If you have trouble making eye contact with your audience, I suggest you make every attempt to change that practice. A young lawyer with whom I was working would glance about the room, briefly looking at someone and then immediately glancing at someone else, never actually seeing any of us in his audience. At first, you would think he was making eye contact but as he continued in this pattern, you realized that he saw no one in his audience.
A furtive glance tells your listeners that you have something to hide. At the lectern, it means that:
1. you are not comfortable with public speaking;
2. you are more concerned with your agenda than with the needs of your audience; or,
3. you do not want to acknowledge those who have gone out of their way to be in attendance.
If you have difficulty making eye contact, then rest assured you are not communicating with your listeners: you are spitting out words, hoping to get it over with as quickly as possible.
Now admittedly, if you are addressing a large audience, you will not be able to make eye contact with every individual. By focusing your attention on different parts of the room, however, everyone in that particular area will think that you are looking at them. While you may not be able to meet the gaze of everyone, you will be able to recognize how receptive your audience is to what you are saying
Your goal in public speaking is to impart a message but if you are unaware of your audience’s reaction to you, then you are unaware of how your words are being perceived, understood or accepted. And, unless they are verbally responding to you, the only way you can know whether those in attendance are accepting of you or not is by making eye contact with them, just as you would were you having a conversation in your living room.
There is an art to public speaking. A furtive glance, staring at an object on the wall, or keeping your sight above the heads of your audience is not part of that art. Making eye contact is.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit Voice Dynamic.
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