It was William Shakespeare who once wrote, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” As speakers, we should express soul in every one of our speeches. It is what elevates a dull speech to a riveting one. In harmony with Shakespeare, one of the best ways to achieve a heartfelt speech is by using powerful eye contact.
Shifty, darting or blinking eyes, gazing at the ceiling or the floor—these are all distracting behaviors for any audience—especially the one you’re sitting in! Powerful eye contact helps you engage and energize any audience. It invites a level of intimacy that creates a compelling connection for meaningful communication to occur. At DeFinis Communications, we teach five important rules to help keep your audience focused on you and your message:
Look, connect and complete. To create intimacy and connection with an audience look at one person for a full three to five seconds. It takes practice to stay focused on one person but it’s a great skill to cultivate. When you look into someone’s eyes and complete an entire thought you will appear confident, prepared and fully engaged. And here’s a secret for you. Even if you’re nervous no one will know it.
Cover the crowd. When speaking to a large group, use a geometric pattern to help you cover the entire audience. Divide the group into quadrants and then using a random pattern look at someone in the middle of each quadrant. You will most likely not be able to look directly into their eyes—but you will see some part of them and that creates a focal point.
Engage and involve everyone. If you are speaking to a medium group be careful of looking only at the most interested or smiling faces. Engage everyone, even if they look less involved. The more you spread your eye contact throughout your audience the easier it is for the group to concentrate on you and your message.
Create the illusion. In small groups make sustained eye contact with everyone; but, in a larger audience, create the illusion of “looking and seeing” by slightly raising your chin and looking out toward the middle and back of the audience. When you show intention and focus your eyes on a specific part of the audience you will look believable, credible and confident.
Make eye contact as you move. Action is engaging! So move into the group when you are looking at an individual. To stimulate an even greater response, nod your head as you make eye contact and move. Yes, you can walk and chew gum at the same time-- and when you do you will find that people automatically sit up, wake up and hang on to your every word.
So envision yourself as Shakespeare’s Cleopatra or Julius Caesar as you address your “subjects.” Command Egypt and Rome with powerful eye contact. Make the connection and keep it soulful. This is no easy task, and will require time and practice to learn these skills. But soon your speeches will become as epic as the characters you’re emulating.