You may be wondering if you make enough eye contact during your presentations. The only way to know is to ask someone in your audience whom you trust to deliver the objective answer with compassion. Most people will tell you your presentation was great, even if they snoozed through it. Nobody wants to hurt your feelings, and they’re probably grateful it was you in the hot seat and not them.
This question comes to mind because of my experience with a delightful chef’s cooking class last week. He was attractive, energetic, funny and knowledgeable, but he wasn’t making eye contact, unless someone asked him a question.
It’s a bit awkward for the audience when the speaker doesn’t look them in the eye, especially if it’s not a huge audience. It’s like being in a conversation with someone who doesn’t look you in the eye.
If you’re speaking on television, or in a full auditorium, you can’t see anyone’s eyes so making eye contact is not a problem. In fact in those contexts, it’s impossible.
If you’re speaking to a group of 10 to 40 people, you definitely want to make eye contact. It’s expected. If you don’t make sufficient eye contact, your audience wonders if they can trust you.
It’s easy, you find a friendly face and start your presentation. Then move from side to side, making eye contact with one person and then another. That’s called “scanning” your audience.
If you start staring at someone, you’re probably distracted and certainly distracting.
Don’t forget that you audience wants you to succeed. They want you to engage them. They also want you to look them in the eye.