Delivery Lesson Thirteen: Eye Contact


The biggest fear presenters seem to have is making eye contact with the audience.  Myths exist about how to deal with this fear: look at the wall behind the audience; look at the top of their heads; look at foreheads… Please don’t try any of this foolishness.  Come on.  The goal of speech delivery is to make a connection, and the only way you can connect is by making eye contact.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable.  It’s probably the worst part about public speaking delivery.  But your presentation needs eye contact in order to succeed.

Consider not using eye contact at all.  You can imagine what this is like by picturing a conversation between you and a group of friends over lunch.  What if you spoke to these friends without meeting any of their eyes for the duration of your lunch?  Those friends would think you were dishonest, deceptive, or, even worse, crazy.

Consider the most important benefit of eye contact: you establish that connection with your audience because they feel like you care about them.  Garr Reynolds asks, “How do you know if you are connecting?” (Source).  The answer can be found in Benjamin Zander’s TED Talk.  “How do you know if you are ‘awaking the possibility’ in each […] audience member, Zander asks. The answer?  ‘Look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it.’ Zander goes on to say ‘…if the eyes are not shining you have to ask yourself a question: who am I being that my player’s eyes are not shining?'” (Source).  Zander’s TED Talk is a must-watch, and if you take anything away from his delivery, take note of his eye contact with his TED audience.

What other crazy eye-contact gimmicks have you heard?  Why don’t those “tips” actually work when delivering a public speech?


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