Are You Looking at Me?
We’ve called upon our resident presentation delivery expert, Sharon Merrill President David Calusdian, to teach us to become better speakers – whether at meetings, in investor conferences, or during more personal settings. This four-part conversation provides a taste of the good, and bad, habits of executive presenters, with a few tips for improvement along the way. Today’s post is Part II in the series.
- The Podium: Today we’re going to discuss eye contact and how we can use it effectively during our presentations. Why don’t we start with improving eye contact when using a projection screen, as with a PowerPoint presentation?
DC: Maintaining good eye contact with the audience is critical. You should look at a screen only if you need to see the text or graphics on the slide in order to speak to either. In such a circumstance, glance very quickly to the screen, then back to your audience. This will allow you to maintain the audience’s attention while also directing them to specific elements of your slide.
- The Podium: You mentioned eye contact is good. We’ve probably all heard that, but why is it true?
DC: By using eye contact, you, as a speaker, force the audience to pay attention to you. Some people try to simulate this by looking at a “dot” at the back of a room or by scanning across an audience to reach as many people as possible. In actuality, neither of these is effective. If there are 100 people in the room, think about having 100 individual conversations versus one conversation with 100 people. To do this, establish real eye contact with one person at a time as you look around the room – versus just scanning the room.
- The Podium: That’s an interesting way of thinking about a group presentation. So, by increasing eye contact, you’re getting people to pay attention to what you’re saying. What are the benefits of that?
DC: Most importantly, it creates a connection to the audience. Subconsciously, they are more interested in what you have to say, because they feel you are talking to them. Besides, they are less likely to look at their phones if they know you’re about to look at them!
- The Podium: That actually sounds relatively easy. What would be a poor use of eye contact?
DC: Shifting your eyes back and forth can send a negative signal. It shows that a speaker is nervous.
- The Podium: I’ve read that shifty eyes also indicate defensiveness or that you’re untrustworthy. The term “snake oil salesman” comes to mind.
DC: By definition, if you’re shifting your eyes, you’re not making eye contact. And if someone’s not looking you in the eyes, you tend to wonder what they’re up to. The use of good body language in delivering a presentation is all about building credibility – and using good eye contact is key to that.
- The Podium: The Podium: Thanks for taking the time today, David. We’re looking forward to our next conversation, when we’ll be discussing the use of voice.