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Types of Nonverbal Communication Eye Contact

Of all types of nonverbal communication, one of the most important is good eye contact. Good eye contact engages us with the people we are talking to and allows us to establish a personal connection with them. This is equally true when talking one-on-one with someone, or talking to a group. But what do I mean by good eye contact?
types of nonverbal communication

Have you ever been in a situation when you’re in a conversation with someone; they seem to be talking to you but they’re not looking directly at you. Instead, they’re looking over your shoulder, or somewhere else. How did it make you feel? Were they really interested in you? Perhaps you felt they were deliberately avoiding eye contact because they were not being truthful. How did that make you feel? You see when we communicate, it’s not just the words we use that are important; its also the many types of nonverbal communication we make use of such as our body movements, postures, facial expressions and eye contact.

Eye contact during a presentation
I’ve seen so many people start a presentation and within seconds are looking at their notes or the screen. Just think of the impression this gives your audience on two levels: 1) It looks like you’re not sure about the subject you’re about to talk about, and 2) it appears you’re more interested in your notes than with them as real people. And if you are not interested in them, why should they be interested in you and what you have to say!

So, what can you do to avoid this and get your presentation off to a good start? You can make sure you have that first minute of your talk completely word perfect. You experience greatest anxiety at the beginning of a presentation, so having the start of your talk memorized makes you more comfortable.

If you feel awkward about making eye contact with a group of people, look for a member of your audience with a friendly face and establish eye contact with them first. You can then gradually make eye contact with the rest of the people in the room.

Once your presentation gets going, of course you will need to glance at your notes. There’s nothing wrong with that. Look down at your notes, get the information, then look up and deliver it face to face. This makes you feel and look confident.

Try to keep eye contact on one person for 3 to 5 seconds or until completing a thought, then move your eye contact to another person. Steady eye contact shows interest and honesty, and encourages participation. Don’t allow your eyes to dart consistently around the room. This is distracting for your audience and is perceived as nervousness. You should also avoid focusing too long on one individual as it may make that person feel uncomfortable.

If you have an important point to make, look at your audience. The point is much more powerful when it’s delivered directly at the audience rather than thrown away at the screen or to you notes.

If someone asks a question, make eye contact with that person. It shows you are interested in them and what they are saying. Then keep eye contact with them until you have answered the question.

For more information on other types of nonverbal communication, see Presenting Effectively: is Body Language Important?

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Types of Nonverbal Communication

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