How to Develop and Use an Eye-Contact Technique when Addressing People
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How to Develop and Use an Eye-Contact Technique when Addressing People

Because more than 50% of the information we all assimilate is VISUAL, it is critical that one acquires and develops the skill to use EYE CONTACT as one of the major tools in our arsenal if we are to have any chance of success in our work or personal environment when faced with face-to-face negotiations.

Because more than 50% of the information we all assimilate is VISUAL, it is critical that one acquires and develops the skill to use EYE CONTACT as one of the major tools in our arsenal if we are to have any chance of success in our work or personal environment when faced with face-to-face negotiations. This will explain why we read and hear every day of leaders going out of their way to meet up with their counterparts across the globe. Why? Simply because it affords them the opportunity to “take the measure” of one another.

Thus, it follows that the same principle applies when addressing an audience. If in the process you can avoid making some classic blunders, there is no doubt that this will increase your chances of success, no matter if this is either in a professional or personal context.

What do you need to be beware of? - Here are some pointers:

Ceiling Watcher: heaven only knows why some speakers do this, one may ask if they are in fact asking for divine intervention for their plight of having to speak to mere humans.

Laptop addiction: for Power Point presentations, instead of connecting with the audience, the presenter tends to address the equipment being used, usually a laptop.

Bookworm: the presenter talks to the standards manual, course material or crumpled up set of notes – in the process the unfortunate audience are being treated as irrelevant, and thus feel that way.

Soccer Place kickCover ALL options: With eyes downcast, hands crossed, not unlike a footballer protect their private parts when a place kick is taken:

Pendulum Pete: Eyes swinging across the audience, not unlike a metronome or pendulum – with regularity, sometimes so rapidly that there is ZERO possibility of any eye-contact.

Backwall Bertie: the presenter look right over everybody's head, and concentrates on goodness know what on the back wall where there are no people at all. The result is predictable – the content of the talk goes right over the heads of the audience.

How does a speaker counteract all these negatives? - it may be a good idea to get some ideas from a real professional in action:

Here is a summary for your use:

  • Find a pair of eyes – in fact kick off your talk or presentation by addressing that ONE person directly.
  • Work in stanzas: try to convey a block, or stanza of thought to that one person
  • Move on Miguel: Do not be mechanical about it, but try to move smoothly from that one person to the next, and THEN communicate your next thought.

CARDINAL RULE: Never deliver a “thought stanza” without addressing your chosen pair of eyes. This eye-Contact routine can effectively be applied to both small and large audiences – simply because with a large audience, they are never certain exactly which person you may be looking at anyway, and thus feel it may be them. Again, do not let your eye-Contact approach become TOO mechanical or forced.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the fact is that your eyes can actually control the pace of your presentation. Most people, including you and I, have a tendency (often because of initial nervousness) to talk far too quickly, and then the audience-speaker connection is very poor.

Following the foregoing eye-Contact routine though, one can effectively counter the inherent problem, and in the process escalate your audience approval ratings.

Finally, how can you MEASURE your success in this sphere of speaking, if you see:

  • Confused expressions: after explaining your key point, go back, and then repeat that point, slowly and carefully.
  • Half-Mast Eyelids: Raise the energy level as soon as possible, both visually and vocally.
  • Key Decision-maker shakes head: you need to change tack, quickly, and go for a more persuasive argument (keep a few in your arsenal)
  • Rapt attention raptures: THIS is the hallmark of the very audience reaction you need and want, so, go for the jugular!

Acknowledgements for pictures: Stock.xchng

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Comments (12)

I am a firm believer in eye contact. Very good information.

Thanks for YOUR Eye Contact here Rae!

wow - I've never enjoyed public speaking, even in front of just 5 or 6 people. You have loads of excellent tips here about eye contact during speaking, but I'd have to have confidence to stand up in front of a lot of people and speak to them in the first place, before trying to also remember your tips and remember what I need to say at the same time - I definitely admire public speakers - I think it takes a lot of guts to get up in front of an audience and speak to them - and it's even more admirable when I realise how much they have to remember to make their speech or presentation good - it's not just the words they have to remember. About three years ago a teacher at my children's school asked me to do a talk for her grade 9 class about photography composition. I did it but I felt awful. I did make eye-contact but kept wondering if the kids thought I was mad because I was so nervous! They actually looked interested and I wondered if they were fascinated at how nervous I was, or at what I was saying. Some time was spent outside after the talk, showing the children how to "frame" a picture when using the camera, and that went much better, walking around talking to just a few children at any one time. Your article is very interesting. Well done.

Excellent tips and advice as always Colin, many thanks.

Thanks for your "feeling" input Teresa. I am basically a shy person by nature, but what turned it all around for me was a Dale Carnegie course, and then going to, and really participating in Toastmasters. One way to get around the being "self-conscious" is to try to be "other people conscious" and look at their reactions. A lot of this can be beaten by studying something else, very powerful, is NLP - Neuro-Linguistic programming: http://www.businessballs.com/nlpneuro-linguisticprogramming.htm - there are lots of FREE resources apart from this one - try it, and you will surprise yourself.

I've heard that the Dale Carnegie course is very good - and thanks for that link.

Wow, could I use help with this matter, I have been working on it, thank you!

Always a pleasure! - that is what I do for a "living" :-)

I get told often I appear to be snobby, because I do not look people directly in the eyes when speaking to them. The odd part is that I think it is more just the opposite, it is due to insecurity. Isn't it odd the way other perceive things sometimes that are sometimes the complete opposite, in fact?

Super helpful article! I may have to do a poetry workshop, so I'm going to use this article as a reference. (I don't always look at people either, because I have one slightly crossed eye, but I'm trying to get over it).

Thanks for your input Amy & Kathleen - my sister's daughter had the "crossed eye" issue - I think she called it a lazy eye......but most people are so interested in themselves, that we should not be "self"-conscious and just be friendly and natural.

You are quite welcome, Colin!

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