The Power Of Eye Contact During A Speech

Speakers need to know how to use eye contact to maximize impact
Speakers need to know how to use eye contact to maximize impact
Image Credit: Paul Bence

As speakers we are always looking for ways that we can make our next speech become more powerful. We want to be able to connect with our audience and get them to pay attention to the messages that we are trying to deliver to them. As we all know, the tools that we have to accomplish this are precious few – it’s really just us up there on that stage. However, it turns out that we do have one tool that can help us to create a link with each and every person in our audience. It’s eye contact. This is a powerful tool, but it will only help us if we know how best to use it.

The Power Of Eye Contact

How do you look at your audience when you are giving a speech? Many speakers may stare down members of their audience – they give them a so-called stalker stare. This simply means that the speaker is concentrating intensely. What we have do is a self-evaluation to determine what kind of eye contact we have with our audiences. In addition, we need to understand that some of us have “static expressions,” meaning that even when we’re not thinking hard about something, our face may look sad, angry or happy. When we are giving a speech, our facial expression should match up with what we are saying – we should use a mirror, if it helps to determine just exactly what we look like while giving a speech. Videotaping your speech may also help you assess your eye contact skills; after all, if you make good eye contact with yourself – or even if you don’t – you’ll know it after you watch the recording.

Let’s all agree that we are living in a tech-driven culture. It’s all too easy for us to miss eye contact altogether, staring at our smartphones and away from the reality around us. Despite the abundance of texting and tweeting, during our speech our eyes still give insight into our thoughts. Human beings are hard-wired for eye communication. We need to remember that when we are speaking before a group or among colleagues. Remember to be aware of cultural factors when you are giving a speech. Don’t lose sight of the fact that optimizing your use of eye contact is a key aspect of giving a speech.

When we give a speech, we, of course, must look at our audience. The good news is that it turns out that looking at our audience can be a powerful way for us to communicate with them. However, we need to know how best to use our eyes to communicate the message that we want to our audience. If we are not careful, we’ll not use our eyes correctly and we can end up sending out the wrong signals to our audience. Eye contact is a powerful communication technique for speakers to use. However, we need to fully understand how to use it to make our speech have more impact.

How To Use Your Eyes During A Speech

Proficient speakers are adept at communicating through their use of the eyes. Eye contact is a powerful means of expression, one that can be used either a positive or a negative effect. Good eye contact is something that can help you become a more polished speaker. However, in order to avoid offending your audience, speakers also need to consider the cultural setting before they employ a gaze, a wink, a stare or a blink.

Winking at an audience can spark powerful associations. Those associations are positive or negative depending on how they will be interpreted by your audience. A wink exchanged between co-workers, spouses or guests at a party may send the message that “we’re in this together”. But a wink that’s interpreted as insincere could cause audience discomfort or even disaster in both interpersonal and public communication. Winking is a tricky technique that should be used judiciously by speakers, especially when addressing an international audience.

Speakers need to understand that the eyes offer clues to a person’s feelings, often involuntarily. The eyes can work in concert with your entire face to express emotions such as excitement, fear or deception. Things like negative emotional expressions such as anger or fear are hard-wired into our brain, making them universally understood. When a speaker is surprised, his or her eyes enlarge. Enlarged eyes can also communicate our excitement or fear. With sadness, the eyes appear droopy. They tend to close a little bit so the aperture looks small. In sadness you will also have the brows turned down. Perhaps a good fact is that there is no universal expression for nervousness. What speakers need to do is to be self-aware. We should focus on what “gives us away,” and work to improve that expression.

What All Of This Means For You

In our tech-driven culture, we sometimes miss eye contact altogether. We find ourselves staring at our smartphones and away from the reality around us. Despite the abundance of texting and tweeting, speakers need to realize that the eyes can still give insight into our thoughts. Human beings are hard-wired for eye communication. Speakers have to remember this when speaking before a group or among colleagues. When we give a speech we have to be aware of cultural factors. Speakers must not lose sight of the fact that optimizing our use of eye contact is a key aspect of our public speaking.

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

Question For You: What’s the best way to determine if we have good eye contact when we are giving a speech?

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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 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

Giving a good speech is hard for just about anyone to do well. However, when it comes to scientists, it can often be even more difficult. Scientists often spend their time at work hidden away in a lab working by themselves or as a member of a small team. They may deal with complex subjects that are filled with many different buzz words. If they are call on to give a speech, all too often they don’t know where to start. Clearly communicating their ideas to people who may not be scientists can be a real challenge. How can scientists become good speakers?