How Conventional Public Speaking Training Misses the Point
To ask people to speak and look directly in the eyes of the listener often goes against conventional public speaking training. Many programs tell people who are afraid of audiences to look at a spot on the back of the wall and avoid the listeners. The problem with this technique is that the wall isn’t interested in your message and it won’t give you a response. You miss the opportunity to hand-deliver your words and be with people as they receive them.
Ignoring the audience by focusing your attention somewhere else leaves your listeners out of the relationship you could be creating. “Which do you think is going to give you something back, the ceiling or the person you’re talking to?” asks Gary Genard of Public Speaking International.
When You Avoid Looking at People, You Avoid Connection
When you are nervous and your anxiety is high, looking someone in the eye can be a distraction. You might see judgment or indifference or some other negative response. But when you avoid directly engaging with people, you lose connection with them. The truth is that they want you to relate to them; they want your attention. So include your listeners in the conversation. They will appreciate it if you are a real person, a genuine human being who communicates more completely. Take the risk and look at them.
“Eye Presence” – A New and Gentler Way of Thinking About “Eye Contact”
- Soften your gaze.
- Let your eyes be relaxed.
- Let them land softly on your listeners.
- Allow the audience to be able to look you straight in the eye
- Let them see your sincerity and the bright beam of energy that shines from your Essential Self.
Doreen’s Essential Speaking Tip:
You can begin to practice “eye presence” right now. Begin by looking at yourself in the mirror. Focus on your eyes. Now imagine that the one is the mirror is the audience. How does it feel to be looked at? Now follow the steps above, beginning with softening your gaze. Do you notice anything different in the eyes of the image in the mirror? Stay with this exercise for at least five minutes.