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The Power of Eye Contact in Public Speaking

Eye contact is often one of the most overlooked methods we have to connect, build rapport and be effective as a speaker and leader. More often than not most speakers fail to use the power of eye contact to impart weight and value to their communication. As a key component of successful non verbal communication we can more effectively use it by following the a few simple rules:

Use Eye Contact to Connect

Beginning speakers often exhibit a common array of mistakes that keep them from being effective as public speakers. Of these avoiding eye contact with the audience is a primary mistake. Most beginning and even experienced speakers don’t take the time to really look into the eyes of the audience members. Unfortunately, failure to do so leaves the audience questioning the value, knowledge and authenticity of the speaker. Speak to your audience as you would speaking authentically to a group of great friends. In the case of speaking with friends you would look them in the eye and establish some connection and a give them a sense that you respectful of them and wish for them to receive and understand your message.

Divide the Audience Into Zones & Smooth Transitions

Speakers often ask me what they should do with eye contact in their speech. As we do with all other non-verbal communication it is important to pay attention to all audience members. The general rule is that all audience members should think you are speaking directly to them. In groups we can divide our audience into different zones and deliver a complete thought, idea or concept per zone per eye contact connection. To be absolutely clear this is not engaging in “googlie eyes” or darting nervous eyes – but much the opposite. We connect with relaxed intent as if in a conversation with the audience communicating with the power of eye contact.

Smile with Your Eyes

It is hard to deny the power of a smile. Science has proven that when we smile we change our own state and become more happy and positive minded and the same goes for audiences. Smiling, like other emotions doesn’t only show in our mouth but in the entirety of the face. Try this today, ask a loved one to compare your face and eye state while frowning vs smiling. Ask that loved one to look for the differences in your eyes, then try the same in the mirror. Did you note the difference? Smiling with your eyes can be a powerful way to successfully use eye contact.

Read the Audience

Lastly, use eye contact to read and understand your audience. As you speak the audience is telling you everything about how they perceive your communication is body language and a key component is in their eyes. Are their eyes looking up at you with a smile, staring at the wall behind you, or cast down on the ground? All of these different expressions of eye contact speak volumes but you have to be looking for them in audience to be truly “listening.”

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