Remember a time when you wanted to communicate with a childhood friend secretly but without your teacher knowing? What did you do? Most probably, you looked at your friend straight in the eye, and quickly glanced at the door with the fullest force of your eyebrows. It was the purest form of communication: eye contact.
The psychology of eye contact goes deeper than just childhood habits. It satisfies a more profound need for all of us to be seen, to matter.
If you are in the audience, the presenter doesn’t need to look directly in the eye to engage you. The impact of eye contact can be felt as long as the speaker seems to look at your direction. So if it’s your turn to speak, it’s wise to share your eye contact love equally to as many numbers of people as possible.
Yet, there is such a thing as staring too much at someone, so where should you direct your eye contact and for how long?
Easy. Plant friendly faces on each corner of the room: two at the front and two at the back. These are your friends, whom you’re comfortable staring at for an extended period. Instead of sharing your attention to everybody, you only need to care about these four faces.
Start from the front faces, and perform a swipe with your laser-focused eyes, i.e. if you start from the front-right corner, go to the back-right corner, then to the back-left, then the front-left. Change the direction of your glance swiftly back to the back-left. It shouldn’t look like you’re jumping from one corner to the other. Imagine an electric fan swivelling side-to-side consistently.
They say “eye contact is more intimate than words will ever be”. Not using it to communicate your next presentation will be a misfortune.
This post was originally published on 21 Feb 2019, and was updated on 22 Feb 2019.
CEO & Co-founder of Get Sandwich
Martha coaches people presenting on startup pitches and science presentation grants. When she's not hard at work helping people present better, she can be found travelling around the globe and eating delicious delicacies.