements by positioning ourselves so that we have our torso and head in shot. However there is one nonverbal, eye contact, which is our biggest challenge. What follows are guidelines for setting up our webcam so that we give the impression we are making eye contact with everyone in the audience. You can click on the link here for the whole article with pictures.
- Use a gooseneck webcam mount to position the webcam upside down and inside the monitor frame
- Use the application settings to flip the image so you are the right way up.
- Sit 130cm away from the camera
- Position yourself, either sitting or standing so that you are looking very slightly down at the camera.
- Preferably use a headset with a microphone. Relying on the webcam microphone from 130 cm probably wont give the best results.
When I was installing my gooseneck I noticed you can have the camera (logitec C920 in my case) the right up, but it protrudes a long way out, verses having it upside down where it sits closer to the screen.
This will work perfectly when we are communicating one on one. Because in essence we have positioned the camera just above the eyes of the other person. So when we speak we have the comfort of looking at someone not the camera. However because of the position of the camera the other person feels as if we are looking at them straight in the eye.
I think it works well for groups also if the platform we are using allows us to highlight an individual. If it doesn’t then its just a little more challenging because we will be directing our thoughts to the camera only.
Until technology like Microsofts i2i is launched we are going to have to use more practical solutions like the above.