(Watch this video, also about eye contact!)
It’s time for your presentation. You walk to the front, go to the laptop and realise that you need to open your Powerpoint. You minimise the previous speaker’s Powerpoint, look around on the desktop for yours, but can’t find it.
Ah, there it is. Double click. Wait for it to load.
Wait a bit more.
There it is. Finally. Everyone can see your first five slides on the left side, so you hit F5 to go to presentation view. Right. Let’s do this. You look at the projector screen and start talking. Ten seconds later – and a full minute into your presentation – you look at your audience… for the FIRST time. It’s a bit of a surprise: some people are looking at you in a bored way, others aren’t looking at you at all, and overall you feel something’s amiss.
The fact is, something awful has happened – you’ve failed to connect because you didn’t utilise the most basic element of personal human communication: looking them in the eye. The whole point of presentations (over just sending the material via email or posting it online) is that you’re physically in the same room as your audience; that presence can be very powerful indeed.
Maintain eye contact and deliver your material with conviction. Need to increase the engagement? Get a little closer (even better, walk through the audience if you can, while maintaining eye contact). Look at everyone at least once; make everyone feel (even if it’s only for a moment) that you’re speaking directly to them. Show that you’re genuinely interested in your audience.
Fix them in the eye, and deliver your final line. Maintain eye contact, smile and say ‘thank you’. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to fizzle out pathetically by looking at your slides and mumbling that ‘you think that’s it’. Your audience deserves better.