The secret of effective online meetings unlocked

Online meetings best when you look straight into the camera - Newsreel
New research shows online meetings are most effective when you look directly into the camera. | Photo: Nensuria (iStock)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers had to make a quick transition to online video meetings.

And very quickly they faced a dilemma. Do you look at the other person on the screen like you would a face-to-face human? Or should you look directly into the camera to create the effect of eye contact.

New research released this week found looking into the camera was by far the most effective approach, particularly if you were doing a job interview.

Researchers at the Hiroshima University simulated online job interviews. Twelve students did two different styles of interview – once looking directly at a web camera, and the other looking towards the screen. A third evaluation was done based purely on voice without the camera on.

“The results indicate interviewers evaluate candidates more positively when their gaze is directed at the camera compared to when the candidates look at the screen,” the study report said.

“The skewed-gaze stimulus received worse evaluation scores than voice-only presentation.

“Throughout an online interview, it is challenging to maintain ‘genuine’ eye contact…but gazing into the camera can accomplish a similar feeling online as direct eye contact does in person.”

The research also revealed a gender bias in the evaluation. Female evaluators judged those with “skewed downward gazes” more harshly than male evaluators.

“Simply starting with the optimal direction of gaze can increase the favourability of the interviewee significantly compared to having a downward skewed gaze,” the research report said

“Using the ‘mutual gaze’ effect can aid in establishing a level of trustworthiness and credibility with the evaluator.

“These two factors can be just the leg up an interviewer needs to move forward in the interview process.”

More information is on the Hiroshima University website.