Imagine if every time you spoke to a friend, child or loved one they looked away from your face down to your left arm. You would get so annoyed. You would not want to hang around with that person anymore. Yet this is what happens on screen all the time. There are very good reasons as to why we do this, but knowing the reason doesn’t stop the bad habit. The only way you stop this is to create new habits — and to do these habits consistently for six weeks. Below are seven ways to creating the much needed habit of eye contact on screen. If you follow these steps you will not only bring life to your story and your screen presence but also life to your audiences.
- Have a meeting with yourself on zoom to work out where your eyes need to be. I have a blue dot placed a centimetre below my camera as that is where the camera I have seems to catch my eye looking right at people. How did I work this out? I had a meeting with myself on Zoom and moved the dot around until I could see that I was looking directly at the camera.
- Anchor yourself to that spot as often as you can. We are drawn to looking at ourselves, we need to look at other people to feel connected, but our audience need to see our eyes looking at them. So, what I do is I “anchor”. I anchor my eyes on the camera that sits on my laptop and when my eyes drift towards me or the person speaking I anchor. Start by doing this every 3 minutes then reduce it until it becomes natural, like breathing. it won’t happen by accident. It happens only if you make it happen.
- Imagine a reaction to create the energy. If, as the saying goes, the eyes are the windows to your soul, you need to make them alive. Despite the person you can see on your left, right or full screen, you need to imagine that a person is actually behind the spot/camera eye and that they are sitting on a sofa waiting for you to speak. They are excited to hear what you have to say. It will bring the sparkle and connection to your eyes that you need. Especially if the person/people on the screen are giving you no reaction and creating no energy.
- Make sure the camera is minimum at eye level when you are on screen. Nobody enjoys staring up at people’s nostrils, but we force people to do this all the time! The best framing for your face is where the camera eye is 15 degrees above your eye. It is great for posture and also frames your screen — makes you easy to watch.
- Sit at least half a metre away from the camera eye and no further than 2 metres. Too close it is just weird and too far away it feels like you don’t want to be in the meeting.
- Write a post it note just above your screen that reminds you of who you need to be. Here are two of mine “Under Promise, Over deliver:, “Where’s the freedom”? We have so little motivation, real physical interaction that we need to create our own energy and motivation. We need to have things that call us up to be the best versions of ourselves we can be. The screen can drain from us — these things can fill us up again.
- Smile, smile and then smile some more. Then keep smiling. Since lockdown I have never seen anyone do a “Joker” from Batman — an insane smile that freaks people out. But I have seen many faces of misery, or as my friend David Grant says “Their joy is so deep it hasn’t reached their faces”. Let’s bring the joy out of the depths and let is shine a bit more.