One key element of facial expression is eye contact. It is estimated that 80 percent of nonverbal communication takes place with your face and eyes. Eye contact is the cement that binds together speakers and their audiences. When you speak, your eyes involve your listeners in your presentation.
There is no faster way to break a communication bond between you and the audience than failing to look at your listeners. No matter the size of your audience, each listener wants to feel that you are talking directly to him or her.
Looking at your listeners as individuals convince them that you are sincere, are interested in them, and care whether or not they accept your message. Effective eye contact is also an important feedback device that makes the speaking situation a two-way communication process. By looking at your audience, you determine how they are reacting to your presentation.
How To Use Your Eyes Effectively
Your eyes convey a message to your audience. Here are tips to help you use your eyes to better communicate with your audience.
– Know your material. Know your material backwards and forward, so you don’t have to devote mental energy to scanning your note cards for the next topic (an audience interprets this latter behaviour negatively, perceiving that you are unsure about what follows your last point). Prepare well and rehearse often so you don’t have to depend heavily on notes.
– Establish a visual bond. Select one person and maintain eye contact with that person long enough to establish a visual bond, about five to ten seconds. Then shift your gaze to another person. In a small group, this is relatively easy. With larger crowds it’s difficult. Instead, select one or two individuals in each section of the room and establish personal bonds with them. This will leave each listener with the impression you’re talking directly to him or her.
– Monitor visual feedback. While you are talking, your listeners are responding with their own nonverbal message such as a smile or nod of the head. Use your eyes to seek out this valuable feedback. If individuals aren’t looking at you, they may not be listening, either. Reasons for this include the following:
– They can’t hear you.
Solution: If you are not using a microphone, speak louder.
– They are bored.
Solution: Use humour, increase your vocal variety, or add
powerful gestures or body movements.
– They are puzzled.
Solution: Repeat or rephrase what you have just said.
– They are fidgeting nervously.
Solution: You may be using distracting mannerisms.
Heighten your self-awareness of your voice and body language.
On the other hand, if you notice rapt attention, don’t change a thing. You’re connecting with their internal representational system.
You have my best wishes.
Richie Dayo Johnson is an experiential specialist and consultant in communication and human behaviour. He works with aspiring leaders, high net-worth individuals and multinational organisations in Europe and Africa. He presently oscillates between the two continents depending on work and family commitments.
Aspire | Achieve | Advance