Why video presentations need to guide viewers attention
If you regularly hold video presentations via Zoom, WebEx, or Microsoft Teams, you know that important information can easily get lost in the shuffle. Distractions lurk not only outside of the screen – participants may be adjusting their hairstyles, gazing at others, or discussing a blurry logo in the PowerPoint presentation in the chat. All the while, the key information in the presentation is overlooked. Why does viewers attention get distracted so easily?
We see less than we think
The sharply seen center of our eye (fovea) is about the size of our thumbnail in our field of vision with our arm extended. The rest of our field of vision is blurry and lacks full color information. In fact, we only see 2° of our field of vision with complete clarity and color – the rest is not clearly visible. That’s why our fovea tends to jump from one element to another in the room around us about 5 to 7 times per second to make out relevant information. Moreover, during videoconferences, our eyes tend to remain fixed on non-essential elements for about two-thirds of the time, such as colleagues or our own reflection. All of this means that important information and learning content often goes unnoticed during videoconferences, as it’s not being viewed with the full focus of our eyes and, therefore, lacks attention.
As Murnau said in Shadow of the Vampire: “If it’s not in front of the camera, it doesn’t exist.” The same is true for PowerPoint slides and any other audio-visual information that we present as moderators, while our audience’s area of focus becomes stranded on islands of distracting stimuli on the screen. If we give a lecture with all the information displayed on the screen at once, we risk the gaze sticking to everything but not to us and our message. The information is lost.
We think we are showing this:
What the participants actually see, however, is this:
Attention must be directed
For films and TV shows to be successful, it’s crucial that the scenes shown are perceived in relation to the story. The viewers must be skillfully guided through the scenes. Films and series deliberately show certain shots and keep the important people and objects in focus, so that our fovea follows the information that is important for understanding the story. Unfortunately, traditional tools used for videocommunication, such as Zoom, WebEx, or Microsoft Teams, don’t yet offer this kind of guiding system. We remember the story and message of films like Pixar’s “Up” because the film guides our attention to the key elements of the story. In order to guide the attention of our audience in video presentations, we need new tools that allow us to highlight and focus on the information that we consider important.
The first films at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries showed theater plays recorded with a static camera: all the information was always visible at once. However, over the past 150 years, film techniques such as composition, camera movements, editing and montage techniques, staging, and special effects have been developed to direct our gaze to what’s important for understanding the story at that moment.
A study by Sean Redmond and Jodi Sita showed a clear focus on the mouths and eyes of characters Ellie and Carl. This suggests that people often seek familiar forms of perception – they follow the mouth or eye movements of the characters. In most videocommunication, the presenter is disconnected from their content. Therefore, it’s difficult to stay focused on statically presented slides, and important information is only partially conveyed, or not at all.
Videocommunication can learn a lot from the film industry, which has undergone an evolution since its beginnings to unfold the strong effect that films have on us today.
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Video production with Cinector STAGE enables us to prepare content with no need for editing in post-production. We use Cinector to present internal news to our employees around the world, quickly and in a way that is easy to understand.
Silvia Tölzer, Semikron International
Dr. Michael Lache, Lache Consulting
Dr. Michael Lache, Lache Consulting
Stefan Ritschel, Schöffel Sportbekleidung
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