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The #1 Mistake Presenters Consistently Make on Zoom


It’s been well over a year now of nothing but virtual meetings.  I’ve seen at least a couple hundred online presentations.  You’ve probably been in more than you can count yourself.  And as a business coach and presentation skills coach, I’ve gleaned some important learnings from seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s what I’ve noticed.  While being able to connect electronically has been a godsend, allowing us to continue to interact and do business, there’s something unnatural about the electronic connection.

And the thing that’s most unnatural is the very thing that leads to the number one mistake presenters make when trying to connect with audience members or attendees in a meeting.

Question:   When you see those faces beaming back at you from your screen, what are you gonna do … very naturally … as a reflex almost?

You’re going to look at them.

That’s your mistake!

Wait.  What?

Why wouldn’t you want to look at them?

Because by looking at their images on the screen you AREN’T looking at them.  

You’re looking at their faces on your screen and not at the camera … and looking directly at the camera is what gives the people the feeling that you’re looking right at them.

So, ironically, when you think you’re looking at them, you aren’t, and when you think you aren’t, you are.  Doh!  Like I said …. unnatural.

There’s nothing complicated about correcting this mistake.  Just train yourself to look at the little dot at the top of your screen or wherever your camera is.

That’s not as easy as you might think.  It takes some reprogramming and some diligence.

But the rewards are big.

Nothing creates a personal connection … captivates and engages … like having someone look right at you.  And establishing “eye contact” is especially critical when you’re physically separated and many of the subtleties of in-person nonverbal communication are missing or not as obvious.

Okay, but if you’re a “presenter” on Zoom, does that mean you don’t ever look at people’s faces on the screen?

No.  You want to take quick looks at the screen periodically to see how your message is landing, to see if folks have questions, to manage interaction and dialogue, and to pick up any other visual feedback that might help guide you.

Here’s the rule of thumb I’ve created to achieve the right balance:

When you want the people to connect with you, so you hold their attention and get them engaged, look at the camera.

When you want to know how they’re receiving the message and get the “sense of the room,” look at the screen.  

This will typically shake out as looking at the camera about 90% of the time and at their images no more than about 10%.

This may seem like a trivial thing.  It isn’t.  

The impact you have on your audience members or fellow teleconference attendees depends on how well you connect, and how well you connect depends on whether you’re looking directly at people.

And how you look directly at people is by looking … indirectly … right into the camera.

Hope this helps.

Best Wishes,




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Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!