Connecting with your audience is crucial whether you are selling an idea to the public or a product to a Fortune 1000 executive. It all starts with eye contact. Eye contact is a powerful tool. And when it isn’t used effectively, it can also create a powerful problem. Here are some of the pitfalls of inappropriate eye contact:
Multi-tasking: One of the toughest aspects of using effective eye contact is learning to think and look at people at the same time. A key to success here is to become so comfortable with your material that you can keep your focus no matter what the distraction.
The Stare: Learn to recognize the fine line that separates the intense gaze from the overpowering stare. It’s partly a matter of timing-several seconds in a group setting is plenty to make the connection. And it’s also a matter of facial expression. A lengthy, stone-faced stare gets uncomfortable very quickly. Put a smile on that same face and the entire tone of the exchange shifts.
Narrow focus: When we first begin using more eye contact, some of us have the tendency to direct too much eye contact at one or two people in the audience. It might be someone you like the most or feel the most comfortable with, or at the person who is acting the most interested. Or, and this one can be fatal in a number of ways, at the boss or decision maker. That can be a turn-off both to the one receiving the eye contact and to the others in the audience who perceive that you don’t value their attention and presence. Work on moving your eye contact around the entire room at regular intervals throughout your presentation. And work on letting your gaze land on someone different each time.
Glaring back: Of course, one reason we avoid eye contact is because we’re afraid of what we’ll see out there. We’re afraid of coming across the guy who’s nodding off, communicating to us very clearly that we’re not exactly enthralling everyone. Or, worse yet, we’re afraid of landing on an intimidating face. In reality, that happens very rarely. Most people in our audience are predisposed to like our message and us. But it does happen.
Use these tips to improve your eye contact and your presentations will become highly effective.
Remember to use your eyes as ambassadors of good will. Connect with people as if you were having a one-on-one conversation. When you do, this visual rapport will relax you and reinforce your sense of confidence.
Eye contact creates intimacy and connectedness. It is the highway on which communications travel.
If you’re serious about advancing your skills and making an investment in yourself, we invite you to our Excellence in Speaking Institute. Classes are filling up quickly so don’t delay! Visit this page to read feedback from our graduates about their experience.