Presentation Tips: Communicate with Your Eyes

One of the most important presentation tips we teach in our presentation skills courses has to do not with speaking, but with looking.

Let me depart from presentation tips for a moment to give you some background. If you give somebody a visual stimulus and ask them to press a button every time they see the stimulus, they are likely to do it with a high degree of accuracy, provided they have two eyes and their vision is in good working order. If you do the same thing with an auditory stimulus, they are likely to do that with a high degree of accuracy as well, again provided their hearing is in good working order. But if you give them both visual and auditory stimuli, they will miss some of the auditory stimuli. Sometimes they won’t even be aware of it. This is called the Colavita visual dominance effect, and it has been proved experimentally many times since it was first shown in 1974.

Researchers argue over whether this bias toward vision takes place in the senses or in perception. But it does seem to demonstrate persuasively that human beings favor vision over the other senses in their perception of the world.

What does that have to do with presentation tips?

Bias toward vision can affect your poise as a presenter because there is a lot of visual stimulation in a roomful of people. And if you try to take all that stimulation in at once, your visual sense can be overwhelmed, and in most human beings, this creates at least anxiety and sometimes even panic. So the best of Communispond’s presentation tips is to keep visual stimulation from overwhelming you.

That may seem easier said than done, but there’s a technique for controlling visual stimulation. First, don’t let yourself scan the audience. Second, deliver each point to an individual member of the audience. Focus your gaze on a single person, deliver a point, then focus on another person. This slows the sweep of your gaze over the audience and limits the amount of visual information you take in. Because it puts you in control of your visual stimuli, it helps you control your anxiety level. Furthermore, among presentation tips, this one has a particularly high impact, because it affects not only your poise but your connection with the audience.

When you address individual audience members in this way, you make your presentation more conversational. The audience members feel you are speaking with them individually, and they connect with you. And focusing on single audience members also makes you appear more trustworthy because you don’t have shifty eyes. Shifty eyes may not actually be a sign of villainous intent, but that’s how they are interpreted. So when you are looking for presentation tips to use the next time you have to give a presentation, remember to communicate with your eyes for audience engagement and your own self-control.

A good source of presentation tips is the Communispond ProSpeak app for smartphones, which does more than tell you how to prepare for and deliver your presentation. It can even watch you practice and give you pointers on your vocal power, your energy, and your stance.


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