What’s the Purpose of Eye Contact?

WRITTEN May 3, 2018 Author: Rich Atkins

What are your eyes doing during a presentation or a conversation?

Think about it. Are they looking down at your hands or your notes? Do they gaze out the window or over the heads of the audience? Or are you staring at just one person the entire time you’re speaking?

Maybe you’ve never considered it before, but making eye contact is an easy way to increase your confidence when talking.

Here are three reasons why eye contact will help you present yourself stronger in front of an audience:

1. Builds Rapport

The simple art of looking at people, rather than at your notes or a PowerPoint presentation, will allow you to connect with those in the room. This connection makes your listeners feel special, appreciated, and respected. It allows them to feel like they matter and have a purpose for being there in the room with you.

Connect with as many people as you can throughout your speech rather than just turning your eyes to one side of the room. That way, your entire audience will feel included.

Your Eyes in terms of body language
You often hear a lot of talk about “body language” where it refers only to stance and hand movement. Body language is how we present ourselves and communicate with others without talking. The eyes play a huge role in non-verbal communication. Do your eyes “speak” for you?

Why is eye contact is important?

  • LISTENING: Eye contact shows that you are a good listener! When you pay attention and look directly at the speaker, it indicates that you might actually be listening to what that person has to say.
  • TRUST: When you maintain eye contact, you display your confidence and go a long way towards building trust. It puts out to the world that you are open to communication and will share your thoughts and ideas.
  • NOT HIDING: In the same way, when you avoid eye contact you are conveying a need to hide. Closing that communication channel can impact your relationship with a single person as well as with an entire room. If you do not have the confidence to openly share what you are saying, how can they?
Strong eye contact is a vital skill for open communication and although it is often under-rated it is imperative. Make eye contact with the person (or audience) you are talking to and share with them your interest and enthusiasm for the discussion.

2. Provides an Understanding of Your Audience

Be aware of facial expressions while you’re making eye contact. It’s an easy and quick way for you to tell if the people in the room are listening, bored, excited, or confused. With that knowledge, you can pause for questions or make adjustments to your speech to keep it engaging.

3. Communicates Confidence

Looking at your audience shows confidence. It’s a nonverbal social cue that expresses assertiveness, self-esteem, and the notion that you are prepared to speak about the topic.

Consider eye contact another secret weapon to add your Public Speaking and Presentation Skills toolbox. Use it to help you build rapport with an audience, understand their reactions, and communicate with confidence.

This information is discussed in our Introductory and Advanced Public Speaking and Presentation Skills curriculum. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.


Other Resources:

Fascinating Facts About Eye Contact

How making eye contact can help you appear more confident at work

Eye Contact Can be Overwhelming

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