Engaging your audience during a presentation is no small feat, but there is one simple thing you can do to enhance your impact as a speaker: sustained, meaningful eye contact with your audience. Positive eye contact allows you to connect with your audience on a personal level. It also allows you to build rapport with your audience to keep them engaged in the presentation. Here are a few tips for improving eye contact during your next presentation.
Look Before You Speak
Before the first words come out of your mouth, take a moment to pause and look around the room. A simple smile can help you connect with listeners and will make you feel more comfortable and confident when you begin speaking.
Involve Everyone in the Presentation
The key is to connect with as many people as possible. All too often, presenters look straight ahead and never actually acknowledge the audience members on either side of them or directly in front of them. This can make your eye contact appear forced and unnatural. While it’s impossible to make eye contact with every person in the room, you should try to connect with audience members in each section of the room.
Sustain Eye Contact
It’s not enough to quickly scan across the crowd or stare blankly at the wall in the back of the room. Effective eye contact means looking directly at someone long enough to make a connection. According to researchers, it takes no more than five seconds to establish proper and meaningful eye contact with someone. Make it a point to pause and sustain eye contact for a few seconds with the audience member so you have time to make that connection with them.
Know When to Avert Your Eyes
While it’s true that eye contact helps you deliver a more meaningful presentation, not everyone, enjoys having someone look them directly in the eye. If you notice the audience member squirming or looking away, be sure and avert your attention somewhere else.
Many presenters fail to make appropriate eye contact because they are fumbling through their notes or reading their slides to find the right words to explain a thought. If you look at your notes for too long, you risk losing that connection with your audience. Therefore, practice and prepare so you can look to your audience rather than your notes while presenting.
Always Make Eye Contact During Critical Lines
It’s not practical to make eye contact during your entire presentation, but you must be sure and highlight your key points with strong eye contact. This includes your opening, closing, and any other critical lines throughout the presentation. Your words will be more impactful and your audience will remember what you say if you make eye contact during these important moments.