September 5, 2007

Making eye contact with your audience



I rolled my eyes when I read a public speaking article yesterday that recommended looking at the back wall instead of your audience, to make it appear as though you are giving eye contact to the whole group.

This falls under the old-school category of advice where you'll also find "imagine them in their underwear" and "grip the lectern for dear life."

Eye contact is an uncomfortable part of speaking for many people, but it's critical to making the human connection with your audience.

If you're in a large room, you can look at sections of people, but you will eventually need to connect with individuals. The good thing about a large group is that, if you connect with one person, everyone around that person feels part of the connection. In a small room, you have no choice but to look right at people. They can tell if you're avoiding them!

I find that eye contact is more comfortable when I've made friends before the presentation has begun. That is, as people arrive, I say hello, maybe ask a few questions, and get to know the audience members a little.

Once I start my talk, I feel like I already know a few people in the room, and those friendly faces are the ones I seek out first.

It's always easier to make eye contact with the friendly faces than the scowly ones, but don't give up on those folks! They may just have a different way of learning and engaging.

On another note, why do articles and blog posts that suggest things like looking at the back wall make it into my Google alerts, but not my own articles?

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Cam Beck said...

The first time I had to give a PowerPoint presentation in front of a college class, I took my glasses off so that I couldn't see the expressions on their faces clearly. That turned out to be a mistake, as being unable to read their reactions made it difficult to pace properly.

What search terms are you looking for in Google Alerts?

I've had what I'd consider to be related problems with Blogger, which seems enormously strange since Google owns Blogger. Must be a coincidence.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Cam, I love the glasses story. I'm going to share it when I give presentations!

I have many alerts, to track my name, website, blog and specific articles. The one that drives me crazy is the one for "public speaking." I never show up there!

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