IMPORTANCE of Eye contact
Have you been to any presentation where you start losing interest because the speaker is looking at everything other than you? Eye contact is one of the most important arsenals of the speaker. Eye contact alone will not make or break your next presentation. Great eye contact won’t save a poor presentation, and poor eye contact won’t doom an otherwise fantastic presentation. Compared to your content, eye contact is clearly secondary.
Eye contact is a valuable delivery tool you can use to enhance your presentation. Effective eye contact improves your connection with the audience, and that is always a good thing.
Eye Contact – Easy affair isn’t it?
Eye contact should be a natural technique for speakers. Nearly every day, we have conversations with friends and family that are greatly enhanced by shared eye contact, and we are barely conscious of it, if at all.
Unfortunately, this “natural” ability starts dissolving for many speakers when they stand in front of a crowd and become conscious of the eyes staring at us.
Why do speakers start hiding from audience eyes? Because it can be uncomfortable to look at the audience as doing so confirms they are looking at us, and that can make us feel vulnerable!
However, eye contact is a valuable delivery tool one can use to enhance the presentation. Effective eye contact improves the connection with the audience, and that is always a good thing. As it lends sincerity to your presentation and gives you control.
What is eye contact
The term eye contact is rather vague. It can infer just making fleeting “contact” with a person then moving on. Don’t make eye contact – make “eye connection”. Eye connection means spending time with each person so that person feels like you’re talking to them, you care for them. Eye connection has two major benefits:
- People in your audience will feel that you have genuinely connected with them and that you care about their reaction.
- Because you’re talking to people as if you were in a one-on-one conversation, you’ll come across as conversational. That makes you easy to listen to and engaging.
Practicing Eye Contact / Connection
Fake it: If you are uncomfortable at the beginning then fake it. Look slightly above the crowd. Aim your eyes 2-3 inches above the heads of the group without focusing on one particular person. In this way it will appear that you are making eye contact.
Practice Eye-contact: Make a conscious effort to start making eye-contact slowly. Do not try to force yourself to hold the eyes of every person you meet if you are uncomfortable. Start slowly, reminding yourself to make eye-contact in every conversation. Practice even when you are listening, it is easier while listening to someone instead of while you are talking.
Shrink the room: Imagine that the person you’re looking at is the only person in the room. For those few seconds you’re having a one-on-one conversation with just that person. This has two benefits. You’re likely to talk in a more conversational style because you’re drawing on the conversational skills you already have. It may also reduce your nervousness because you’ll no longer feel like you’re talking to this big audience – but just to one person.
The acknowledgement: If the person feels like you’ve been talking to them, they’ll nod. People nod when they’ve processed what you’ve just said. “Waiting for the nod” is an effective way of pacing your delivery to the rate at which your audience can take it in. The acknowledgement increase the confidence in yourself, which gives in the confidence to move on to the other audience.
The timing: It can be difficult to judge how much time is enough to make eye connection. And you may be concerned that if you spend too much time with one person they’ll start to feel uncomfortable. Start judging the audience reaction; it will give clue of the time to move on. As they say practice makes perfect.
Express emotion: Eye contact establishes a communication path, but it is only valuable if you deliver meaning. Keep your eyes alive. Show happiness, sadness, surprise, excitement, confusion, or whatever emotion matches your words at a given time.
Practice even when alone: Generally a person starts practicing his/her speech alone. Don’t forget practicing the eye contact even you are alone. There are few suggestion, feel free to create your own:
- Use Mirror: Look at your own eyes in the mirror while practicing, gives you the feel of eyes following you.
- Audience: Have printed the faces of my known and close one with distinct eyes – quite a few of them and paste it on the wall. Speak to them.
- Use Television: One of the most readily available ways of practicing your eye-contact is to do it when you're alone, watching television. Focus on making eye contact with the characters on the screen and practicing the same skills to transfer them to your real-life conversations