Eye contact is single-handedly one of the most powerful ways for speakers to connect with their audience. Proper eye contact is essential in building a rapport with the audience and conveying a sense of trust and authority. Looking at the audience in the eye makes your message more personal and helps persuade the audience to buy into your message. That said, it can be stressful, and sometimes even awkward, to look people directly in the eyes during a presentation. That’s why some speakers choose to look at their slides or stare at the back of the room. However, by avoiding eye contact, you communicate weakness, nervousness, and fear. For this reason, it is imperative that speakers learn how to make eye contact the right way. Consider the following tips to help maintain proper eye contact without staring.
Follow the 50/70 Rule
It’s important to make eye contact without appearing to stare at someone for too long, as this can make people feel uncomfortable. A good rule of thumb is to maintain eye contact for 50% of the time while speaking and 70% of the time while listening. This will help to demonstrate interest and confidence without being overbearing.
Maintain Eye Contact for 4-5 Seconds
Once you establish eye contact with someone, you want to hold it for about 4-5 seconds. This is long enough to make a genuine connection with them, but not so long that it feels like staring. If you look at them for much longer, it can become awkward and uncomfortable. After a few seconds you can slowly shift your glance to someone else.
Avert When Necessary
Although proper eye contact has been linked to better presentation skills, not everyone appreciates being looked at directly in the eyes. While it’s generally a universally accepted communication signal, it is important to respect those who find it unnerving. If at any time you sense that someone is uncomfortable with your eye contact, avert your eyes.
The key to a great presentation delivery is to connect with as many people as possible. If you are speaking to a large group, shift your attention from one person to another as you speak. Avoid looking at the same person over and over again, as this can begin to feel more like staring.
Eye contact takes more skill than one might expect, but it is essential to delivering a powerful message. With a little bit of practice, you can learn the secret of making non-awkward eye contact in order to connect with audiences and enhance your presentation.