Yes, you CAN connect to your audience on Zoom
The pandemic has changed the way we have meetings for good. It's also changed the way we conduct pre-trial hearings, appeals, oral arguments, depositions...even trials. And some of those changes are likely to persist well after the pandemic ends. For what it's worth, I think that's probably a good thing. The system was breaking under its own weight, and we all needed to find ways to make trials less expensive, and less time-consuming.
But I hear a lot of lawyers griping about remote appearances: "I think a lot of my success as a trial lawyer comes from my ability to connect to the judge and jury when I'm speaking to them. I can't do that through a screen, looking at Brady Bunch boxes!"
In response, I'll quote the great orator Vincent LaGuardia Gambini: "Everything he just said is bulls--t."
Since Walter Cronkite, we have all been trained to accept the "eye contact" we get through a screen as credible. Making that connection with your audience - judge or jury - can absolutely be done; It just takes some new skills. It feels counter-intuitive to look directly into the camera to make "eye contact" with the person you're talking to, but that is exactly the skill you need. Don't talk TO the camera, talk THROUGH the camera, to the person on the other side. "Listen" to the other person with your peripheral vision, but talk to them through that camera lens. When they are speaking, look at them in their little box. But then respond to them through the camera. Trust me. It works. That's why teleprompters were invented!
And the beautiful thing is...you can connect to an entire panel of judges, or jurors, at the same time, while looking into that one camera.
There are some tricks to help you remember to look at the camera: A friend of mine puts little "googly eyes" on either side of the camera lens. Another tapes brightly colored arrows pointing to the camera. Try different things to find what works for you.
Oh, and please, for the love of all that is holy, hide your self-view. Remember: Credibility is about connecting with your listeners, not "looking good." And it's really not about your hair.