Eye contact communication: with benefits, steps and tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Holding eye contact can be a powerful form of respect in meetings, job interviews and workplace conversations. It can make your speech or presentation more impactful. It can also help your message to be compelling and demonstrates your interest in others and what they have to say. In this article, we discuss the importance of maintaining eye contact and highlight steps and tips you can take to engage in eye contact communication.

How to use eye contact communication

Using eye contact communication with others during a job interview or a speech can make your statement more impactful. Eye contact can capture your audience's attention and keep them engaged with the message of your conversation. Here are some steps to make better eye contact during presentations and discussions:

1. Be honest and sincere

To maintain direct eye contact with others, ensure your speech represents what you believe to be true. Dishonesty often prevents you from keeping eye contact with your audience, hoping they won't notice your lack of sincerity. Sometimes, the right answer to an interview or correct information in a meeting may not be something your audience wants to hear. But it's better to remain honest and sincere in your presentation, offering it with direct eye contact and earning the trust of your audience.

Related: 10 communication techniques to help you in the workplace

2. Don't be shy

If you're speaking before a large audience for the first time, you may feel overwhelmed by the level of attention you receive, making you scared and shy. Under such a condition, it can be a challenge to maintain direct eye contact effectively, making your audience aware of your lack of confidence. Focus on your audience instead of your insecurities as you prepare to speak. Stay calm and relax your nerves as you gradually fix your gaze on various parts of your audience's face and maintain eye contact.

3. Consider the comfort level of your audience

Some people aren't okay with prolonged eye contact for various personal reasons. Besides, it's often a challenge to maintain eye contact with someone trying to avert your gaze. If you notice your audience member is uneasy when you stare at them, move your gaze to someone else or to a spot just beyond the whole audience.

Related: 6 fun communication games to improve communication skills

4. See the crowd as individuals

Maintaining eye contact with every audience member is rarely practical, especially when speaking to a crowd. Often you can only see the people in the first few rows. Also, even when you can see everyone, it's more effective to maintain eye contact with each of them for a significant amount of time. So, consider the crowd as the individuals you can see at any given time during your presentation. This approach is practical and efficient.

5. Avoid brief or randomised glances

Maintaining direct eye contact often requires holding your audience's gaze until each sentence or statement you're making is complete. Looking away from one audience member to another mid-sentence may distract you and be inadequate to hold their attention and deliver your speech efficiently. Focus on one audience member at a time and move to someone else at a convenient pause in your delivery.

Related: How to communicate visually (with definition and examples)

6. Use eye contact to create emphasis

When you want to make an emphatic statement in a presentation, you can use eye contact to heighten that emphasis. Deliver impactful parts of your speech by holding someone's attention with eye contact. You can use this practice when stating compelling statistics, empirical data or any other essential fact that needs momentum to highlight the point you're trying to make.

Benefits of eye contact communication

Here are reasons eye contact is crucial:

Helps you appear compelling

Steady eye contact can help persuade others to commit to something or to perform activities they already agreed to undertake. It can also influence people to become more passionate about your mutual position. If you want to find allies in business or the workplace, using eye contact can be a powerful technique. It helps in effective communication, creating a powerful connection between you and the people you're addressing.

Eye contact can make you less susceptible to a deceptive sales pitch and misleading information. It allows you to notice the speaker's body language, which can signal that they're being suspicious or fraudulent. It can strengthen your conviction in the validity and honesty of the speaker, making it easy for you to understand, empathise and compromise with others.

Related: 12 ways to improve communication at work: a helpful guide

Makes your conversations more memorable

Keeping eye contact helps make a speech or communication memorable. The powerful connection made during a conversation with sustained eye contact allows the listener to remember their demeanour and facial expression and how they express the message of the conversation. With strong eye contact, words in a conversation can retain the significance of meaning intended by the speaker, which often makes physical communication more effective than non-physical communication.

To ensure you remember the statements made by the other party, try to maintain eye contact with them as it allows you to pay attention to the non-verbal aspects of the communication. It also allows you to remember what they say effectively. Also, when speaking, soliciting and maintaining the visual attention of your listeners is a great way to ensure they recall the message in the conversation.

Fosters self-awareness

Your attempts to be more aware of what you're doing with your eyes can cause you to reflect on yourself and think of the impression you're making. Direct eye contact can influence your perception of others' demeanour, emotions and understanding. It also makes you more focused on the ease and enjoyment of others, making you more likeable and friendly.

Keeping eye contact with others also works for them. It gives them confidence in your undivided attention and adds value to your presence with them. It dispenses nervousness and allows others to be free around you, communicating your involvement with them at the moment. Eye contact can affect the self-awareness required to improve goodwill and mutual understanding.

Related: Benefits of effective communication in organisations

Adds to your overall appeal

Eye contact can help people find you endearing. Holding someone's gaze is an attractive quality that people admire. A smile with direct eye contact can make you appear charming and likeable and affect how others respond to your conversation and presence. This response is because others often believe that you like them and are happy to speak with them when you keep a smile and maintain eye contact. Direct eye contact also communicates that you find others fascinating and worthy of attention.

These subtle messages that eye contact convey makes it a powerful non-verbal communication skill that can help you win the merit and approval of others. If you want to boost the strength of your conversation and get others to agree with you, direct eye contact can be an effective tool. It's a communication strategy that can easily appeal to people's goodwill and portray you as considerate, respectful and kind.

Tips to improve communication using eye contact

Consider these extra tips if you want to develop your eye contact during a work presentation or job interview:

  • Connect with your audience. Before you even start a conversation, scan the room and make eye contact with each individual if you're speaking to a group. Making direct eye contact with each person can help you build a connection with them.

  • Keep eye contact frequently, but not the entire time. People can confuse continuous eye contact with staring. To avoid such a misunderstanding, maintain eye contact half the time while speaking and a little longer while listening, which indicates your interest in the conversation and exhibits confidence.

  • Prepare for the presentation. Preparing for a presentation can boost your confidence before you meet your audience. This allows you to maintain eye contact because you're not thinking as much about the content of the presentation.

  • Don't look away too fast. Keep direct eye contact for a few seconds before looking away and pay attention to how you look away. If you look away too fast, it may indicate nervousness or shyness, but you can instead glance sideways before continuing the eye contact.

  • Keep practising. It may seem awkward when you begin, but regular practice can help maintain eye contact while speaking with someone or a group. A simple rule is that you can never practice too much.

  • Notice their other features. It helps to pay close attention to your listener's facial features, such as their face, hair colour, demeanour, hand gestures and mannerisms. At first, you may not begin with direct eye contact, but looking at them generally can help you develop enough confidence to maintain eye contact.

  • Take deep breaths beforehand. One way to calm your nerves before speaking in public is to take a deep breath. It helps you stay relaxed as you prepare to make eye contact with your audience when you're nervous or presenting before a crowd for the first time.

  • Don't be afraid of people's gaze. Make it a habit of keeping eye contact with people to overcome any fear of having others stare at you. You can practice this habit during your daily life so that it gets easier when you're presenting or in a business meeting.

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