Eye contact is one of the most useful tools to catch attention, retain attention and build attention. However, eye contact is often misused or overlooked.
When you start your pitch, remember to look out and focus on your audience. When you look out at your audience, you will be able to ‘read’ the room and see if they are ready. When they see you looking at them they will also know that you are ready to start. Sometimes waiting a few seconds before starting will help the audience settle. If they have not settled, you can say a few words to tell them you are about to start. Also, when you look at your audience, they will see that you are ready to speak and they will get ready to listen.
Remember to use deliberate eye contact. This means focusing your ideas and attention on your audience. It also means deliberately using eye contact for best effect. (You are pitching to your audience, not your slides.)
The key is to practice using ‘one idea per person’. When you pitch your ideas, look at one person or one area of the audience. Then, when you say your next idea, move on to another person in the audience. This will help you look around the room and use eye contact naturally. So, practice moving in fairly natural and random directions with your eye contact, but keep your eye contact to ‘one idea per person’. Then, move on.
Many pitch teams make the mistake of moving too rapidly or randomly around the audience. Or they use their eye contact to sweep across the audience sequentially, moving from one person to another. Unfortunately, the audience will soon notice and find that the you are not really speaking to the whole audience. Note that this applies when you are speaking to a few people or many people.
Using ‘one idea per person’ will help to maintain everyone’s attention. If used correctly, this will help you engage and persuade your audience!