Lights, Camera, Action!
Over the past year, we have all become familiar with online meetings. So familiar have we become that a new term has emerged: Zoom Fatigue. We have all experienced that feeling of being exhausted after being on back-to-back web meetings with the camera on. Yet, despite this common feeling, we are often asked, “Should we leave the camera on when we are facilitating live online learning sessions?” The general consensus has changed over the months, but seems to be winning out to my held belief: Probably not.
Whether you should leave the camera on depends on the type of session you are leading. If it is you speaking or you in conversation with somebody, then leaving on the camera makes sense. People want to see your smiling face.
If, on the other hand, you are showing slides or demonstrating how to do something, turn off the camera. The initial desire to leave the camera on was to recreate the feeling in the classroom of seeing the trainer talking to you and to have that human connection. However, live onscreen is not the same as live in the classroom and three reasons explain why we recommend turning it off:
- Size: When you share your screen online, the image of you becomes a thumbnail. It is just large enough to see that something is moving but still small enough to not be able to make out facial expressions particularly clearly. The thumbnail usually covers part of the screen. That forces the viewer either to move the box, close it, or miss part of what is on the screen. None of which aids comprehension.
- Focus: Scientific research has shown that the human brain is not a good multi-tasker. It processes information serially. Therefore, if you show a slide with information you want the reader to absorb and, at the same time, have a little bit of motion in the top corner of your screen, your viewer’s eye and mind is going to flip back and forth focusing on one than the other. That could cause your viewer to lose out on bits of information. Ask yourself: How much is it worth it that they see your smiling face?
- Bandwidth: Live video takes a lot of bandwidth. The more movement, the more bandwidth is needed. If you have many people on your call or if your participants are joining from parts of the world with limited bandwidth, your smiling and moving face might be causing delays in them seeing or hearing you. Limit the amount of movement for smoother transmission.
What is the best practice? Turn on the camera at the beginning, as you do your introductions, so your viewers can see what you look like. Then, turn it off when you get to the heart of your content. Turn it on again whenever you have Question and Answer discussions and at the end of your presentations. In other words, let your smiling face be the first and last thing they see, but do not distract from your main message.