Two simple rules for webcams

Jun 20 2012 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

Look. As your friend, it's my job to tell you the truth. You know how we are supposed to be using the miracles of Skype, Webcams and the like to connect, lessen the distance between us, and create human connections? It's not working very well. There are two basic reasons for it. They're easy to fix, so get on it.

The whole idea is to be able to see people's faces and meet eye-to-eye (or as close to it as the laws of physics allow). Too many of us, though, use them in a way that doesn't let us actually see faces or make eye contact. But since I'm your friend, let me give you two short, simple rules:

The idea is to see your face, not a black shadow like you're in witness protection. It's not a difficult concept. Just like when you take a photograph, if the light behind you is brighter than the light on your face, the camera picks up the brightest light source and puts the rest in shadow.

So try to set your camera up so that people can actually see you. Run a test first. If, like me, you have a window behind your desk, learn to close the curtains and turn on a lamp. It's only for the duration of the call and looks like you actually have given some thought to the other person.

Hey, my eyes are up here, pal. You know that picture on screen of the other person you're talking to? Well if you're looking there when you speak, your eyes are not looking into theirs. You are looking off to the side, or appearing to ogle something inappropriate.

Remember that the little blue (or red, or green, depending on the camera) light is where you need to make eye contact. Your eyes will peer right into theirs that way. You don't' have to maintain eye contact all the time, but especially when greeting or making key points, you don't want to appear to look elsewhere. Try to set the camera somewhere in general line with the monitor picture of the other person so it's an easy thing to look up and right into their soul.

Used well, these tools are great for connecting and creating good working relationships. Used poorly, they are an annoyance and more trouble than they're worth. Give it a little thought, would you please?

Oh, and as your friend, do I really have to mention that shirt? You're on camera for Pete's sake.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.