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Research shows it’s important to be able to look someone in the eye

These are certainly strange and challenging times to operate in as we all look for ways to communicate remotely.

And this is especially true of the marketing sector as we need to find ways of reaching out to both colleagues or customers and make sure our messaging is getting across.

We have seen a huge increase in the use of video platforms, such as Skype, Zoom, or any of the others that have now emerged, but there are also questions about the type of platform some companies will allow to cross their firewalls.

These questions extend to your own individual bandwidth and whether it can even support lengthy video meetings with colleagues or customers.

And, it’s important to ALWAYS remember when your camera is on.

A quick google of ‘awkward team meetings’ or similar titles will show people who have forgotten to ‘dress’ properly, or haven’t turned their camera off when they pop to the loo!

But having worked from home for a few weeks now, I’ve finally got used to video conferencing, although I do miss having a ‘face to face’.

This highlights the value in dealing with ‘real’ people, even over video

Sharon Oliver Sharon Oliver Channel Marketing Manager

Look into my eyes …

So I was really interested to come across an article in Forbes magazine which showed how important it is to be able to look someone in the eye, even over video!

The study from Finland found that virtual eye contact has the same impact on our nervous system as contact ‘in person’ does.

The paper comes from Tampere University in Finland, where researchers wanted to know whether we had to actually be physically ‘with’ each other to get the benefit of interaction.

The research looked at people’s reactions to a real, in-person interaction, a live video call, and just watching a video of someone.

The researchers measured not only the muscles in the face to read the feelings of the participant, they also measured the conductivity of the skin to track the nervous system.

This showed most starkly that just watching a video does not stimulate autonomic nervous system. Facial muscles however, did show positivity in all three situations though.

In a press release announcing the research, the first author of the study, Jonne Hietanen, explained: "Our results imply that the autonomic arousal response to eye contact requires the perception of being seen by another. Another person's physical presence is not required for this effect.”

Is it all about trust?

Whilst this is excellent news and helps to highlight the value in dealing with ‘real’ people, even over video, for me it does also show how important it is to think about your messaging when people can’t look you in the eye.

We already know that the written word can be misconstrued and misunderstood, so as Marketers, not only do we need to question every word we issue, we also need to bear in mind the complete lack of eye contact from an email, an infographic, a web banner, or a tweet.

The written word and these methods of mass communications are still very important but it is also well worth looking at how we capture the benefits of eye contact, and I think this is especially true when you are hosting webinars, which have increased. 

I’ve not seen any research but I would hazard a guess that your audience is likely to be more engaged with your presenters if they can actually ‘see’ them presenting, alongside any slides or presentation.

Anything that can help us feel more connected with our audiences during this period of social distancing has to be priceless, doesn’t it?

Sharon Oliver is a Channel Marketing Manager