Don’t know where to look when public speaking? In this tutorial Michael Foster shows you how to avoid common mistakes and ensure you engage all sections of your audience.
Deciding where to look is a decision faced by all speakers, and depending on the arrangement of your audience it can be difficult to know what to do. Michael begins this video by explaining that although there is more than one way to get this right, there are several options that should be avoided at all costs. The first of these is known as the ‘oscillating fan’ technique. It typically happens when a presenter is faced with an audience that is broadly spread. In this situation they often want to engage all of their listeners, which is great, but may be unsure how to go about it. The end result can be a constant swivel of the head from left to right, taking everyone in but never pausing for more than a fleeting moment. This approach, though well intentioned, is distracting for audiences and fails to engage them fully. Worse still, it can even come across as something of a nervous tick, so should be avoided.
Michael explains that the second technique is the ‘stalker’. This occurs when a presenter follows advice to find a friendly, familiar face in the audience and just speak to them. While fine in theory, in practice this means that the speaker completely ignores the rest if the audience, and as a result they are likely to stop listening. Not only this, but it is also likely to make the one person being spoken to feel very uncomfortable.
If in doubt, Michael recommends using the ‘linger and move’ technique when engaging in public speaking. This simply involves focusing your attention on a small section of the audience for a few seconds or a couple of sentences, before moving on and repeating with another section. In this way, over the course of your presentation you should be able to engage the whole room several times over. You do not even have to engage in direct eye contact if you find it uncomfortable, but can look in the generic direction of a group of people without focusing on anyone in particular.
This technique is effective in most public speaking situations, and particularly great at events like weddings and conferences where cabaret-style seating is frequently used. Watch this video and ensure future audiences always feel fully engaged in your presentations or speeches.