When you look into the sea of faces in your audience, have you noticed that there are some people who smile? Whatever the reason, every audience has smilers and they can be found throughout the room when you are speaking. It just happens. Whether you are presenting to 5 people or 500, there are always smilers and those are the ones that you should target during your talk.
It is extremely important to make eye contact when speaking and is one of the 5 characteristics of dynamic speakers. Forget the advice you may have heard to imagine your audience is sitting in their underwear. Forget the idea you may have been taught to stare at an object on the wall. Neither is sound advice. Instead, look at those who are sitting in attendance and zero in on your smilers.
I cannot tell you how many times I have felt tremendous confidence when I see those people in the audience beaming up at me. There may only be a handful of happy faces but you don't need more. Chances are they will be spread throughout the room; and, when you direct your gaze to one of those who is smiling in delight, everyone in the vicinity will think you are looking at them. It works every time, even when it is a smaller group.
One of the things many novice speakers possess is lack of confidence because their nervousness is in control of them instead of the other way around. I love nervousness. It is that rush of adrenaline that stimulates your senses, sharpens your wits, and makes you more alert. Learning how to control your nervousness, however, and allowing it to work for you instead of against you is what you should strive to achieve.
To avoid looking at your audience, to avoid making eye contact is a sure sign of your discomfort. In fact, by not looking at those in attendance, you are telling them that you would rather be somewhere else. Indeed, you may wish that you were somewhere other than addressing an audience. But your body language, specifically where you address your sights, should not be a dead giveaway that you are uncomfortable, nervous, or dying a thousand deaths.
I guarantee that if you know your material in advance and can make that eye contact by targeting your smilers, you will feel more confident and also happier to be speaking.
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 voice and presentation skills, and visit Voice Dynamic for her 4-minute presentation, The 5 Characteristics of Dynamic Public Speakers.