Have you ever been told you should make eye contact with your audience? When I first started to speak in front of audiences, I truly believed I was making eye contact. I was wrong. People told me I was talking above their heads or that I was looking down. I was frustrated and wondered how eye contact could be made. People told me to look at certain people in the audience but then I knew others would be left out.
It is possible to do and do it well.
Here is what made the difference and I am giving you a secret that has worked time and time again…
Go home, set up salt, pepper, mustard and ketchup, or whatever you have handy, at various places around you. Start speaking about anything and make sure you look at those items at least three times in different orders. Salt, Mustard, Ketchup, Salt… Pepper, Salt, Pepper, Mustard.. you get the idea!
Now, I want you to step it up a notch… I want you to look at three items and linger on the last item at the end of your sentence. Salt, Mustard.. Ketchup, linger on the Ketchup for at least 3 seconds. You know what? Ketchup thinks you are talking directly to them, your message is being directed specifically at Ketchup. It’s called letting your look linger.
This is a practice that you might easily forget when you are in the process of a live speech or talk. Here is what I suggest. Think of what you want to say and think of who you are going to deliver it to at the end of the sentence. Here’s an example: Before I started to speak I met a lady called Katie. I thought “I will remember that name, she will be my ketchup”. In my talk I reached the end of a sentence and thought “direct this message to Katie”. When I looked at her she nodded at me because she felt connected. Don’t be surprised if that particular person comes up to you after your speech and says: “I thought you were talking to me!”… and you were!
Eye contact with one person, thirty people or thousands?
You might wonder how you make eye contact in different situations.
Eye contact with one person should be natural and shows honesty. Don’t avert your eyes if someone asks you a question unless it is momentarily to remember some item. It is also about your voice, which we will cover on a later blog.
Eye contact with a small room or up to a hundred.. the method in the paragraphs above works well and try to remember the people at the back. You can come into the audience but if you have your back to people, it’s a good idea to turn and make sure you address them too.
Eye contact with thousands. I experienced this and it is a little unnerving when you are looking at the front of the audience which is well lit and the back of the audience is not. Look into the dark anyway. Look into certain areas where you will know there will be people because you have previously gone on stage and checked out where the audience will be sitting.
Always make sure you know where your audience will be before you go on stage.
As always, enjoy trying these methods: speaking is ALWAYS about your message and who is receiving it.