How to use eye contact in a presentation [VIDEO]

by Carl Kwan on February 20, 2012

How to effectively use eye contact when presentingHi, it’s Carl from PresentationExpressions. Today, I’m gonna teach you about using eye contact in a presentation.

But why is this important?

Well, have you ever experienced talking to someone who didn’t look you in the eyes while they were talking to you? It was probably really uncomfortable or it made you feel like the other person didn’t care about you. And that’s precisely why you have to learn proper eye contact techniques.

Eye contact with your audience will help your audience connect to you and you to them. It tells them you are focused on speaking to them. But the other important thing about eye contact is when you’re listening to someone ask you a question during or after your presentation.

So I’m gonna talk about two things:

Number one, eye contact when presenting.

And number two, eye contact when listening to a question from the audience.

You can watch the video or read the rest below.

Watch the video below by clicking the image or download it here if YouTube is unavailable in your area: How to use eye contact in a presentation (Length 5:06)

Best way to use eye contact when presenting

Eye Contact When Presenting

There are three things that you need to do:

First, make sure you look at every part of the audience. 

That means side-to-side, front-to-back, back-to-front and also in combination with the side-to-side. The key is to be natural and smooth, not jerky.

Second, look directly at one person and speak to that person for about 2 seconds. 

When you look at one person, for that brief moment, he or she will feel as if you are only speaking to him or her and no one else. It’s actually very powerful and will help strengthen your connection to the audience.

And third, smile with your eyes.

What I mean by smile with your eyes is to look at individual audience members like you’re looking at a cute baby, or when you looked at your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend when you first fell in love. It’s that gentle, calm, happy feeling… Hopefully.

At least do it when you give a presentation, okay? :)

Anyway, the thing to avoid is staring! It’s super-uncomfortable and will make you look like a crazy person. But if that’s what you intended, then okay, go for it. Otherwise, do not stare!

Okay, so that was eye contact when presenting.

And the three things were:

  • Number one, look at every part of the audience.
  • Number two, look directly at one person and speak to that person for about 2 seconds.
  • And number three, smile with your eyes.

Eye Contact When Someone Asks A Question Or During Q&A

Now, when someone asks you a question during your presentation or Q&A, there’s a very specific eye contact technique that I want to teach you. It was used by Bill Clinton during his debate with George Bush, Senior. And I highly recommend checking out that video after you watch this to see exactly what I mean. Okay, so what’s the technique?

Well, again, there are three steps:

Step one:

Make eye contact when the person begins asking you a question and move closer to that person without breaking eye contact.

If you’re on a stage, move to the edge of the stage and stand in front of the person. If you’re in a room without a stage, then move to about 5 feet in front of the person. The idea is to get as comfortably close as you can because this will create a connection between you and that person.

Step two:

Really easy… Shut up and listen.

Give the person your full attention and listen without interrupting. The worst thing to do during a presentation is interrupting someone who is asking you a question. That person is directly communicating with you so it’s a great chance to connect. Don’t ruin it by interrupting.

And Step three:

Smile with your eyes like we learned earlier and also smile with your mouth.

This will show the person that you really care about what he or she is saying because you’re paying full attention and inviting the person to relax and speak.

And that’s it!

You just learned eye contact techniques for when you’re presenting and for when someone asks a question. Lemme just quickly summarize what we learned.

First, eye contact when presenting:

  • Number one, look at every part of the audience.
  • Number two, look directly at one person and speak to that person for about 2 seconds.
  • And number three, smile with your eyes.

Second, eye contact when someone asks you a question:

  • Step one, make eye contact when they begin speaking and move closer.
  • Step two, shut up and listen.
  • And step three, smile with your eyes and mouth.

There you go!

Now you can check out that video with Clinton and Bush

If you have any questions or comments, please ask or leave your comment below this video.

Thanks and see you again next time.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken Morrison February 20, 2012 at 8:44 am

Thanks for another great video. Perhaps I’m overlooking it. I don’t see the link to the Clinton/Bush Debate. Can you please direct me to the link?

Carl Kwan February 20, 2012 at 10:26 am

Thanks Ken! Actually, I completely forgot to include a link to the Clinton/Bush debate! Thanks for catching that. I’ve added it to the post and here it is here:

Ken Morrison February 21, 2012 at 9:29 am

Thank you for sharing the link Carl. That is a great example of the night-and-day difference that eye contact and proximity can make in building trust and the perceived understanding of the topic. President Bush looked like he wasn’t happy that she dared to ask such a question. Mr. Clinton looked like he understood the motivation and pain behind the real-world question.

Carl Kwan February 21, 2012 at 10:35 am

Yes, totally agree about the night-and-day difference. Even in that setting, Mr. Clinton really understood the importance of connecting with a single person. And you could really see how she was “charmed” by him :)
Thanks again for the comments!

Dean February 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm

For a different take on this clip, check out Jerry Weissman’s debrief on this which focusses on what Jerry calls’ ‘active listening’ Quite illuminating. It cuts before Clinton comes in, but you’ve seen that anyway.

Carl Kwan February 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Thanks! Excellent! I just watched the video and here’s the link for others:
I’m still amazed by what happened in that debate, even though I’ve seen it countless times!

Dean February 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm

From Amazon, you can order the DVD which accompanies Jerry’s book ‘In The Line Of Fire’ which deals with handling questions after your presentation. The book and the DVD is excellent.

I sound like I’m schilling for Jerry ;-) I’m not, I just think he is bang on with this stuff. And to prove it, let me say that his book on presentations ‘The Power Presenter’ is excellent PROVIDED you ignore the chapters on presentation design which are uniformly awful. Just awful. However that does not detract at all from his physical delivery advice which as excellent as is ‘In The Line of Fire’

Presenting To Win

In The Line Of Fire

In The Line OF Fire DVD

Carl Kwan February 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for the links Dean! Very good stuff, indeed!

Kwangmochoi October 24, 2013 at 1:02 am


First of all, i am so moved by ur passion for teaching public speaking, which is really helpful and inspiring so much. And for free!! I admire u^^

One question, ur hand gestures seem really appropriate and I slightly understand some basic principle in it. But i am curious to know if u have any kinda ‘hand gesture usage book’ like explaining a certain hand gesture for a certain meaning. If there is st like that, then it is really useful to everyone i think.

Again, thx for great videos on utube.

Be safe!

Kwangmo choi

André March 7, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Dear Carl,

I’m impressed how good clear and effective your presentations are.
I’m planning to open a likedin page on which I would like to present myself as an English language trainer but I’m not sure it’s effective.
May I email you my written presentation before I put it on likedin ?

Thanks ahead

Truly yours

Andre Berenyi

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