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Offline eye contact is easy. We talk to somebody and look at them. Easy breezy. Online, where we spend a lot of time now for Zoom calls and during livestreams and podcasts, it’s not as easy. We want to look at the other person on the screen, but that won’t look like eye contact to them because to create the illusion of eye contact we have to look at the camera. So how can you make better eye contact on video work? Let’s look at the options.
Here’s how that looks. I’m looking at the other person on the monitor:
And then here’s when I look at the camera:
It certainly can be subtle. This example was taken on my iPad Pro where the screen and camera are very near each other. You can certainly see the difference there, and it can look worse on other setups where the camera is even farther from the screen.
That’s really the root problem when we miss out on eye contact: The camera is too far from the screen. But there are ways around that. Let’s dive into some options.
Use a teleprompter
James Stuber shares in this video how you can setup a teleprompter to provide that eye contact experience.
Plexicam – which is marketed as a teleprompter alternative – is another option. Basically, this is a camera holder that sits directly on the screen on top or near the person’s face that you are talking to.
Center Cam is another middle-screen camera and appears smaller than Plexicam.
Look at the camera
If you can pull it off, you can also just look at the camera. So if the camera is on top of your monitor, look at it and don’t look at the screen. That’s what I tried to do for the longest time but it’s hard because we want to look at the other person – on the screen.
Use an overhead tripod mount
I’ve been using an overhead tripod mount attached to my desk for a while now. Until now, the camera was on top of my monitor so it was looking down. I wondered if I could simply move it in front of the monitor and place it near the other person on the livestream to get better eye contact.
Previously, I had it connected toward the back end of my desk and then simply moved it more toward the front so I could move it in front of the screen. You can see in this video how much of a difference that makes.
But if the end goal is to make it look nicer on the livestream, it’s probably worth it. Plus, it’s easy enough to move the mount out of the way.
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Using this setup for meetings upon meetings all day probably would get old. I think it would bother me. But, my livestreams are 27 minutes and making better eye contact as the audience sees it can create a better experience for the audience. That’s ultimately the end goal of the show. What works for them and what makes the show good to the viewer.
I’ll probably keep moving my mount in and out of position to create the illusion of better eye contact.