Many of us have heard about the importance of maintaining eye contact whilst we are speaking. For those of you who aren’t sure about it or are having difficulty recalling the significance of maintaining eye contact here’s a quick recap, followed by simple to use but effectives techniques on how to use your eyes to charm and connect.
Effective use of eye contact helps the speaker:
– Appear more Credible
Most psychologists and body language readers have noticed that liars tend to fidget more and have difficulty maintaining eye contact. Most cultures have also established and equated honesty with the ability to speak whilst maintaining eye contact.
– Appear more Confident
Nervous speakers tend to look down and/or away from another person due to the lack of confidence. The act of looking away, or looking down have often been interpreted as an act of “submission”, or an act of “safety” – we submit to avoid trouble. This is the body’s natural defence mechanism at work. Confident speakers, however, aren’t afraid to speak up, and their courage to “look into the eyes of their audience” sends a signal of strength, and a message – “I am not afraid”.
– Appear more Sincere
Because you’re no longer a fake (credibility), you also come across as more sincere. People enjoy listening and speaking to sincere and genuine people. Think about it. Would you enjoy speaking to a hypocrite?
– Assess the audience’s interest levels
Our eyes are wide open when we are intensely interested about a certain topic; we squint when we are confused, and frown when are either trying hard to understand, or express disagreement with a subject. Observe the audience’s eyes to assess the level of receptivity the audience are towards your subject!
– Connect with the Audience
Our eyes are the windows to our soul. Research has shown that intense and prolonged eye contact could help induce a sense of affection and “connection” between people. Dating coaches have taught numerous men and women how they can captivate the opposite sex by simply using their eyes on their potential partners. Do not doubt the ability of the eyes to connect!
Despite the importance of maintaining eye contact, most speakers have expressed difficulty in maintaining simply because they are too afraid or nervous to. (Remember that our body’s have a natural defence mechanism? Yes, it’s the “submission syndrom” at work!)
So here are some techniques you can use to “establish eye contact” without overly unsettling yourself!
1) Fish the friendly faces from the sea of suspicion!
Yes, this technique calls for you to search for the friendliest faces that you can see from in the audience and focus your attention on them! Most of the time, these are the people who may be nodding in approval, or those who smile in delight and approval to the things that your are saying.
Source those people out, and seek to establish a connection with them. Beware NOT to focus your attention exclusively on the friendly faces to the neglect of the rest of your audience!
The next suggestion shows you how to spread your attention to the rest of the audience without invoking your sense of nervousness.
2) The Screen Saver
Now that you’ve found some friendly faces in the audience, you will want to bookmark their positions and use them as pivots, or focal points to rest your gaze one when you’re not looking around.
However, although it’s comfortable and reassuring to speak to those reassuring faces, it is also detrimental to neglect the remaining bulk of your audience. Establishing a connection with the majority is still crucial. And although the “friendly faces” may act as a door to connecting with the audience, it is important that you “make your presence” felt by spreading your gaze around.
I understand that it may still be a little unsettling for some people to do that, especially if you’ve got a couple of people wearing poker (expressionless) faces throughout your presentation. Though expressionless, poker faces may be highly unsettling as the audience may come across as apathetic, indifferent or unconvinced by you. The screen saver technique, however, will save you.
Here’s how to do it:
Using your friendly faces as focal points, simply turn your head or body in a sweeping movement from one focal point to another, all the while keeping your eyes open and staring straight along the rows of people until you reach the next friendly focal face.
The idea here is to stare straight into “blank space” whilst your body brings your eyes from one point to another, along the path of people. By doing so, it would appear that you’re looking around the room and each and every person whilst your speaking. However, in reality, you’re only speaking, and seeking to stop at your next check point – your next friendly face! But the best thing is this, you are going to “share your attention” with everyone, and you’re going to establish connection and credibility with everybody in the audience!
How’s that for a trick! *winks*
3) No, Not the eyes!
Have you ever tried looking into the two eyes of another person? Could you do it? (Try looking into both your eyes in the mirror – see if it’s possible!)
As of 28 December 2007, there have been no proven reports that any normal person has the abililty to look into the left and right eye of a person at the same time. Yes! Our eyes can only focus on one point at a time. So, if you can’t look into the eyes of the person, here’s another trick that’s going to save you.
Simply focus your eyes to look at the point as illustrated in the picture below.
Focusing your eyes to look at the bridge of the other person’s nose is an effective substitute that you can use to avoid looking into another’s eye, whilst helping you come across as looking directly at your audience!
How’s that for another quick trick! *winks*
So there you have it!
3 simple techniques (or tricks) to help you come across as a more credible, confident and charismatic speaker on stage!
Try it, and let me know how it works for you!