See Into a Thousand Eyes
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
As both an actor and an educator, my entire career has always been addressing large groups of people in a way that they feel connected to and believed in. There is a saying in the world of theatre: "If you want the audience to believe it, you have to believe it first." If you've ever sat in a Broadway theatre, or any theatre for that matter, and left either in tears or having the chills, then those actors succeeded at their job. But how, you may wonder, does an actor manage to connect with thousands of people across an audience and make every single one feel understood? How does a teacher find a way for each and every student to engage with the lesson? One of the most understated components of public speaking is the impact of our physicality and body language. As performers, teachers, and even speakers, in order to make our audiences feel connected with us, it is our job to work the room. Every nook, cranny, and corner of your audience should feel like you are making direct eye contact with them - whether that is possible or not. Engagement is everything!
Imagine listening to a seminar where the lecturer never looks around, never walks the room, never captures your attention. I don't know about you, but I'd personally fall asleep. I remember countless high school classes where I learned more about the inside of my eyelids than I did about the actual content or subject matter. You do NOT want to lose your audience because you're not working hard enough to keep their attention. As a speaker, no matter what your circumstance, it's your job to make sure every single person feels validated. Know your audience, know your goal for your audience, and know how you're going to get there. Eye contact equals intensity. If you're in a one on one situation, lock eyes with that person across from you and let your eyes speak to your courage and confidence. For larger scale situations - make a mental note to make eye contact with every person in the room or every section of the room. Don't give people the chance to doze off or lose track of what you are saying. Remember, it's not just about what you say - but also how you say it...and a large part of that is through engagement with our physicality