I’ve got eye contact – now what?

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


Posted in Business Presentations, Executive Speaking Skills, nervousness, Politics and speaking, Public Speaking books, public speaking tips, Toastmasters, Understanding your audience, World Classs Business Presentations


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  • Claude-Henry Smoot

    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.

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