You’ve just given your first update to the senior leadership team. To be asked to speak was a huge opportunity, but to be honest you’re just glad it’s done. The CEO didn’t ask you any questions (thank goodness!) and you did everything in your power to avoid looking anywhere near the Sales Director because this proposal = work for her team.
In fact, you did your best to avoid looking at anyone. You could only imagine the whole senior leadership team glaring at you, getting ready to pounce.
While you covered all the points in your slides without exposing yourself as the nervous wreck that you were, you walked away wondering if anyone was listening. Perhaps you weren’t as persuasive or engaging as you could have been? In fact, you remember seeing a few of the team looking at their phones.
You’d been so focused on perfecting the content that you didn’t spend any time practicing your delivery. You forgot to read the mood in the room or take a breath for that matter.
In short, you missed the opportunity to be taken seriously and get your point across!
The importance of eye contact!
If there is one thing that tells us that the speaker is lacking confidence – it’s not looking their audience in the eye. Without making eye contact, you won’t build your credibility, you’ll appear less competent and frankly you’d be lucky if anyone was listening at all.
The above scenario is all too common amongst managers, project leads or key influencers when they’re first invited to present to a senior audience. Their preparation is spent on getting the content, slides and details right in an attempt to look ‘worthy’ of being in their presence. As a result, no time is spent practicing the delivery and they end up reading off their slides. The Sales Director could have been sitting there wearing a Mexican Sombrero, and they wouldn’t have noticed!
Despite your natural instinct, the #1 way to build credibility, fake confidence and get your point across is to look people in the eye!
Here are some Insider Tactics to help you introduce more eye contact into your presentations
The most persuasive presenters spend up to 90% of their presentation looking audience members in the eye.
When you first start out with deliberate eye contact, it’s often awkward for the presenter (and the sometimes even the audience members), but using these simple tactics will help you move from wallflower to noteworthy speaker with ease:
- Open and close by making eye contact with the most senior person or decision maker in the room. This is a great way to capture their interest early on and again when you’re summarising your key points and call-to-action.
- Search for a friendly person in the room – you know, the one that is smiling back at you, listening intently. This will give you an all-important confidence boost when you begin. This could be someone in your team, or someone you interact with frequently. But be careful not to get sucked in by their enthusiasm and forgot to move onto other people – your “friendly supporter” is already engaged so don’t miss the opportunity to engage others!
- Use “punctuation phases” to ensure you don’t stare at one person. When starting out, it’s easy to stay focused on the friendly person and forget to move your gaze around the room. This can be uncomfortable for the audience member you’re desperately staring down. To avoid doing this, move your gaze each time you’d punctuate your sentence.
- Randomly move from one person to the next. From an audience member’s perspective, there is nothing worse than feeling like you’re in the eye contact firing line.
- Connect with the person that’s most relevant to the point. If you’re making a point that directly impacts someone in the room or they’re considered a subject-matter-expert on, make eye contact with them. Not only is it an easy reminder for you to move your gaze to that person, it’s a good way to acknowledge that you’ve considered them and build rapport.
- Don’t skimp on the preparation. Preparation is always key if you’re looking to persuade an audience. Make sure you spend as much of your time practicing delivery, as you do on preparing the content. Get comfortable moving away from your notes and moving your gaze across the room – build in prompts to remind you.
And as always, if you want some one-on-one guidance in a safe environment, contact TACTICIAN.