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And I'm Looking Right Back at You!

Eye contact is a delicate skill. Most people would say they make good eye contact in casual conversations or one-to-one interactions but when it comes to speaking in front of groups, they have trouble. I have a couple of tips that will help you make great eye-connections with audiences of any size and it all starts with what you're saying to yourself.

#1. Self-talk. A young woman in one of my classes recently admitted that when she makes eye contact with someone in the audience she becomes very self-conscious. She starts to feel as though everyone is staring at her and making judgments about her. She loses her place in the presentation and starts acting distracted. Her remedy: avoid eye contact. NOT a great solution. My suggestion to her was to change her self-talk and say, "And I'm looking right back at you!"It started working for her. Her eye contact got stronger and her confidence rose.

Sometimes eye contact begins with self-talk, other times, it requires specific techniques.

#2. Three beat eye contact. When you randomly connect with one person in the audience for three beats before moving to the next person, the entire audience will feel connected to you. If you glance over the audience, no one will feel connected to you. Start with someone on the left side of the room, move to someone on the right, back to the center, back to the right, etc. You get the idea. Don't make linear eye contact. Mix it up. If counting to three is too difficult, just begin a phrase with someone then switch to another person in the room to finish the sentence. Most sentences can be broken into three phrases. E. g. "One of the most important ways to establish trust (switch) is to look people in the eye. (switch) Eyes are the windows to their soul. " (switch)

#3. Avoid staying too long. If you have ever been that person in the room who happens to be the ONLY one the presenter looks at, you know how uncomfortable that can be. I have found myself in this position on occasion. I drop my eyes hoping they will look at someone else. When I look up again, they're still there!The presenter thinks I'm listening but, in fact, I'm totally distracted.

4. Be aware of cultural differences. In Western cultures, strong eye contact signifies confidence, strength and a command of the topic. In Eastern cultures, strong eye contact might be perceived as threatening or confrontational. Be aware of your audience composition and adjust your eye contact accordingly.

Here's to looking right back at them as you give your next presentation.

What tips and tricks do you use to maintain good eye contact?

For more information about presentation skills coaching or training, contact us at www.redcuppresentations.com.

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