A guide to proper eye contact

“My eyes are up here!” That’s what people in the audience are saying when a speaker gives their whole speech to the floor.

Eye contact is a bit of a social paradox. Many people feel threatened by audience and tend not to look anyone in the eye. But people in an audience want engagement and generally want to you to establish eye contact with them.

It’s primal instinct. Because we feel threatened or awkward, we don’t look someone in the eye for fear of creeping them out. Just remember that’s not the case. All they want is for you to look at them and make them feel engaged, the same thing you’d want if you were in the audience.

So let’s talk about where to put those eyes.

First rule, don’t look down on the floor or up at the ceiling or even forward in a part of a room no one is in. Of course, if it’s part of your speech, if your recalling a memory you want to tell your audience or looking like you’re thinking deeply about something, lapses in eye contact are fine.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t look away from the audience for too long.

Second, with a manageable group of people, make sure to spread eye contact evenly throughout the audience. This would obviously be impossible if you’re giving a speech to a hundred or more but regardless, you should still establish eye contact.

It should go without saying to mention not spending too long looking one person in the eyes. That WILL creep a person out. They will feel like they’re being singled out and think their speech is being specifically directed towards them. What worse, is people may even notice this and think the same thing, which brings me to another point.

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