The eyes are the window of the soul. – English Proverb
In public speaking this is particularly true –making eye contact with your audience ensures you involve your audience in your speech, allows you to monitor the audience response to your speech and allows the audience to see into your soul and decide if you are sincere about your message.
By using good eye contact you make your speech and its message a personal experience for the audience. No matter how large the audience is, each member takes it personally when they feel that you are speaking directly to them. If you fail to make eye contact with some members of your audience they will feel ignored and excluded and will probably resist the logic of your message.
People tend to believe people who look them straight in the eye; if you don’t it can be interpreted as insincerity or even dishonesty. So how can you establish good eye contact with all your audience?
Know your Material – If you have to continually check your notes, or return to the lectern to find your place, any bond you have established with your audience will be destroyed. If you know your material well and can work without notes and away from the lectern you can build up a bond of empathy with your audience which will add to the impact of your message. If you have to use notes, make sure that you constantly re-establish contact with your audience.
Establish a Personal Bond with your Listeners. – You do this by speaking to a particular person. In a large auditorium if you choose one person to address your remarks to, all the other people in the vicinity of that person will feel included in the rapport, so direct your remarks to one person within a small group range.
Speak to each person for about five to ten seconds, or complete one sentence before moving on to the next person. Ensure you make eye contact with all the audience to ensure that they are connecting with you.
Monitor Visual Feed Back – Making eye contact will allow you to gauge the audience’s response to your presentation, and you can modify it accordingly.
If the audience is not looking at you, they probably aren’t listening either. You will have to regain their attention possibly by the use of humour or by strong body movement. If the audience looks puzzled or perplexed perhaps they haven’t understood the statements or arguments and you may have to provide additional explanation. Watch them as you explain and if they begin to register comprehension then move on to your next point. If they are fidgeting check if you are engaging in any distracting mannerisms, if not you may need to re-engage their interest with humour or a dramatic change of pace or emphasis. Strong body movement will usually refocus the audience’s attention on the speaker.
Practice making eye contact when you speak it will give you a window into the audience, how they are reacting to you and your message.
Trish @ Trischel