Why is eye contact when public speaking important? I often get asked this question. Imagine you are part of a very large audience. Imagine your speaker talking to you for an hour, but all he does it focus on his notes and the people at the front. Check in with yourself. Do you feel drawn to the topic of discussion? Do you feel the interest or need to actively participate? Or do you tend to switch off, and check your phone, since you are so far back in the room anyways?
Eye contact is as essential as voice when speaking to an audience. In this digital world, sometimes the audience is not in front of you, in the case of webinars, teleconferences. Does eye contact matter at that time?
The answer is, yes it does. Your eyes carry the energy of your voice when you speak. So even if you are not talking to a live audience, the movement and look of your eyes matter.
Try this simple experiment: Talk out loud and keep darting your eyes around the room. Notice how distracted you feel when talking and how distracted the listener would feel in trying to keep up with you. The power of focus comes from a focussed mind and focused eye contact.
Here are some ways you can use eye contact when speaking to an individual or a group.
Small group : 1-10 people:
- If you are standing, avoid pacing or fidgeting.
- Position yourself so that the audience can see your face.
- Do not bounce your gaze to a different person every three words, but aim to look at everyone in the group.
- Make a point whilst looking at someone and move on to the next person for the next point.
Medium group: 10-40 people:
- Aim to be positioned so that everyone can see your face.
- Since it is a larger group, eye contact with all would be tricky, but aim to look at some members of the audience.
- Remember to look at different sections ( front, middle and back row)
- If the last row is too difficult to look at , use your eye gaze and sweep around the top of their heads, or foreheads. This will give the audience the impression that they are being looked at.
- Casting your eye gaze further away will also ensure your voice is carried further away.
- In these situations, you often do not have a live audience infront of you.
- During these times, imagine you are talking to ONE person, and direct your voice at the microphone.
- Keep your eye gaze focussed on the mic, as if it was a person.
Try one of the above and do leave comments and feedback as to what worked. Remember your vocal energy is carried by your eye gaze energy. Good luck!