As an actor, I can barely see my audience since they are sitting out there somewhere in the dark theater. Without my glasses, even those people in the front rows lit by the glow of the stage are just mannequins to me. But, light up a room to give a speech and BAM! ….there are real breathing people watching me. It used to make me somewhat uncomfortable.
There are a few tricks people offer to manage the terror of a crowd looking back at you. None of them are good.
- Imagine they are naked.
- Look to the back of the room.
- Have an adult beverage before you speak.
If you really want to control the jitters, do just one thing: Look ‘em in the eye.
By making eye contact you make a connection with your audience. Your presentation is no longer an oratory to the masses but a one on one conversation with the people you gaze upon. You’ll get feedback from them, you will engage them, and they will connect with you.
Eye contact is becoming a lost art.
Flirting used to be done with a glance and a grin… now it is an emoji and anxious moments waiting for a text back. It is a less efficient means of communication. Go direct and catch their eye, cut out the middleman.
The easiest way to practice making eye contact is with friends and family. Start by putting your phone down the next time one of your inner circle speaks to you and look them directly in the eye. You might need to wait a few seconds for them to catch on and to look up from their own digital brain. But once they do, you may hear a celestial choir sing.
Making that eye contact tells them that they are the only focus of your life at that very moment. It proves that what they are saying or what you are telling them is very important. It is so important that you needed to see the windows to their very soul to know that the message is being received.
Test it in the real world.
Your next step is to take your show on the road. When you order coffee or pick up your groceries actually look into the eyes of the person behind the register and say “Thank You!” It could be an earth-shattering experience for the clerk because you acknowledged them visually and verbally.
Spend the rest of your day purposefully making eye contact. It will be odd at first, but the more you work on it the easier it will be. Soon you’ll find that it’s like a super power. You’ll make instant connections with people, they will think you are a wonderful communicator, and your confidence will get a boost, too.
Then when you stand in front of your next audience you’ll look ‘em in the eye and think, “I got this!”