How to Get Comfortable Looking Into the Camera Lens

Eye Contact Online

Discover the power of connecting and engaging with an increasingly distracted virtual audience just by looking into the camera lens.

Much of our professional lives are now conducted online. In the last few months, we’ve gotten used to seeing our colleagues in casual clothes, their messy homes and met their children or pets. Even as the economy opens up, virtual meetings and events will continue to rise according to numerous polls and surveys that show that 54% prefer to work remotely in the US, 57% do not want to go back to a normal office environment in the UK, and 80% prefer working from home in Singapore

However, there are comparatively more distractions lurking for people during an online interaction. Juicy headlines and messages popping up on their phone or their computer screen, family talking to them, food, chores, anything you can imagine.

In the first of this series, I’m highlighting the importance of eye contact in holding people’s attention when you’re leading a group meeting, teaching, presenting or giving a speech. It’s different for a one on one or small group meeting as you have to look at their faces on the screen to immediately assess their reactions. (Of course, content is always the key to holding the audience attention but it’s beneficial to activate our other available tools.)

After watching so many online meetings, courses, webinars, masterclasses and summits for the last few months, I’m puzzled at why many experts and speakers are not looking at me (the audience). They’re looking somewhere else, and worst, I suspect some are looking at themselves on the screen. If you want to engage your audience, you have to look at the camera lens when you speak. 

Why is Eye Contact Important?

If someone doesn’t look you in the eye when they talk to you, they seem shifty or you don’t feel drawn into the conversation. You might then look away too, and get distracted. Eye contact actually commands people’s attention. We look into someone else’s eyes to hold their gaze and connect with them. Some people have to look down or away during a conversation, however do realize that unlike a face to face conversation, the computer screen is less forgiving.

I ran an informal poll with corporates, entrepreneurs and investors who conducted a large volume of online interactions. Eye contact during these sessions was not something they had thought about. However, after I demonstrated the difference between speaking whilst looking into the camera lens, or looking at the screen, the response was unanimous. Everyone preferred it when I looked into the camera lens. They felt I was speaking directly to them and therefore more sincere or energetic. This made them feel engaged. So why doesn’t everyone look into the camera lens?

The Camera Lens Freaks Me Out

The camera lens is cold, unemotional and inanimate. People comfortably talk to their cars, their teddy bears, and other inanimate objects but freeze when they look at the camera. That discomfort is due to what they’re imagining or anticipating when they “go live” to address a crowd, whether it’s for a meeting, an event or a recorded video.

Inborn Survival Instincts

When you look at the camera lens, you can’t see the audience but you know that they can all see you. So you might feel vulnerable, and exposed. It’s like going into a dark cave where you can’t see anything, although you sense you’re being watched. That biological survival instinct of fear keeps you attentive against the dangers of a lion or nasty animal with sharp teeth.

I assure you that there aren’t lions or nasty animals watching you online. It’s just people.

Fear of Being Judged by the Masses

Yes, nasty animals can be a metaphor for the nasty people that you suspect might judge you poorly. That’s an insignificant number compared to the multitudes who will benefit from hearing you. We think that when we “go live”, a million people are judging us negatively so we get a million times more self-conscious. For early humans, being ostracised could mean death, so we still have that fear of potential rejection and judgement.

No Response

For some, the lack of response or ability to read the room throws them off. No matter how good your joke, the camera doesn’t laugh or signal appreciation. You can get some response from an online meeting, but if you’re a speaker for an event, you have to get accustomed to silence. The upside is that you won’t hear any awkward coughs either.


5 Ways to Start Getting Comfortable Looking Into the Camera Lens.

  1. Visualize Just One Person

Realise that in reality, it’s just one person watching your video. It’s happening simultaneously with many people. However, each person’s experience is that they’re watching you alone and in the comfort of their home or office. So speak like you would in a conversation with one person. The camera lens represents the eyes of that one person.

  1. It’s a Business Conversation

You conduct professional conversations competently throughout the day. So take the mindset and perspective that you’re having another professional conversation with a supportive co-worker when you look at the camera lens. Speak as you would to that supportive co-worker.

  1. Use a Marker

If looking at the camera lens makes you feel like you’re going crossed eyed, or you keep forgetting to look at the lens, then stick a small arrow or a photo of a supportive co-worker next to the lens. That helps to direct your gaze at the lens and keeps your tone friendly. Don’t use a photo of your pet dog or baby. You want to keep a professional tone.

Looking Into The Camera Lens Effortlessly

  1. Practice. And More Practice.

You have to practise at anything that you want to get good at. Practise talking to the camera lens every day for a minute or two. The more you look at the lens, the more comfortable you’ll be. Keep doing it until you feel less awkward. Eventually, you’ll be more at ease and it’ll feel natural and effortless.

  1. Record Yourself

Whilst you’re practising, record yourself. Then watch and review it. You’ll be able to see how your eyes are connecting with the audience. Watching yourself also gets you more comfortable with the whole presentation process.

Eye Contact is one of the most powerful tools you have to leave a strong impression with your audience. When you get into the right state and mindset, you can amplify your intention and energy through your eyes.

Did you find that helpful?
Would you like to get more tips on how to speak confidently online?
Would you like to know how to create a better connection with people in our increasingly technological world?

CLICK HERE to book a free consultation and find out how I can help you to speak confidently and be comfortable connecting with your audience online.

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