Public Speaking Techniques – Eye Contact

Remember when you sat in an audience and wondered what secret technique was used by the speaker to make you feel really at ease with them and listen intensively?

There are a few possibilities, but a key technique is effective use of eye contact. When somebody looks us in the eye while speaking to us ( in a friendly way ! ), we feel at ease, relaxed and connected.
The eyes have been described as the “window to the soul”, we can see and understand tiny microexpressions in and around the eye.
We have evolved to learn and understand these as part of our survival mechanism.
It is very difficult to lie convincingly while looking somebody in the eye !

From an audience viewpoint, if we experience or even feel indirectly that the speaker looks directly at us while speaking, we immediately relax and release any barriers we may have had toward them.

Even in a large audience, if the speaker looks at some members, they relax and this has a ripple effect, so the audience herd instinct becomes one of safety and relaxation.

If this sounds extraordinary, check it out when you explore the next events you attend.

There are 2 really important points to remember.

1) We need to be confident and comfortable in our skin when looking at members of the audience.

2) Do not stare at somebody you know or like, if they become uncomfortable, you may feel uncomfortable and the discomfort will ripple through the audience!

How to make good audience eye contact:

While speaking, act or feel as if you are addressing a particular person in the audience.
Only hold their gaze for a few seconds, you will know if they are becoming uncomfortable !

Then move on to somebody else nearby, but not the adjacent person.
If you do, the audience may feel they are being scanned as if by a robot!
Keep on moving your gaze around the audience at a leisurely pace.
With a larger audience, you can choose some members relatively close, or even a few with say bright clothing who are too far away to see their face clearly.
If you are comfortable with yourself, they will know you are looking at them.

How to look your audience in the eye:

Try and look between their eyes or the centre of their forehead.
If you look more than a few inches above their head, they will know you are avoiding looking at them.
Remember to look at them long enough for them to feel connected and not long enough to embarrass them.
It is as simple as that.

Of course you do need to be confident to carry this action out effectively.

Useful information:

If you require assistance:

  • Going to the next stage of your speaking performance
  • Gaining stage presence
  • Gaining Confidence
  • Overcoming phobias

Contact me or check the Events Page.


To your success.

Jim Doyle  Distinguished Toastmaster and Personal Energy Manager
Cambridge, UK