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!
I have recently been offered the chance to speak as part of a ‘double act’. Speaking as one half of a partnership throws up all sorts of interesting points that speakers need to be aware of for a successful two-man speech.
I’ve come up with three points below that speakers who are talking as part of a double act in a business setting should consider. Interestingly, they all centre on giving the greatest value to your audience, which should ALWAYS be your primary objective!
Roles – each half of the duo should know what their responsibilities are and why their speech content is important.
It must also be remembered that the audience needs to understand the role of each speaker too – clearly sign post for your audience which areas of the speech or talk each person will cover right from the start.
Handovers – most of us probably have a memory from our early schooling in which a group or class are asked to perform a story or play and each member of the class reads a line aloud each.
This is fine when you are four years old, but it is unlikely to impress anyone in a business presentation or speech. Make sure that each speaker has clear, relevant sections of the speech to avoid confusing your audience with constant chopping and changing of speakers!
When you do handover, state that you are passing the speaking baton back to your partner and sign post for your audience what they are going to talk about using a quick sentence or two.
It’s not a competition – there is nothing more frustrating than being an audience member watching two speakers who are battling to impress over one another. Your objective is to give value to your audience. If you, or your partner, is likely to be trying to get one over on you, be wittier, more entertaining or put you down, then politely back away from the speaking opportunity. It will only do your credibility (and theirs) more harm than good!
Have you had a positive or negative experience as a speaker as part of a double act or group presentation? I’d love to hear about it and what you learnt from it.
I recently attended a wedding – a great day full of fun, laughter and speeches.
The father of the bride after making his speech proceeded to come to me directly and ask ‘How was that, was it ok?’.
There was so much I could have said. I could have advised on his speech structure, his voice, speed of delivery, stance, content and so much more.
But on such a joyous day, there was only one piece of feedback I needed to give him. I reassured him that he had hit the one point that can make or break a speech. A speech can be lacking in any area, but the one thing that a good speech never lacks is the personality of the speaker.
This isn’t just a personality. This is THE personality of the speaker. Without this in the speech, your audience will realise you don’t believe in what you are saying, you are not comfortable with what you are saying and most importantly, that you are not delivering this speech in a way that is natural to you.
Before advising any one on public speaking I like to learn a little bit about them. Only then can I truly understand if the key foundation of their speech, the speakers’ personality, is present.
So next time you speak, ask yourself; am I comfortable with the way I am delivering this? Am I delivering this in my ‘personal style’?
If you’re not presenting with personality, your audience will never get to know you or the point that you are trying to make.