Improving eye contact when speaking from a script

Posted on October 2, 2009

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The most effective presenters do all they can to sustain eye contact with their audience.  But if you must present from notes or a script,  consider a few tips for staying connected with listeners instead of burying your head in the pages on the lectern. 

  • Instead of randomly bobbing your head up and down as you read or refer to notes, practice looking up at the beginning and end of sentences, where the most impactful information usually resides.  Grab the first few words of the sentence, deliver them directly to the audience, look down for the middle of the sentence, and then catch the end of the sentence to deliver while again looking at the audience.  As you rehearse and familiarize yourself with your presentation, you’ll be able to deliver ever larger portions of each sentence toward the audience.
  • Print your notes only on the top half to two-thirds of the page.  That way you won’t need to tilt your head down to read the bottom of the page and it will be easier to maintain eye contact with the audience through a slight head movement.
  • Use one or both hands to gesture as you speak so that you don’t lose your animation. If you are standing without a lectern, place your pages atop a book, binder or other easily carried solid support and hold them in one hand while gesturing with the other.
  • Don’t flip the pages over–slide them to the side, instead.  You don’t want to direct the audience’s attention to the fact that you are reading, so the notes should look as if they are only supporting you.  Ideally, you should gesture or take a slight step toward a segment of the audience as you complete a page and slide into the next one so you are directing attention to a positive motion (the gesture or approach) in place of a negative one (turning the page). Again, if you are standing without a lectern, casually slide the completed page off and place it on a table as you approach the audience to direct their attention to you, rather than the page change.
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