“There is one way to dramatically improve as a Speaker,” said Michael J Clarke as we met up after the Leeds City Toastmasters Thursday meeting at Crowne Plaza.
I nodded my head, I wanted to know more. There were other members talking to each other and I had cornered Michael asking for tips to improve as a speaker. We – Toastmasters are a unique group of people; always keen to learn something, which improves our communication and leadership skills.
I waited for Michael to continue.
Michael smiled and said, “Eye contact.”
“But I am already doing it Michael. I maintain eye contact with the audience. Earlier I used to look towards the floor as I spoke but now I maintain eye contact,” I replied with passion.
“Yes, you do look at the audience while speaking and have improved significantly however there is something more that you can do, which will pay you huge dividends,” said Michael. He smiled and continued, “You need to look individually at each member of the audience and maintain eye contact for at least 2 to 3 seconds. Then move on to the next member and so on. This way the audience feels connected and each member feels you are addressing and including them in your speech. It is a very powerful technique. Sweep through the complete room as you speak and maintain eye contact for 2-3 seconds. Try it and let me know how you feel.”
I hastily scribbled notes and thanked Michael.
During the next meeting, I presented my speech and maintained eye contact with each member of the audience for 2-3 seconds.
After the meeting, I cornered Michael again.
“Thank you Michael. Initially it was disconcerting to maintain eye contact but as I got into my speech, I managed to do it without thinking too much about it. I maintained eye contact for 2-3 seconds with each member. As I spoke, I seemed to connect with the audience, I could see heads nodding as I made my points. It felt very different. The feedback slips, I received after the speech, were also very positive,” I said excitedly.
“Excellent Dinesh. I enjoyed the speech too and your eye contact was excellent. Well done,” said Michael as always encouraging me.
I waved my ribbon excitedly, “The best part Michael was winning the best speaker for the meeting. All thanks to your tip on maintaining eye contact.”