Eye contact is very important in any communication and even more so when you are standing up front as a trainer, facilitator or when public speaking. In this newsletter I will outline a few tips that will help you understand the importance of eye contact and how to ensure you are using great eye contact.
- You Don’t Need Eye Contact 100% of The Time.
While eye contact is very important, it is not necessary to look at the audience for the full 100% of the time that you are speaking. It is natural to look down to the floor and up to the roof as your recall things and tell stories. Sometimes we look inwards as we gather our thoughts and show that we are careful and considered in what we say next. But try and ensure that the majority of the time you are making eye contact with your audience and in particular one on one eye contact with different individuals within the room.
- Builds Trust.
We all know that generally we can tell if people are telling the truth by their eye contact. Speakers that make eye contact and look at everyone in the room build trust and rapport. The speaker who avoids eye contact may be perceived as less trusting.
- Eye Contact Overrides Gesture.
Your eye contact will override any gestures that you make. People will follow your eyes rather than follow where you point your hand or your fingers. Therefore if you are pointing at a PowerPoint slide or a flipchart drawing and you want the audience to follow your directional gesture, then your own eyes must also move to the image that you want the audience to look at.
- The Sweet Spot Is About 3 Seconds.
One question that I get asked a lot is “how long should I maintain eye contact for”. The answer is around 2 to 3 seconds, with 3 seconds being the sweet spot. Less than 2 seconds may be perceived as being shifty and gazing longer than 3 seconds into any one person’s eyes may be seen as creepy.
- Use Your Peripheral Vision To Read Your Audience.
To really read your audience and respond to their needs, energy swings, and engagement swings you need to be watching them with your peripheral vision. The ability to juggle 3 balls at the same time requires great use of peripheral vision. The ability to pick up yawns, shacking of heads (as in saying no), changes of breathing patterns (quick inhale as in being shocked) and people falling asleep all comes from having good peripheral vision and paying attention to your entire audience.
These 5 tips on eye contact will really help you in your next presentation. If you want to know more about eye contact, I am running a workshop on Thinking and Speaking Off the Cuff on 8 October 2018 in Perth.