See What I Mean? How Speakers Can Use Eye Contact To Connect

by drjim on April 10, 2012

If your eyes are the window to your soul, then let your audience see your soul!

If your eyes are the window to your soul, then let your audience see your soul!

So there you are, standing up in front of all of those people giving your speech. We all know about importance of public speaking, but I wonder what they are thinking about? I wonder if they are wondering what you are thinking about while you are giving your speech? Sure, they’ve got great listening skills, but how are you going to break out of this “I’m up here and you’re out there” mold and really, finally, connect with your audience? It turns out that the answer is in your eyes…

Your Eyes: A User’s Guide

Forget all of those presentation tips that everyone’s been telling you, perhaps we should start this discussion with a quick list of what you should NOT be doing with your eyes when you are delivering a speech. The first thing is that you shouldn’t be looking at either the floor or the ceiling. When you’re doing this it’s pretty clear that you are trying to avoid looking at the audience.

So if that’s what you’re not supposed to be doing with your eyes, what should you be doing? It turns out that as speakers, we really speak to our audience through our eyes. This means that you need to pick a person out of your audience and make eye contact with them just as you are getting ready to say something.

As with everything, there is a trick here. If you make eye contact with anyone in your audience for too long, then they are going to start to feel as though you are staring at them and that will end up making them feel uncomfortable.

Instead, make eye contact with a member of your audience for between 3-5 seconds and then move on and make eye contact with someone else. This way you’ll be able to make a great deal of your audience feel as though you are talking directly to them. A more personal speech will be better received by your audience.

What NOT To Do With Your Eyes

Hopefully all of this advice about what to do with your eyes the next time you give a speech is clear to you. However, at the same time I have to warn you about a hidden danger.

In any audience, there will be people who are always smiling. I’m not sure if they are just having a great day or if this is the way that they always are. However, it turns out that they can be a significant distraction for you while you are giving your speech.

What happens is that we are naturally drawn to people who smile at us. This means that if you aren’t careful, you could spend your entire speech just making eye contact with the limited number of people in your audience who are always smiling at you.

Clearly you’ll want to connect with as many of the people in your audience as possible. This means that you need to be aware of the “smiling audience member” trap and take great care to not spend all of your time looking at them.

What All Of This Means For You

As the poets said, our eyes are the window to our souls. When you are giving a speech your eyes are one more way that you can connect with your audience and boost the benefits of public speaking.

Knowing what to do with your eyes is the first step in becoming a better speaker. Taking the time to focus one person in your audience at a time will allow you to create a bond with your audience. Make sure that you don’t spend all of your time looking at just the people who are smiling at you – you need to look at everyone.

The message that you are delivering in your speech is important. In order to make sure that your audience stays with you and is able to be affected by your words, use your eyes. You just might be surprised with what you see!

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How can you prevent yourself from appearing to be constantly twisting your head back and forth looking at different people?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s pretend for just a moment that you were a public speaker who lived back in Shakespeare’s time (1564 – 1616). Forget all of those presentation tips that you’ve learned because all of your PowerPoint slides are now gone along with your fancy audio mic systems, and your embedded YouTube videos. It’s just you up there. What’s going to allow you to connect with your audience using their just their listening skills? All that you have working for you is your voice – you’re going to have to really learn how to use it.

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