Eye Contact in Speeches
'Some people have trouble looking at people in the eyes and for an excellent speech you must do this. But I have a cheat way of doing it! People think you are looking at them but they are wrong.
First you must know your speech. This is vital so you can pretend to be looking at the people listening to you rather than at your notes.
Because starting your speech is the hardest part scan your eyes across the back of the room until your familiar with your audience. This gives the impression you are giving eye contact without actually looking at anyone directly.'
Alexia is right. Eye contact is a vital ingredient in giving an excellent speech. She's also right that faking it, (scanning the back of the room at eye level), can be a good coping strategy when you're feeling very nervous and don't think you can deal with real eyes meeting yours, particularly at the beginning of a speech.
But let's take 'eye contact' a step or two further and look at what can happen if we can get over the nervous jitters and the need to pretend.
For real communication there needs to be a two way exchange between the giver, the speaker, and the receiver, the audience.
To do that well, you do as Alexia says, need eye contact and to know your speech. Reading your notes, or looking at your power point presentation preclude that.
Once you know your material you're free to talk to your audience directly - to meet their eyes.
One way to approach that is to think of them as a friend. Bunch all those people into one and consider them as someone who already knows you, as someone with whom you already have a good rapport and who wants to know hear what you have to say. If you were talking with this person you'd be making eye contact regularly.
Now holding that idea of the audience as one, deliver your first thought to someone in the second row, the next to someone in the middle, the following to a person at the side of the room and so on throughout the room and the duration of your speech.
Don't do this mechanically otherwise it will become predictable and quite obviously false but do practice spreading 'your friendship' evenly through the audience. It will increase your sense of being heard and listened to as well as being a better experience for the audience too. They will feel met - talked with rather than at.
PS. If you find the 'friend' angle too difficult to imagine, try 'interested colleague' instead.
And if you find the idea of direct eye contact with your audience scary understand that in 99.9999% of circumstances an audience is not your enemy. They are not out to get you and neither are they are there primarily to listen to you. They actually want to hear your message!
Establishing and maintaining eye contact with an audience is part of building rapport. Find out more by clicking the link.
And for 5 great exercises to teach students how to make eye content when delivering a speech click: why is eye contact important.
Thank you for posting Alexia! It's really appreciated.