Learn the importance of making eye contact with your audience as a step in developing credibility before a speech or presentation.
- Picture it. You're up onstage or in front of a room. You're getting ready to deliver your presentation. Before you do or say anything, look at your audience. That's it. Don't be in a rush. Take a two second pause. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? And yet I'll see speakers walk onstage. They'll look at a piece of paper, fumble with their notes, goof around with their tech. It seems they'll do anything to avoid looking at their audience.
But think about it. Without the audience, there's no reason for you to deliver your talk. Your audience is the single most important part of your presentation. And eye contact, it's a fundamental unspoken signal that you acknowledge and respect the people in your audience. Your simple pause also makes you seem at ease, unhurried, and confident. Now, if you're new to public speaking and find looking at your audience challenging, try this beginner's technique.
Take your moment, scan your audience, ideally look in or around the middle of your audience, and find someone friendly-looking. If it's appropriate, go ahead and smile. A smile can give you an added boost of energy. After you've acknowledged that one friendly face in the audience, I wanna caution you, you do need to move on to other audience members. You can't just stare at that one friendly face throughout your entire presentation. You'll want to acknowledge your entire audience. I like to use a quadrant approach to develop great audience eye contact throughout the entire presentation.
As you look at your entire audience, mentally divide the room into four quadrants. Start by looking at one person near the intersection of all four quadrants. As you deliver your speech, keep going clockwise from quadrant to quadrant. Make two seconds of eye contact with an audience member in each quadrant throughout your entire presentation. Now, if you're a little more experienced as a speaker and willing to experiment, try this power technique. Don't look for what you think is a friendly face to start your presentation.
Look at a person who seems neutral or maybe even a little hostile. If they're looking at you, look right back at them, pause, and smile. For many seasoned speakers, winning over that hostile or indifferent audience member right away, that can provide a confidence boost throughout your entire presentation. And if you don't win them over, move on. Make eye contact with someone else in the audience. Remember, you're talking to people, so look at the people you're addressing.
When you look at one person near the center of the room, it gives everyone in the room the illusion that you're looking right at them. It only takes a few seconds. Give it a try.
- Explain the benefits of making eye contact.
- Identify how to earn credibility with your audience.
- List ways to introduce yourself to an audience.
- Define "reading the room".
- Use body language effectively.
- Describe how to handle difficult audiences.