Busting the myths about eye contact.
Over and over we hear clients say: “I’ve been told to look just above the heads of the audience.”
Why? To feel less nervous in public speaking?
It’s absurd: here you are trying to create relationship, make the audience feel valued, help them remember what’s important.. while all they can think is “He/she doesn’t want to look at me. How weird. What are they looking at instead?”
This is dreadful advice! To be successful and to feel your best as a public speaker, you want to make more contact with your audience, not less! With a small audience, you can make real eye contact. Speak to individuals.
With a large group, combine speaking to individuals with using greater peripheral vision to take in more people at a time, but take your time. Flitting or jumpy eye contact is unsettling and inauthentic.
Another thing we hear people say is “But I don’t want them to feel I’m: being aggressive / staring / putting them on the spot”. In life, surely you don’t avoid making people feel these things by looking above their heads, do you? If your mental intention is to create rapport, to treat them with respect and care, this is what they should see.
This focus on them rather than you should help relax you, and is much more comfortable than desperately staring at the back wall!
Energy and enthusiasm are important, but to convey them we need to both reach out and let people in – and to do this we need to use the windows to the soul.