The ability to Engage with the presentation audience is a key skill that many presenters simply don’t possess. You might have a great presentation ready to deliver but if you cant really connect with the audience – engage with them – then you are unlikely to have a successful outcome.
But how do you engage with the audience? And is it a skill that can be developed?
The power of eye contact
When you’ve presented in the past, have you ever thought that your audience was like a sea of blank faces staring back at you? If you have, then it’s probably because you were treating the audience as one body – as a mass of people, rather than individuals.
To start to treat the audience as individuals you need to look at them – individually.
This means you need to make eye contact with individuals in the audience.
People are often hesitant about using eye contact – they feel it may intimidate their audience. But it actually has the opposite effect – it draws people in and engages them more fully.
Some help making eye contact
To help develop confident, controlled use of eye contact, practise this exercise.
You will need to stand in the middle of a room – ideally without anyone else there – as they will probably put you off or think you’re a little strange!!
Start to tell a story – something like what you have done today from when you got up in the morning, travelled to work, went to lunch etc.
As you recite your story – focus on different objects in the room for about three seconds at a time. For example, you can look at the door, then a picture on the wall, then the light, a chair, a plant etc. Try and spend about 3 seconds of eye contact on each in turn.
What you are now doing is giving eye contact around the room in a controlled and purposeful way. This is what you need to do with your audience – to keep everyone interested and involved.
Practise making eye contact
By practising this exercise it will soon become a habit that you can then start to utilise in earnest and thus share your eye contact around your presentation audience.
You will look more in control and you will also start to see a response from the audience.
So try the exercise at home a few times first … and then at your next presentation at work, start to share the eye contact with the audience.
Just remember to look at their eyes as you look around the room – and NOT the door, the picture on the wall, the light, etc that you did in the exercise!!