Everyone knows that it is important to maintain eye contact with the audience when speaking in public. But why and how exactly should you do this?
Firstly, let’s address the ‘why’. Eye contact is important for two reasons. Firstly, it is the best means for you as the speaker to gather information from the audience. Looking the public in the eye allows you to quickly and effectively understand whether your message has hit home, and if it has been understood. Secondly, communication of any sort is a transfer of energy. What type of emotion and energy are you trying to convey to your audience? Amusement, excitement, curiosity? Eye contact will allow you to evaluate your success in transferring the desired energy.
In terms of ‘how’, it is important to find a balance. You do not want to stare at one single person, or indeed look away from the audience. The ideal way to use eye contact is to look at a different person for each point that you make. Each time you switch to a new point, move your eye contact to a new person in the audience. Move your eyes around the room, making a butterfly shape so that you cover all the corners of the room.
Get it right and eye contact can be a powerful tool in keeping your audience invested and interested in your presentation or speech.