Eye contact helps reduce anxiety. When you are making eye contact with an individual your presentation becomes more conversational than presentational. It’s impossible to make a connection with everyone in a large group at once but if you make a connection one at a time, you will feel far less nervous. It also helps to put the audience at ease. People who receive good eye contact understand the presentation better and have the feeling that you are talking directly to them.
Good eye contact helps you stay in control. When people do not feel as though they are being seen and no connection is being made they have less investment in being in the audience. There is more likelihood that they will start their own side chatter and become disruptive. This distracts other members of the audience and takes the attention off of you and your message.
If you are speaking to a large group don’t limit your eye contact to just one or two people. They may become very uncomfortable with you staring at them. Be careful not to make your eye contact mechanical. Don’t do a mechanical sweep of the audience. Start with someone in the front center and then move to the back side and then the front. You can start anywhere just make sure you don’t go row by row—make it random. The good news about eye contact in a group is that when you focus on one person the people around that person feel as though you are focusing on them as well. So you really get the benefit of making many connections when you connect with an individual in any given area of the group.
If you are answering questions make sure you start and finish your answer with the person who asked the question but connect with other people during your response as well. In this way you bring the entire audience into the exchange and keep them interested. You can lose people pretty quickly in Q&A if you don’t stay connected.
The key to making great eye contact is to make sure that you make the connection with one person at a time. When you know you have seen them and they have seen you (about 3-5 seconds) you can move onto creating the next connection. Good eye contact and an engaging smile will work miracles for you when you are presenting. There is no way to have effective communication without building rapport and the fastest way to build rapport is through the connection that eye contact makes. So here’s looking at you kid!
Debbie Darling, ©2015 The Presentation Pros
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