The Secret Sauce for Top Presenters? Try Eye Contact

By Briohny Williams | Body Language

Apr 18

It's Showtime!

If you've been following along at home, we started by building eye contact into our preparation and have asked for feedback to improve before the big day.

Eye contact is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.

On the day, ensure you’re in the room in advance of the presentation to familiarize yourself with the set up and nail down any final logistical details.

Once you’ve done this, if the format allows, talk to people that will be in the audience, and any of your “supporters” that are in the room. Even if you freeze, your supporters are not going to mind you pausing and taking a moment to remember where you’re up to in your presentation.

And breathe..

When it’s time, take a deep, calm breath and take your place.

Do not start speaking until you have your feet firmly planted shoulder width apart, you have the audience’s attention and you have your opening lines ready.

Depending on the size of your audience, you will need to use different movements, however let’s think about 2 common scenarios:

  • 1
    The boardroom / meeting room, up to around 20 people seated around a table. You may be seated or standing at the front of the room, or perhaps you’re around the table too. Wherever you are sitting, consider that the “front” of the room and look to the “back” of the room, and then at various points down both sides of the table. Alternate which side of the table you are looking at, and then to the back of the room again.
  • 2
    Theatre or auditorium seating, with rows of chairs in front of you. You are standing at the front of the room, perhaps with a lectern (though preferably not to make the most of all your body language tools).
  • Visualize a clock, and look first at the front row of the seating (6), move your eyes to the left (10), to the far back (12), to the right (3) and then towards the front again (5). 
  • No matter where the audience is sitting, if you move through these five points in random order throughout your presentation, everyone will feel your gaze at some point. 
  • Before too long, you won’t need to use the clock system, however this is handy when you are establishing new habits.

Read the Room

Let yourself really look at the audience, observe their body language.

Are they leaning back, checking their emails, talking to their neighbour? Time to change your volume, pace or ask a question.

Or are they looking back at you, leaning forward, nodding? Add emphasis, pause and let your message sink in. 

There may be moments of both throughout your presentation, and if you’re not looking you will not notice! The key is to know when you may need to adjust by keeping an eye on your audience and knowing how to adjust based on the messages they are sending you.

Don't Send False Messages

No matter how well you know your topic or how well regarded you are for the other work you do, if you do not make eye contact there is the very real chance that others will mistake this for lack of confidence, potentially lowering your credibility, and almost definitely boring your audience. Look up, look around, and make sure you use this extremely powerful tool at your disposal.

Radiate confidence, connect with your audience and boost your credibility and authenticity through the roof.

If you missed how to prepare and rehearse with eye contact, learn how you can anticipate and overcome nerves and anxiety by visualising your audience while you rehearse.