Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Want to avoid going nuts wrestling with your own mind? Then don’t read this.

Still reading? Okay, how long do you hold direct eye contact with someone else? And I do mean direct, not just on the nose or an eyebrow, or defocused. (Don’t time yourself! You’ll be talking to people in white coats before close of play.)

In my last presentation skills workshop, I saw a young man speak to a few colleagues, his eyes bouncing from one to the other, unable to stop on anyone. Very short, or indirect eye contact is often caused by fear, from the instinctive knowledge that when we allow someone else to look directly into our eyes they’ll be able to see who we really are. Yes, our eyes really are windows to the soul.

How much eye contact is too much?

Is this thought familiar? It’s aggressive to stay too long on the other person’s eyes? Or this one? It’s disrespectful to hold direct eye contact with a superior or an elder. No problem. We all need a balance that’s right for our culture.

But here’s the mind-wrestling part. Many people use such thoughts to hide their own fear from themselves, often so successfully they don’t realise they’re signalling fear and submission to the audience. So, are you one who wants to improve your personal authority and presence? In that case ask yourself again, how long do you hold direct eye contact with other people?

I did warn you.


About Michael Brown

michael semiformal 460x300

Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

Interested in training in presentation skills?

We can help your presenters engage their audiences – whether they are speaking at major conferences, presenting to the community or colleagues, or speaking up at a meeting.

Learn more

Interested in training in media skills?

Our experienced media trainers can show your spokespeople how to work with the media so that everyone benefits.

Learn more