When Speaking, It’s All About The Eyes

Where you look during your speech matters a great deal
Where you look during your speech matters a great deal
Image Credit: L F

One of the most difficult things for a speaker to realize when we are giving a speech is what will not be controlling the impact of our speech. We spend so much time working on exactly what words we want to say and then we seem to spend just as much time working on the slides that we’ll use to support those words because we understand the importance of public speaking that we think that by doing this we have all of the bases covered. It turns out that we don’t. Instead, one of the most import parts of any speech is one of the parts that it’s all too easy to overlook – eye contact.

What’s The Big Deal About Eyes?

The thing that is so very easy to forget is that when we are giving a speech we are communicating with our audience. It’s not just our words that we’re using to communicate with them, but also our body language. The really good speakers are skilled at using their eyes to communicate with their audience. They realize that eye contact is a speaking tool that we can use to either our benefit or our detriment.

The reason that our eyes are such an important part of any speech that we give is because our eyes provide our audience with a clear indication of how we are currently feeling. Our words might be saying one thing, but there is the real possibility that our eyes might be saying what we are really feeling. Your audience is going to be looking for that message. It won’t be just your eyes that your audience will be looking at. It turns out that your eyes are “hard wired” into all of those muscles that control the rest of your face. It’s going to be your eyes along with your face that will be telling your audience their own story.

The emotions that you are currently feeling during your speech will be communicated to your audience via your eyes. If you are surprised, then your eyes are going to become larger. If you are sad, then your eyes will appear to become smaller. The is no clear indicator that will show your audience that you are nervous and perhaps that’s a good thing!

The Power Of Eye Contact

Not only is eye contact an important part of any speech that we give, but it is also a critical part of any speech that we give. The reason that we need eye contact is because it allows us to build a connection with our audience. It’s this connection that will allow our audience to understand that we are both trustworthy and sincere in what we are telling them.

So what’s the best way to incorporate effective eye contact into your next speech? The one thing that you don’t want to do is what I call “machine gunning your audience”. This happens when you make up your mind to have eye contact with everyone in your audience and so you start in the front right corner and proceed to stare into the eyes of each and every person in your audience. This looks weird and it can be quite distracting for your audience.

A much better way to go about using eye contact in your next speech is while you are giving the speech, look into your audience. Pick an area in your audience and then look into that group while you cover a point in your speech. When you get done making that point, shift your gaze to another group in your audience and deliver the next point while looking at that group. You won’t be looking at any one person, but everyone in the group will feel as though you are looking at them. This is the right way to make eye contact with your audience!

What All Of This Means For You

When we give a speech, we tend to worry about the things that we have the most control over. These include the words that we speak and the slides that we show. However, it turns out that there is another line of communication that will be going on during our speech, body language, and part of that will be a critical part of our speech – eye contact.

The reason that eye contact is such an important part of any speech that we give is because it’s a critical part of the way that we make contact with our audience and can influence the benefits of public speaking. The eyes, along with all of the muscles in our face, are how our audience is able to determine what we are really thinking. Our eyes allow us to show our audience the emotions that we are currently feeling. It’s through eye contact that we are able to build connections with our audience. The best way to go about doing this is to look at a group of your audience and deliver a point in your speech before moving your gaze to another group.

Giving a speech is hard work. As long as we are going to go to the effort of creating, practicing, and delivering a speech, we really want it to have the maximum impact. To make this happen, we need to master the technique of making good eye contact with our audience. This is the way that they’ll know that we really mean what we are telling them!

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

Question For You: Do you think that it is ever possible to make too much eye contact with your audience?

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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

Quick question for you: when you are practicing a speech, do you rehearse at home in front of a mirror? If you do, then first off – good for you. Next, that’s probably the easiest speech that you’ll ever give. You have an audience of one (you) who knows about the importance of public speaking and you really like what you’re hearing. However, as is the case for all of us, we do live in the real world. What this means is that we are often called on to give speeches that are more difficult. What should we do then?

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