Seven Reasons to Maintain Eye Contact in Every Presentation

Whether you are presenting your next big idea or conducting a virtual training on Zoom, eye contact is one of the most important body language gestures during presentations. Now that lots of meetings and engagement are happening online, it is important to master the art of virtual presentation if you want to communicate effectively.

Effective communication is not just about how you speak and what your say, but about your body language. According to a study by Albert Mehrabian, body language contributes 55% of the impact we create while communicating. Eye contact is one of the major pillars of body language. Several experts recommend keeping eye contact for at least 60% of the time during presentations. This percentage should even be higher for virtual presentations because the main form of body language during online video communication is eye contact.

If you are still wondering why eye contact is crucial during presentations, this article is for you. We shall discuss the benefits of keeping positive eye contact during virtual presentations, and how best to execute this strategy in real life. Let’s dive in.

  1. It portrays authority and confidence.

Just imagine you are virtually interviewing someone to become your potential employee, and during the entire interview, this person barely looks into your eyes. It will be hard for you to believe that this person knows what they are talking about, which automatically disqualifies them for the job. If you behave the same way during a virtual presentation, your audience will likely not believe or understand what you are presenting to them.

So, if you want to command authority during a virtual presentation, try as much as you can to look into the camera most of the time. If you have never conducted virtual presentations before, note that the eyes of your audience are in the camera. Before getting started, it necessary to know the position of the camera on the device you are using to communicate. Most of the time, the camera is in the middle of the upper bezel of the display if you are using a laptop or smartphone.

  1. Eye contact creates rapport with the audience

If you are presenting information to a new audience, it is crucial to create rapport if you want effective engagement with them. One of the tested ways of building rapport with a new audience is keeping eye contact, especially when introducing yourself and the topic you intend to present to them.

The first few seconds of your presentation are crucial, so always look right into the eyes of your audience with a smile before you introduce yourself and the topic you intend to share with them. This little gesture may seem minor to some, but it will play a very crucial role in the effectiveness of the next several minutes of your presentation.

  1. Eye contact is a sign of respect for your audience.

While presenting to any virtual audience, keeping your eyes on the camera will assure them that you value the time they put in to attend your presentation. However, if your eyes are not focusing on them, they may get an impression of you not taking them seriously, which will affect their level of focus and the degree of seriousness with which they take what you are sharing with them.

Remember, mutual respect is one of the pillars of effective communication. If your audience gets the impression of you not respecting their time, they will likely not respect you, either. At the end of the day, the impact of your presentation might be affected by something as simple as not keeping eye contact while communicating.

  1. It keeps your audience focused.

When the people you are presenting to know that you are looking directly into their eyes, they will often be more attentive than when your eyes are wandering all over. So, whether you are having a virtual meeting with your co-worker or presenting an idea to potential investors, try as much as you can to look into the camera if you want them to fully pay attention to what you are talking about.

Just like the little kids in kindergarten pay more attention when they know their teacher is looking at them, you also need to keep your audience 100% attentive by looking directly into their eyes. If your audience consists of more than one person, you can alternate who you are looking to, ensuring that each feels your attention.

You also need to remember that concentration is even harder during virtual presentations because the people you are communicating with are in a different environment, which may at times be more distracting than a physical conference room. Eye contact in this kind of scenario is even more relevant.

If you keep eye contact in virtual presentations, you will always notice your audience will have many more questions for you, which shows they were attentive all through the live session. The lack of questions after any presentation usually means the audience was not actively following what is going in the virtual presentation.

  1. It improves your concentration.

In any presentation, both the speaker and the audience need to have their entire focus on the presentation. Keeping eye contact with your audience while speaking or when they are asking you follow-up questions will help your concentration, making for a better presentation.

When you have your full concentration on the presentation, it will be much easier to explain whatever information you want to Passover to your audience. That is why it is necessary to eliminate any destructions around you, especially if you intend to conduct a virtual presentation from home. If you have kids or a dog, make sure they are not within close vicinity to avoid becoming distracted while you are making your presentation.

  1. It creates an emotional connection with your audience.

Humans are emotional beings, and any conversation that triggers our emotions will often have more impact on us. If you want your virtual audience on the other side to be emotionally connected with you, always look straight into the camera to portray the message you are trying to put across.

With the right tone of voice and eye contact, you should be assured of instantly creating an emotional connection with your virtual audience. Looking into the eyes of the people you are speaking to will also give you an idea of whether they understand what you are presenting to them or not. This information can help you decide how best to explain yourself to ensure the people you are communicating with understand the message you are sending out.

  1. Your audience will stay engaged.

Whenever you use your eyes to scan the people you are speaking to, you will start noticing them smiling or nodding their heads in agreement with what you are sharing with them. When the audience is engaged to this level, it gives them the confidence to ask a question in case they have anything they haven’t understood regarding the information you have presented to them.

An engaging audience will also encourage you to go on with the presentation because you will be convinced that the people you are talking to value the information you are presenting to them. Without effective eye contact, it might be hard for you to get this kind of feedback.

How to improve your eye contact

Now that you know why eye contact is crucial while doing virtual presentations, let us look at how best to execute this strategy.

  • Make sure you look at everyone

If there are a couple of people in the audience, don’t just focus your eyes on one person. Try as much as you can to look at every member in your audience for an equal amount of time. However, while looking at a specific individual, it is necessary to mind the number of seconds you spend looking at them because some may get shy because of this.  

Even if it is a virtual conversation, it is easy for someone to see that you are looking at them. You may opt to look only at a certain individual in the audience whenever you are directly sending a specific message to them during the presentation. For instance, if you are speaking to your team and the section of the presentation you are currently sharing is about accounting, it makes more sense to look at the accountant more during that segment.

  • Be fully prepared

One of the common reasons a presenter may feel shy about looking into the eyes of the audience is that they are unsure of what they are talking about. If you are confident about what you are presenting, it will be easier for you to look directly into the eyes of your audience as you speak to them.

So, always do enough preparation a day before the presentation and be confident that you clearly understand everything you are going to present. You may even have to rehearse how you will speak to your audience, especially for the first few seconds of the presentations.

  • Avoid staring at your phone.

While presenting, you may at times want to look at your phone, where perhaps you recorded the pointers of your presentation in one of the note-taking apps. However, this will affect the effectiveness of your eye-contact because your audience may start losing focus whenever you look  away from them to stare at your phone.

The best way to handle this kind of situation is by having your notes pinned on the laptop you are using to do the video conferencing. You may even opt to put the video conferencing app in one window and the pointers of your presentation in another. This way, your audience may not even notice when you are looking at your notes because your eyes will appear as if they are in the same position.

  • Take note of the facial gestures made by your audience

While presenting to a virtual audience, it is very crucial to look at the facial gestures of all the members involved. This will give you an idea of whether your audience understands the information you are delivering to them. For instance, if you make a joke, you expect your audience on the other side to smile or even laugh. But if they don’t, then either the joke you made is not funny, or they are not following the presentation.

The way your audience behaves should determine your own facial gestures as well. Take an example; if all the people you are communicating with are putting on smiley faces, you may want to smile back.

Final thoughts

Eye contact plays a very big role in the effectiveness of your presentation. You will notice a very huge difference in the level of focus of your audience when you constantly look at them while presenting and when you don’t. Audience members tend to stay engaged and focused on the presentation when they know the speaker is looking at them.

For more effective communication, you also need to try as much as you can to eliminate any distractions in your environment before the presentation. Your audience needs to know that the person speaking to them is fully focused on the topic – and on them!

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