Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

You open your mouth to start talking and suddenly you're aware that every eyeball in the room is focused directly on you. What do you do with your own eyes?  That's a real worry for many who come to my workshops - a big part of their speaker nervousness.

Before we go any further... Have you heard that ancient advice to keep your eyes above the back row?  Unhear it. It's rubbish. In fact if you look reluctant to make direct eye contact, you will automatically lose credibility and authority.

The answer is simple.

Look directly into the eyes of individuals

But how long am I supposed to hold eye contact? If I hold it too long they'll think I'm being aggressive! If it's too short my eyes will bounce around like a ball in a pinball machine.

Here's a rule of thumb.

Hold eye contact for between one and two seconds, then shift to someone else.

Don't have a built-in stopwatch?  No problem - think of each second as a heartbeat. 

Here's the best tip of all.  

Every now and then, while speaking, give a small (almost imperceptable) nod - directly into someone's eyes. Do it to every second or third person.

It works because it's as if you're conveying, I want you to get this... and you... and you.  Not only does it make them want to listen to you, it conveys believability, authority and presence.  And you'll swiftly feel so comfortable meeting peoples' eyes you'll stop worrying about eyes.

But how do I make individual eye contact in very large audiences?

You can't, of course. Instead, look at clumps of people as if each clump is the eyes of one person. Move from clump to clump. It works beautifully; everyone in that clump feels that you are communicating with them personally. 

And do make it easy on yourself in advance. Round up a small group of friends or colleagues you trust (three minimum) and tell them you're practising a presentation skills tip and you need their feedback. Are you holding their individual eyes too long? Too short?  Does the little nod work for you? Discuss it with them. If they're interested, they may want to try it themselves.

Then, when you try it on a real audience, you will feel engaged. And so will they.



 Interested in a workshop to develop your team's presentation skills?




Interested in training in presentation skills?

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