Nothing says more about your credibility, power and confidence as a presenter than what you do – and don’t do – with your eyes. Here’ are my responses to two very interesting recent reader questions about eye contact.
Question – ‘What if I look at someone in the audience who isn’t looking back at me? Then what do I do?’
First, don’t try to figure out why the person isn’t looking back at you. He or she might be looking down at the handout, taking notes, thinking, texting a message or daydreaming. Just because they’re not looking at you doesn’t mean they’re not interested, engaged or enjoying the presentation.
Avoid immediately jumping to someone else who is looking back at you. This can cause you to start scanning and your eye movements can become jerky and awkward. Simply look at that person’s head for 8 – 10 seconds, then move on in silence to someone else. Other people will see you looking in that person’s direction and may not notice or care that he or she wasn’t looking back. If you can’t make eye contact, at least you can make ‘head contact’.
Question – ‘If I’m doing a sales presentation to a group of people, how much emphasis do I give to the obvious decision-maker regarding my eye contact?
It’s not unusual in a sales pitch scenario to have a senior person in the room with several levels of subordinates, even administrative support staff. In creating your audience-centric message, aim the content and approach at the needs and wants of the key decision-maker. But, deliver it to all audience members with equal physical attention, maintaining effective eye contact with everyone.
If you obviously focus your eyes on the big dog, all the little dogs can tell and it can turn them off. And, after your presentation, if the big dog asks the little dogs ‘So what do all of you think of this guy’s proposal? You’re the ones that are going to have to work with him’, your playing up can really backfire. Therefore, treat everyone in the room equally. They all bought a ticket for the show and there are no cheap seats.
And i f you have specific questions about a eye contact or any presentation skill topic covered in ‘Communicate Confidently!’, send me a note or give me a call. I’ll also include a summary of my answers in future issues.