Use Your Eyes: One of the Keys to Presenting



By Chris Wright: English Business Trainer
(business2coach@yahoo.es)

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This may sound incredibly simple but when you listen to someone give a presentation or speech what do you prefer? Someone who directly from their scripted notes rarely looking at the audience, or someone who direct eye contact with the audience.

Yes, it’s not a difficult choice, eye contact is important but do you know why?

Recent research from Harvard University has shown that without eye contact we lose that all important emotional connection with the audience. A lack of emotional means you never get the chance to truly capture the hearts and minds of the audience.

People associate eye contact with honesty, sincerity, self-confidence and passion, all the of a great communicator. Think about the times you’ve been in a presentation or a public speech, as the speaker looked repeatedly down to read their notes, what were you thinking about?

Is confidence only communicated through words or are non-verbal clues just as important. into courtroom trials showed that jurors view witnesses who look at questioners directly in the eye as more credible and honest.

Next time someone speaks to you about something they are really passionate about, watch their eyes, are they dull or bright and sparkling. Most of us when truly animated by a subject come alive. Our body becomes more dynamic, body gestures more energetic and our eyes twinkle and sparkle like diamonds.

Today’s audiences switch off to speakers who read from notes. Reading from notes chains you to the podium, have no body language and so lose over 70% of your ability to communicate. High impact presenters and speakers understand that their messages have the greatest impact when both their body language and verbal communication are giving the same powerful messages with commitment and passion.

What about if you have no passion or feeling for presenting your company’s services or products? Well, passion and feeling can be achieved by starting your speech speaking about something you do have passion and feeling for and deliberately relating it to the subject of your presentation. Say last night’s football game or place you visited that excited you, as long as you then relate it to the topic. The effect of the excitement in your body lasts for quite a while and will into your presentation of company services and products.

How long should you maintain eye contact? Staring in any culture is as uncomfortable for you as it is for the audience. Some research studies suggest you should maintain eye contact for 80-90% contact, but staying that long can be tiring.

Some top presenters suggest controlling your eye contact by splitting the audience into three parts and focusing on one person in each of the three sections. Random eye contact with too many people loses you control of the audience. Then maintain eye contact with that person for as long as it takes to their eye colour, any longer and you’ll be staring. Try and spend an equal amount of time addressing people in each of the 3 parts of the audience.

Practice with colleagues, a coach/trainer, friends or family. Ask them to give you a of between “1-10” to evaluate how credible they felt each of your key messages were. Where “1” you feel it’s a complete lie and “10” is 100% trust. Repeat your presentation 3 times and at the end of each presentation ask them to explain their marks.

Eye contact can also be combined with to give your messages greater impact and energy. Pausing before you say something important, creates anticipation, makes the audience feel you are knowledgeable and in complete control. Pausing after you say something important (with good eye contact) gives the audience time to think about, understand and absorb a key message. It also keeps them involved in the presentation giving them time to catch up if they were lost. Top presenters use the PEEP rule:
  • P : Pause (first pause)
  • E : Energy and enthusiasm
  • E : (Focused) Eye contact
  • P : Pause (second pause)