When delivering a speech to an audience of peers, or in front of business professionals, or even in a one-on-one conversation an important element shows sincerity but is often missed. That is eye contact. Eye contact with your audience opens the lines of communication, makes you more believable, and keeps your audience interested (Beebe & Beebe, 2006). Continuing to make eye contact with your audience can also give you the insight to monitor the attention your audience is giving you. A speaker who is withdrawn from the audience dismisses their credibility and effort to actively engage with the audience.
Eye contact can be used to as an effective nonverbal gesture. Using eye contact before even beginning a speech suggests to your audience that you are prepared and ready to deliver. Beebe and Beebe (2006) gives insight to how the audience can receive the message that “I am interested in you; tune me in; I have something I want to share with you” (p 281). With enough preparation, a speaker should have the opening sentence attention grabber well enough in mind so that you don’t have to look at an outline or note cards so the focus is still on the audience for what new information will be presented. Using eye contact with your audience is not a focus on one specific audience member, or the professor, or just one side of the room. Eye contact is not looking at the audience who is not paying attention to you. Also, eye contact is not the audience looking at you while you remain fixed on note cards or an outline either (Fraleigh & Tuman, 2009). Lets understand that eye contact is an excellent way to set the tone for your speech by showing interest, provide credibility and interaction with the audience, and allows you to monitor the audience reaction to the information you present and how your audience responds to your delivery.
Beebe, S. & Beebe, S. (2006). Public speaking: An audience-centered approach. (6th ed.) Pearson Education Incorporated, USA.
Fraleigh, D. & Tuman, J (2009). Speak up: An illustrated guide to public speaking. Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston, MA.