Understanding Human Communication in The Boardroom And Beyond
In meaningful human interaction facial expression, and direct eye contact matter. They are a critical part of forging relationships, gauging thoughts and feelings and reacting appropriately. In most remote collaboration and videoconferencing applications, eye-contact is neglected. Instead, the discussion revolves around:
- Screen size
- HD Codec
- Proper sound
- QoS considerations
These considerations are important, along with travel cost reductions, green initiatives, improved quality of life for employees, etc. But, if you drill down into remote collaboration and video conferencing to the core, it is about one thing: COMMUNICATION.
Facts about Human Communication
- 65% of the human population retains information visually as opposed to audibly
- A recent report from Leapfrog Innovators indicates that our knowledge retention is established:
- 10% when we read
- 20% when we only “hear”
- 30% when we only “see”
- 50% when we “see and hear”
- 80% when we “experience”
It is also important to note that when an active speaker effectively aligns the verbal and non-verbal cues during a given presentation/interaction, it establishes a sense of credibility amongst participants.
How Does the Boardroom Fall Short?
If we apply this general rule to a video conference session, most of us would lose a good portion of our credibility simply because the systems in place today do not offer true eye gaze rendering. In most setups, the active speaker is either too small, too big, too far from the table, looking down, up or sideways, depending on camera placement. The verbal and non-verbal cues are not aligned. The use of an active speaker pan-tilt-zoom automation offers some help, but it does not maintain the general contextual overview of all the participants in that room.
True eye-to-eye contact plays a crucial role in the regulation of conversational attention during multiparty communications. It also regulates social intimacy that creates greater participation by providing an effective non-verbal cue for managing the turn-taking process in a conversation. In essence, people will participate/exchange more when there is an implicit turn-taking process occurring.
What about Eye-Contact?
True eye gaze angle is one of the biggest challenges in videoconferencing, yet it is the single most important component of non-verbal communication. Why has this not been addressed? First, it is not easily accomplished, as the camera needs to be placed directly in the middle of the screen – which is difficult. Secondly, most solution providers or manufacturers have worked around the first challenge and downplay this design flaw, rather than addressing it. Thirdly, even if some solutions do exist, most of the buying decision making is done by the IT department that sees this added expense as ‘’nice-to-have’’, but not necessary or worth the added expense.
Peter F. Drucker once said, ‘’ The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said’’.
When you consider all the investments in the corporate communication ecosystems, it stands to reason that there are cases where more attention should be paid to enhancing the human collaboration experience. Certain vertical markets would benefit more than others by using true eye-to-eye systems, human resources for interview purposes, financial services for building and conveying a sense of trust, and finally health care practitioners.