Connecting With Eye Contact

eye contact

When we talk about effective presentation skills, it’s the ‘speaking’ part that comes to mind first. And it only makes sense: it’s not much of a presentation if you don’t say anything! But did you know that aside from your voice, it’s your eyes that are your most powerful communication tool?

Connect and Hold Your Audiences Attention

Eye contact is a critical component of public speaking. Why? Because your eyes are what you use to engage you listeners—to make your presentation personal in a way that makes the listener think you are speaking directly to them. When you engage in a conversation with someone, you look that person in the eye, don’t you? Whether you’re speaking to a single person or a room full of people, the overall desire of the listener remains the same: to feel important, to feel involved in the conversation, and to feel a personal connection. Only when your audience feels that way will you be able to connect with them and hold their attention.

Eye Contact Includes the Audience in the Conversation

Public speaking is nothing more than amplified conversation. You want your audience to feel included in the conversation and the single most effective way to do that is to establish eye contact.

Here’s the thing: Your eyes serve as control devices. When you look at someone, you influence their attentiveness. They will concentrate on you because your gaze indicates you are concentrating on them. Similarly, if you fail to look at the listener, chances are good the listener will not be looking at you (and probably not listening, either).

So how can you effectively use eye contact in your presentations? Here are a few guidelines:

Use the 90-percent rule.

Your goal is to maintain eye contact with the members of your audience at least 90 percent of the time. Don’t let yourself get distracted by your own slide or Power Point presentation (if you’re using one) and don’t let your eyes wander away from the audience as you try to recall the next point in your presentation. Keep looking at your audience and they’ll keep looking at you.

 Hold someone’s gaze.

Remember a public presentation is no different than a one-on-one conversation except for the fact there are more than two people involved. For that reason, be sure to make eye contact with as many people as you can during the course of your presentation. Don’t just scan the crowd—stop and make meaningful eye contact and hold each person’s gaze for as much as 3 or 5 seconds and then move on to someone else and do the same thing.

Tap a large crowd’s ‘sweet spot.

Break the group up into quadrants and speak to one person at a time in each section. Focusing on the people in the center of the group, approximately two-thirds of the way back, is ideal in situations where you are addressing a large group. By looking there, much of the audience will think you are looking directly at them. Periodically, focus on someone in the front row and along the sides to avoid looking mechanical.

Know your material so you don’t have to keep looking down at your notes.

There’s nothing wrong with jotting down a few ideas and reminders to guide you through your presentation, but nothing kills a presentation faster than watching a speaker read from his notes. Be prepared—know your message—so that you can actually time when and how often you glance at your notes. Take advantage of natural pauses in the presentation to take a quick peek at your notes while the audience is momentarily distracted.

Take advantage of visual feedback.

Just as your audience responds to the non-verbal messages you send while delivering a presentation, so do they send their own back to you. Look around at the people in the audience. Are they looking at you? Are they frowning at you? As you speak, you need to be able to monitor and have your thumb on the pulse of the group, and be able to respond accordingly to the feedback you are being given by your audience. If they are not looking at you, if they are fidgeting, or if their facial expressions show they are puzzled by what you are saying, you need to figure out why that’s happening and find a way to remedy it as you move through your presentation. Maybe you are fidgeting as you speak, or you’ve said something they don’t understand. Pick up on their non-verbal cues.

Like any other public speaking technique, eye contact is very important and using it effectively takes practice. Don’t let the message you’re trying to promote suffer because you didn’t take the effort to really connect with your audience. And the single biggest way to do that is through good eye contact. Give it a shot at your next public speaking event. You might be surprised at just how important it is and how the effective use of eye contact makes the difference.

17 Responses

  1. I know I need to make better eye contact in my presentations. Thanks for some really good suggestions I will try to implement in my next talk.

  2. I know I need to make better eye contact in my presentations. Thanks for some really good suggestions I will try to implement in my next talk.

  3. In my experience giving presentations and speeches I have found that eye contact is one of the most key factors. Not only does it show confidence, but it also makes the audience feel and hear your words better because it makes it seem as if you are speaking directly to them. It is definitely a important park of public speaking!

  4. In my experience giving presentations and speeches I have found that eye contact is one of the most key factors. Not only does it show confidence, but it also makes the audience feel and hear your words better because it makes it seem as if you are speaking directly to them. It is definitely a important park of public speaking!

  5. I like the fact that when you have good eye contact it includes the listener in your conversation. I am going to have more one on one conversations with the groups of people I speak to. i will definitely be more aware of my eye contact for my next presentation!

  6. I like the fact that when you have good eye contact it includes the listener in your conversation. I am going to have more one on one conversations with the groups of people I speak to. i will definitely be more aware of my eye contact for my next presentation!

  7. When I am interviewing someone and they have good eye contact, it show that they are very confident in their abilities. I wouldn’t hire someone who couldn’t hold eye contact with me.

  8. When I am interviewing someone and they have good eye contact, it show that they are very confident in their abilities. I wouldn’t hire someone who couldn’t hold eye contact with me.

  9. Yes eye contact is actually the best way for showing your confidence and abilities to interviewers. Without that you will get failed on interviews ..

  10. Yes eye contact is actually the best way for showing your confidence and abilities to interviewers. Without that you will get failed on interviews ..

  11. Yes eye contact is actually the best way for showing your confidence and abilities to interviewers. Without that you will get failed on interviews ..

  12. I’m a beginner when it comes to public speaking but I do try to look at the center of the group when addressing decent sized groups. I pick someone and stay on them for 2-3 phrases, sometimes even asking them a direct question. Asking questions livens up the room and makes people think so I try to use this all the time.

  13. This is something I know I have to work on. I struggle in day to day activities with eye contact, even with people I know. I am not sure why. I know it is very important to make this connection with your audience though so I am working on it. I will definitely use your advice thanks!! 

  14. Good eye contact takes a lot of practice but it’s worth it. I definitely recognize good eye contact in the presentations I sit in on.

  15. Holding eye contact for a few seconds always makes me squirm a little. It probably feels much longer for me than for the person who I’m looking at!

  16. Good eye contact is important anytime, so it makes sense that it’s an important skill of a public speaker.

Leave a Reply