Eye contact in public speaking

Public speaking tips tick

Eye contact is the simplest and often most effective way to engage an audience. For the nervous speaker it is often a hugely daunting thing to do. Many of us would rather not look at the large, imposing audience in front of us.

However, a speaker who looks around at their audience and draws them in, provides a much more entertaining and effective speech.

So how should we use our beautiful baby blues when public speaking?

Where you shouldn’t be looking during a speech:

  • At the ground
  • At your slides, reading the bullet points to your audience
  • At your colleagues, relatives or anyone not officially in your audience
  • At your feet

Where you should look during a speech to really engage your audience:

  • At various individuals, directly in the eye
  • To the back of the room, just ever so slightly above the back row of your audience, so that you appear to be talking to the whole room
  • At an item, or object if you are drawing your audience’ attention to it. If your audience are engaged, they will follow your eyes to the object.

Thinking about where we are looking whilst speaking is difficult for the nervous speaker, but a great way to introduce this into your speaking is by planning ahead.

The first time that you try to put using eye contact in your speech into practice, identify several points in your speech at which you will look to a certain area or audience member in the room. Make these points relevant to the speech content if you can. Learn the points that you planned along with the text of your speech and implement them as you go.

Don’t worry if you forget a few, but try to use some of the eye contact points you planned as you give your speech.

You will soon find that not only does your speech become more engaging for your audience, but over time and with practice you begin to naturally use eye contact with your audience in your speech too!

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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