Make Eye Contact with Your Audience without Forgetting Your Words

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In this Explearning lesson I answer a communication conundrum question about eye contact during presentations. Specifically, I share my top strategies for how to make eye contact with the audience without forgetting what you're going to say! These tips apply both to public speaking and meeting presentations.

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Hello Explearners. Welcome back to Explearning Communication. We're going to unpack a communication conundrum. That was a question that got sent in by an explorer. So I'm going to share that communication conundrum and then I'm going to also share the remedy for this and what strategies you can implement to improve this situation. Okay. So the Explorer says, naturally, I don't like to make too much eye contact, but I also don't like to not make any eye contact when communicating as I know that this can appear deceiving or rude.

00:00:38:28 - 00:01:07:29

Here in the U.S. anyways, I often struggle to make eye contact in presentations with my audience because when I focus on the many faces looking at me, I suddenly forget what I'm supposed to be talking about. Any tips or advice on how to multitask in this situation? Okay. So first of all, great question. Communication conundrum. And I'd like to point out that this does not just have to do with being on stage in front of an audience.

00:01:08:07 - 00:01:27:10

It can also apply to when you're in a meeting, when you're running a meeting and all eyes are on you and you're delivering information, but you're also trying to make eye contact. So we're going to address how to start making eye contact the right way. Let's address how to remedy this situation.

00:01:33:00 - 00:01:59:21

Okay. So the first piece of advice that I have for you, if you're just starting off making eye contact and if it's something that is somewhat uncomfortable to you, what I like to tell my students and my clients, is that what you can start doing is float your gaze. So float your gaze above the audience's heads. Right. And basically, since you are not close to them in a meeting, this will be more obvious.

00:01:59:21 - 00:02:29:19

But let's say you're on stage. You can easily float your gaze without them thinking that you're not making eye contact because when you're floating your gaze, you're not making eye contact. However, this will start to ease you in to the idea of getting you comfortable with making eye contact. It's not always easy for someone to just jump into looking people in the eye and holding their gaze and locking the gaze for a couple of seconds, or merely seconds and then moving on to the next person in the audience.

00:02:29:28 - 00:02:52:28

So floating your gaze would be essentially looking directly above their heads. And when the audience is not that well-lit, let's say they're in the dark as the stage is. I'm thinking about a big stage here. So in that case, you can sort of just make out the silhouettes and look above, float your gaze above. Try not to do it too quickly.

00:02:52:29 - 00:03:22:16

Right. But just slow and steady and you can think of it as three parts, right? The stage is in left stage, center stage, and right stage. And you want to just make sure that you're addressing as many people in the audience as possible. So starting off with floating your gaze can really help ease when making eye contact. And then once you feel comfortable with floating your gaze, where you want to start doing is actually making eye contact.

00:03:23:03 - 00:03:46:10

So think of a friend or someone that you are close to that you're comfortable talking to. Right. And have these people in mind before you get up in front of people on stage or in a boardroom or in a meeting room, so that you are starting to feel more at ease as you're doing this. You also have to think about what you're going to say.

00:03:46:11 - 00:04:13:22

Right. So what I really like to encourage people to do is have that outline, that mental outline in their head. And again, this is something that you won't easily forget if you practice and prepare ahead of time. We're not talking about memorization. We're talking about being comfortable enough with the outline and the talking points that you can just think of a couple of words, keywords in your outline and be able to talk on that subject.

00:04:14:10 - 00:04:37:26

So the idea behind thinking of a friend is that you're more at ease. You're not too concerned about, Oh, who am I actually talking to here? Right. It's more so this person is someone that has these characteristics that I really admire in this person. Think of them in a positive light as opposed to I'm so nervous. They're judging me, they're evaluating me.

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It's not about that. It's “I'm creating a connection with them.” I'm building rapport with them and have that friend in mind. Now, what I really like to do, if you're really wanting to level up here and improve your eye contact so much more if and when you can meet a couple of people in the audience ahead of time.

00:04:55:24 - 00:05:15:00

If you can have a little bit of chit chat, have a little bit of small talk because that'll start to create that rapport that you have naturally with people that you're already close to. And also you'll be able to get their name right. So if someone says, Hi, I'm Tom, nice to meet you, or Hi, I'm Jennifer, nice to meet you.

00:05:15:07 - 00:05:33:24

And then you have their name in the back of your mind. You've already connected with this person ahead of your talk or the meeting. Let's say you don't know these people yet, right? Then you have that common ground that you're starting to establish. And what you can even do is say, Tom, in the audience or Jennifer in the audience.

00:05:33:24 - 00:05:54:10

I was talking to Jennifer about this topic or just finding a way to make a connection. You don't have to call out their name. But I had a professor, a rhetoric professor in college back in the day. And he liked to say to use their names, use the audience members' names. Obviously, this is easier and more feasible if you know the audience.

00:05:54:10 - 00:06:13:25

So in a situation where there's a meeting that you're holding and you know, everyone on the team, let's say, are in the department or people just in that meeting room at that time, then you can, you know, call out their name. And it's not in a way like putting them on the spot. It's more so to include that interactivity.

00:06:13:25 - 00:06:36:25

Right. So we're thinking about inclusion and interactivity here because of course, with good speech, you have those elements. So some things to think about, right? You start with the floating gaze when you're trying to acclimate to this. Making eye contact when public speaking and again on stage and in a meeting room. And then you're thinking about, well, okay, let's try to start now making eye contact.

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And instead of feeling threatened by it or intimidated or feeling like they're judging you, they're not. But of course, you might have these feelings running through your brain as you're presenting. Associate that person with someone you're close to. Right. So you think, okay, that person right there, you don't know them necessarily, let's say, but you're starting to familiarize yourself in a way if that makes sense.

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And again, this is just a mindset to have. So think of the audience members as your friends and people that you admire and like and where there's no judgment, no feeling of insecurity around. And then the last one really is to think about, okay, well, how can I build a rapport with these people ahead of time if you don't know the audience, let's say, try to get to know them.

00:07:26:29 - 00:07:57:01

Is there an opportunity to do that sometimes at, you know, meet and greets or conferences, you can start to see the audience and maybe even talk to them. You can introduce yourself, talk to them. They'll obviously probably know who you are if you're the speaker at this event or at this function, and just take it from there and then call them out by name again, not to put the spotlight on them, but to show that camaraderie, that rapport, and make it interactive that takes an okay speech and turns it into a wow speech.

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Right. And so we want to wow the audience. You don't want to have it be mediocre because then what's the point? Right. So these are some things to keep in mind as you are starting to make eye contact. Let me know how it goes. Which of these strategies do you think you'll start to implement right away? Are you comfortable making eye contact with people in one on one situations or in public speaking situations?

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Tell me what you like to do to help you remember and not get distracted. Right? We talked about the outline and then how to really start to focus on the person as well to make them feel like you're speaking to them. Right. Because a lot of times when you're speaking to an audience, there'll be a disconnect like you might not if you're not making eye contact, they might not feel like you're interacting with them.

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Nobody wants to be talked to or talked at. They want to be engaged with. So really thinking of that in that frame of mind, I think will help you start to, you know, incentivize you to make more eye contact in these kinds of situations and social interactions. All right, explorers, thank you so much for joining me. Feel free to send in more communication conundrums if you haven't already.

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Check out the form it's linked below, so definitely feel free to send in your question or comment or your communication conundrum and always feel free to comment below. And if you're listening to this as a podcast, then feel free to leave us a review. It really makes a difference when you engage with the podcast and you can leave up to five stars and feel free to share that and the channel as well.

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All right. I will see you in the next one. Bye for now and happy learning, everyone.