Eye Contact: The Most Valuable Tool For Improving Your Virtual Executive Presence

Photo credit: Chris Montgomery, Unsplash

Like everyone else this year, inspirational speaker (and magician) Vinh Giang had to move his work online. In a recent virtual keynote, he ended his week-long masterclass by focusing on one of the most frequently asked questions during his live engagements: how can I make my virtual executive presence as impactful as I trained myself to be in person?

Giang stressed how important maintaining eye contact in a virtual setting is in order to elevate your executive presence. It’s also a skill that we could all improve on.

Trick yourself

When there are multiple -- even dozens -- of people on a video call, your screen resembles a checkers board of tiny faces staring at you. As you attempt to look at someone in their little box, to the people watching you it probably looks like you’re staring down or to the side.

You have to trick yourself and your tools by looking directly into the camera. Some people have found elaborate ways to attach cameras to the middle of their laptop screens so it appears they’re looking directly at the person on the other side of their screen. But with desktop monitors, phones, and tablets, this is harder to do.

A small aid like an Eyelinez sticker can make a huge impact by reminding you to look back into the camera’s lens instead of the middle of the screen.

Mindfulness matters

Be mindful that the behaviors that present you as confident and knowledgeable in person are still key to your virtual executive presence.

You wouldn’t keep your phone next to you during an in-person job interview, checking it when an alert comes through or reading your email while the interviewer speaks. So don’t do this on a virtual call!

Remember that maintaining eye contact is just as important when you’re listening as it is when you’re speaking. Put away all distractions that could take your eyes away from the camera to prevent looking disinterested, bored, or unprepared.

And to create individual connections, address people by name each time you speak to them directly in a multi-person meeting, paying extra attention to making eye contact.

Broadcast wisely

Everyone’s microphones and speakers are different, and sometimes irritating background noise is unavoidable.

Compensate for potential sound distractions by putting on your broadcaster hat -- enunciate clearly, speak louder than normal, and organize your thoughts. Nothing derails a virtual meeting faster than someone rambling on for too long.

Your body position matters too. Whether you’re taking a meeting from a comfy chair or at your stand-up desk, ensure that you’re close enough to the camera. Your eye contact won’t be effective if you’re so far away that no one can see your eyes.

In the end, accept that virtual meetings are the way forward and treat them with the same professionalism that you would face-to-face interactions. You wouldn’t underscore the importance of eye contact in person, so prioritize it for the virtual world too.

Photo credit: Benjamin Child, Unspalsh
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