If I only had time to teach my executive coaching clients one presentation delivery skill, it would be to maximize their eye contact. Properly done, it produces several positive results for both audiences and presenters. Nothing says more about credibility, power and confidence than what presenters do – and don’t do – with their eyes. Everything else is a ‘B’ priority. So, here’s your quick overview of why The Eyes Have it!
Challenge Old Habits
First, you should challenge and overcome some bad eye contact habits. Many of us were taught to simply scan the faces in a room when delivering a presentation. Unfortunately, scanning results in your visual over-stimulation, increases nervousness and makes it harder to think clearly As a result, you may forget your message at times and utter vocalized pauses – ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’.
Those people who are uncomfortable looking directly into the eyes of audience members sometimes try looking at their shoulders instead or, even worse, try looking at a spot high on the back wall. Either practice quickly becomes obvious to audience members and projects a lack of confidence and, often, a lack of credibility.
Control Your Eyes
Our Best-in-Class strategy goes beyond simple eye contact to Eye Control – you control where your eyes go and for how long. Look at one person at a time for a short sentence or two, about 8 – 10 seconds. Then, move in silence to a new person in a random manner. During that silent move, take a breath and think of what to say next. Effectively done, Eye Control can significantly reduce those vocalized pauses.
Because this technique helps you control the amount of visual input going to your brain, it helps reduce nervousness and interference with clear thinking. Eye Control also reduces the stress that comes from speaking to a large audience, because it creates the illusion that you’re talking to one person at a time.
You Win – They Win
Properly done, it makes it easier for the audience to pay attention because it seems like you’re talking with each of them in turn. It also slows down your delivery pace – another good thing. The Eye Control Mantras are ‘only talk to faces!’ and ‘move in silence’. If you need to look at your notes or the screen to remember what to say next, that’s fine. Just do so in silence.
Since Eye Control may be different from what you were originally taught or see around you at work every day, it takes some time to get comfortable with it. With some practice, it will become more natural and you’ll be surprised at the results: engaging the audience, projecting more confidence, decreasing stress, decreasing vocalized pauses and slowing down your delivery.
Now you know why The Eyes Have It!