Executive Speaking Weblog

Communication – the future of business

I’ve got eye contact – now what?

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 29, 2010

Just about every speaking book, blog or coach will tell you that eye contact is important when speaking. And while eye contact is important, that is not the whole game. What should you do once you have made eye contact?

The effect of making eye-contact is driven home by what you do once you have made it. There are several things you can do, depending what you want to achieve.

  1. Stare – This is when you hold the gaze for too long and the other person becomes uncomfortable. Generally not conducive to good communication.
  2. Stare down – This is when you show your position of power/authority over the person by holding them in your gaze. You let them go when you are finished ‘drilling’ them, or they break eye contact admitting their subordinate position.
  3. Break eye-contact. This happens when you feel that you should move on because you don’t want to be caught staring. There are 3 ways to break eye-contact. Break by looking down puts you into a submissive position and shows weakness/lack of confidence – almost like saying sorry for looking. Breaking by looking up has the similar feel of being ‘caught staring’, but is not submissive, but it is still not strong. It still gives the impression that you are moving on after being caught staring. Breaking eye contact horizontally shows that you are just moving on with your eye contact. This is the best.
  4. Move on as part of the natural flow. If your eye contact is moving from person to person when addressing an audience, it will put you in a position of control over yourself and others too. This gives you a sense of authority that your audience wants.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


Darren Fleming

Australia’s Corporate Speech Coach


2 Responses to “I’ve got eye contact – now what?”

  1. Claude-Henry Smoot said

    Hi Darren
    I very much enjoy reading your blogs and most of your comments on this are spot on. In my field (I am a Pastor) eye contact is very important and lowering my eyes after making eye contact withone of my parishioners I believe would be insulting and rude. I do ahve one bone to pick with you however, you have tagged the word ‘sex’ for this entry, is this an attempt to gain more hits or is it a mistake, because I can’t see anything relevant to sex or gender in the blog. Other than that keep up the good work.

  2. Kevin said

    That’s a good breakdown of the action taken after making eye-contact. But what’s also very, very important is the emotion you’re feeling behind the eye-contact.

    I try to categorize the different types of eye contacts in my post, “Secrets of Eye Contact.” http://datingafterdumped.com/wordpress/?p=66

    As I mention in the post, many people are mistaken when they think that they can get automatic awe and respect right after making eye-contact. I’m not saying that you made that mistake in this article, but many, many people do believe this.

    Eye-contact is only as powerful as the person making it. If a person already has a strong presence, eye-contact is only icing on the cake. If a person is a scared little boy trying to put on a show, holding eye-contact won’t prove anything. I think Paulo Coelho said it best when he said, “Through the eyes, you can see the strength of someone’s soul.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: