Some time ago, I wrote about what to do with you hands during a presentation. What about your eyes? Where do you look? A lot of people find it frightening to ‘face’ the audience. On one hand that’s normal: a fixed look makes us feel uncomfortable. The hearth rate of all animals increases when someone is looking at them. This could be part of public speaking fear: the fact that all people are looking at you.
Honesty, trust and sincerity
So, should you look back? Yes! Making eye contact during your presentation is very important. It is related to honesty, trust and sincerity. Eye contact is essential to create a personal connection. If people are insecure about themselves, or not sure about what they are saying, they are looking to the ground or away, but not to the audience. Looking people in their eyes conveys confidence and trustworthiness.
Use your eyes as a ‘spotlight’
If you are in front of a big audience, let your eyes go over the public as a spotlight, from time to time you focus on another part of the audience: don’t be afraid of looking people in their eyes: make real and direct contact. Some seconds you look at one person on the right, you go to the middle, to the back, to the left. Be sure you see all of them.
Making eye contact is very normal and even necessary for good business relationships in Europe and North America. Be aware that prolonged eye contact is rude and aggressive in some cultures, especially those where there is a big ‘power distance’, for example Arab and Asian countries. Check this before delivering a speech in a foreign country. As I said in my post with tips for presentations in English: non verbal language can differ from culture to culture.
– make eye-contact with individuals in all the corners of the room, don’t forget a corner.
– In international situations, be aware that the importance of eye contact is not everywhere the same. As I already said: in Arab countries o in Asia, countries with more ‘power distance’, you are not supposed to look people of a higher status in the eyes.
– Don’t look at the screen. Look at your audience. Turning your back to the audience is a presentation no-no.
In the next post I will write a post regarding answering questioners and how to maintain having contact with the whole audience while answering a question of one of the attendees.
photo: David Castillo Dominici, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=3062