How was she going to remember everything?
As the clock ticked closer to 10am Carole’s heart started to thump.
Why hadn’t she practiced more?
At least she had her slides.
Carole’s boss finished talking and motioned for her to take the stage.
She tried to stand and felt her legs buckle. Leaning against the chair in front of her, Carole steadied herself and moved to the front of the room.
Her boss passed the laser-pointer to her like a relay baton.
It was showtime!
Carole flicked to her first slide and began introducing herself.
Hands clasped in front of her, choking the laser-pointer, she read through her agenda slide.
As she read, Carole turned her body side-on to the audience.
Throughout the remainder of her slides, she talked, read, and occasionally glanced at the audience for confirmation, before returning her gaze to her slides.
At the end of her presentation Carole took questions. She was happy to only receive a couple of basic questions. Nothing tough.
It was over!
Carole’s presentation was not well-received.
Most of the audience was bored to tears, hoping for the pain to end quickly. Most people felt they had wasted their time.
Whilst no presentation is perfect, and there is always room for improvement, Carole made one fundamental mistake that overshadowed every part of her delivery.
No eye contact!
This is a mistake that thousands upon thousands of business presenters make every day. It’s the difference between success and failure.
Eye contact is so important for a presentation for key reasons:
Imagine you are in a business meeting. You are negotiating a deal to purchase a new boatload of widgets. Your counterpart is offering a slightly higher than reasonable price. When you try to negotiate the price down he explains why it is difficult to give a discount.
Every time he speaks he avoids eye contact.
His lack of eye contact makes you struggle to find his reasoning believable. You doubt what he is saying. Surely if he was being truthful he would make eye contact with you?
Eye contact is an essential ingredient to being credible, trustworthy, and believable.
Lack of eye contact displays a lack of confidence.
It is hard to listen to a presenter who lacks confidence.
If the speaker lacks confidence in their product, idea, or process why should the listener have confidence in it?
It is hard to establish a personal connection with someone who avoids eye contact.
A successful speaker needs to establish rapport between themselves and the audience. Eye contact is essential for this.
How to maintain eye contact with your audience
It is important to maintain eye contact with your audience.
It is also important to note that good eye contact doesn’t mean staring for long periods at individuals.
Good eye contact is a continually roving glance at people’s faces. Far less than a second at each person’s face.
The best way to ensure you have good eye contact with your audience is to know your presentation content well. That way you can deliver your speech without having to look at your slides.
Unfortunately, in business, we are time-poor. This can prevent us doing sufficient preparation to deliver a speech by heart. Often we need to use the slides as a prompting device.
How can we maintain eye contact with the audience when we need to check our slides (as Carole did)?
The trick is to place the laptop computer in front of you. Then, you can check your slides by looking at the laptop screen. By doing so, you’ll be facing the audience and it doesn’t become distracting.
Maintain eye contact and notice the increased audience engagement!
Daniel Kingsley has a great article on eye contact here. (Opens in a new tab)