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Five Tips for Making Eye Contact While Public Speaking

Making eye contact while public speaking is a simple yet powerful way to connect with an audience.

Keeping eye contact with a single person while making a point can change a passive listener to being excited by your ideas. It will also create a sense of connection and warmth with your audience.

However, looking at someone in the eyes can be difficult if you’re feeling nervous.

Here are five tips to help you make eye contact while public speaking.

#1 – Before you speak, pause and connect 

At the beginning of your presentation, even before you start speaking, try pausing. Take this moment to connect with your audience and yourself. First, square your body at your starting position on stage. Then, turn your head from left to right to the center of where your audience is seated. Then, turn your head from right to left then back to center again. This moment will give you an opportunity to see your audience, connect, and ground yourself before starting your presentation.

#2- Pick one person and maintain eye contact for 3 to 5 seconds. 

Often, presenters may find themselves maintaining eye contact with a single person for too long. This can make that person feel uncomfortable and feel like they are being singled out. My suggestion is for you to pick one person, maintain eye contact for three to five seconds, then find someone else in the audience. You may be wondering why three to five seconds? Usually, this is the time it takes to finish a sentence and make a point.

#3 – Notice where your eyes are at the end of your sentences

Often, near the end of your sentence, your eyes may be looking down and not at the audience. This may be due to the temptation to glance at your notes.  The next time you speak to an individual, notice if this happens to you. Keep your eyes up until you finish your sentence, then look down at your notes and begin your next sentence.
Practice Eye Contact

#4 – Practice, practice, practice! 

Practice makes perfect. A skill such as making eye contact especially if you’re not used to it can be challenging. To practice this skill, practice looking at someone in the eyes every time you talk with them. You can practice this at home, at work, and even at the grocery store.

#5 – Forget about the eye contact tips if you need to 

At times, making eye contact with someone can make them feel vulnerable, disrespected, and uncomfortable. In some cultures, eye contact can be seen as offensive. For example, in Asian cultures, maintaining eye contact with a superior or elder can be seen as a sign of disrespect. If you’re feeling someone is uncomfortable, be respectful and find someone else in the audience to engage with.

With practice, you will be a master of this important public speaking skill. As an added bonus, practicing eye contact can allow you to slow down if you’re a nervous speaker – making you appear and feel more confident while you deliver your speech.

Give these tips a try and let me know how it goes.

 

I help build confident voices so they’re heard.

Janice Tomich is the founder of Calculated Presentations, a company dedicated to bringing out speaker’s stories to influence change. Janice coaches professionals, entrepreneurs, TED and TEDx speakers. She is a champion for equal representation by a diverse pool of presenters for all speaking events. Follow Janice on Twitter @janicetomich, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and subscribe for bimonthly newsletter updates.

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