Whether you're speaking to an audience of one or many, it's important to make eye contact in order to connect.

Eye contact demonstrates your willingness to connect to the audience on a personal level. It also shows that you are confident and proves that the information resides in your head, not your notes or the slides. When you present, you are talking to individuals, not an impersonal mass of people. You want each person to experience the communication one-on-one.

How long should you maintain eye contact with each person? About 5 seconds, which is about the time it takes to complete a thought. Then move on to another person. Yes, 5 seconds will feel like a long time at first!

If someone is uncomfortable with the eye contact, they can choose to look away.

If you are nervous about making eye contact, you can try this as a starting point: look right above their eyes, at their eyebrows. It will look like you're making regular eye contact and will help you get more comfortable until you can look them straight in the eye.

Here are other tips to help you use eye contact effectively:

• Avoid "tennis eyes" - moving from one side of the room to the other in a repetitive pattern, as if you were watching a tennis match.

• Avoid scanning the room quickly, trying to look at everyone at the same time.

• Aim for eye contact with all sections of the audience on a random basis - no one should be able to predict where you will look next.

• Stand where you can make eye contact with all parts of the room - don't ignore any section or person.

If you practice your eye contact, you will be able to face any audience with confidence.

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills. Receive a FREE Special Report, "Six Mistakes to Avoid in Public Speaking, So Your Presentation Sparkles" by visiting http://gildabonanno.com/newsletter.aspx and entering your email address. You'll also be subscribed to Gilda's free twice-monthly e-newsletter containing practical tips you can use immediately to improve your communication and presentation skills.

Copyright (c) 2009

Author's Bio: 

Gilda Bonanno is a trainer, speaker, coach and consultant who helps entrepreneurs, small business owners and corporate professionals sharpen their presentation and communication skills. She achieves these results by combining her extensive business experience with a talent for improvisational performance and a belief that with the right training and practice, everyone can become an effective communicator.
In addition to facilitating high-energy, client-focused training programs, Gilda speaks about leadership, motivation, communication and humor to groups ranging from engineers to healthcare professionals to human resource practitioners. Gilda also coaches individuals to overcome their fear of public speaking and eliminate the barriers to letting their voice be heard.
She is Immediate Past President of the Southern CT chapter of the American Society for Training and Development and a member of the National Speakers Association. Gilda also is a member of the World Class Indifference improv comedy team, which performs shows and workshops in New York City and throughout Connecticut. She incorporates improv techniques into her training and coaching, helping people learn to think on their feet, be creative and develop confidence. Gilda has worked with clients throughout the US, and in Mexico, China and India.