Eye Contact and Pausing… Is That All You Got?!

August 31, 2016 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Myths Debunked, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Virtual

Some time back, Dale and I were the guest speakers on a webinar. The topic was about how we’ve redefined business presentations as Orderly Conversations. We were talking about the use of eye contact and pausing in order to get yourself engaged in the conversation.

When we talk about being engaged as a presenter, we’re talking about the state of being in the “here and now” so that you are able to think on your feet and lead what feels like a natural two-way conversation. It’s talking with your audience rather than talking at them.

Engagement requires the intentional use of eye contact and pausingThere are two primary skills that we use in everyday conversation that must be used intentionally during a presentation. They are:

  • Eye contact: The intentional use of eye contact allows you to make a connection with people so that you can read their reactions and respond.
  • Pause: The intentional use of a good pause now and again allows you to gather your thoughts and take control of what you’re saying.

After we made this point in the webinar, I noticed that someone had used the chat function to comment, “Eye contact and Pausing… is that all you got?!”

It just so happens that the comment came from a competitor who was, I assume, baiting us. My in-the-moment reaction was to address the guy’s snarky comment and make an argument for why we focus so heavily on these very basic skills. But I quickly thought better of it. Delivering a virtual presentation via webinar was not the time to squabble with a competitor.

What the guy didn’t comprehend is that we’re not talking about the appearance of eye contact or the dramatic affect that a pause will have on the audience. (Typical run-of-the-mill presentation trainers often teach that, though.) We’re talking about the very opposite: the calming effect it has on the speaker.

When you’re connected with people and in control of what you’re saying, you’re able to be an effective communicator. You’re fully engaged in the conversation. You’re not thinking about how you are performing, you’re thinking about your content, the audience, and whether they’re following along. These are the same things you think about during everyday low-stakes conversations.

Managing Nervousness

If we can agree that the key skills that help you become engaged in the conversation are eye contact and pausing, we can also see that these ordinary skills, when used intentionally, even in extraordinary situations, can help you manage your nervousness.

We always ask workshop participants what nervousness feels like to them. These are some common answers, and they are all the result of the absence of pausing and/or eye contact:

  • In my head
  • Can’t see clearly
  • Out of body experience
  • Not thinking clearly
  • Mind is racing
  • Mind shuts down
  • Noise in my head
  • Can’t catch my breath

If you’re a nervous presenter (and even if you’re not), next time you’re feeling uneasy at the front of the room, remember to look at people. Really see them. Connect. And pause every once in a while. Give your brain a chance to catch up. Think. Breathe.

Over time, these skills will become second nature to you, and you won’t have to be so intentional about their use.

So… Eye contact and pausing… is that all we got? Nope. Not at all, but these essential skills are the foundation for all of the communication training we provide at Turpin Communication.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Announcing FREE Trials at OnlinePresentationSkillsTraining.com

April 26, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Mary Clare Healy, News, Preparation, Sarah Stocker, Training

Take one of Turpin Communication’s online presentation skills courses for a spin before buying.

Been thinking about taking one of our online courses, but for some reason haven’t?  Now there’s no reason not to.  Today we’re announcing free trials of all of our courses.

Simply go to www.onlinepresentationskillstraining.com, click the “Start FREE Trial” button, create an account and begin learning.

If you like what you see, you can purchase the full version and continue learning immediately.

If you give business presentations, we encourage you to take advantage of this new offer. No matter which of the courses you choose, you’ll work on a real-life presentation and take your skills to the next level of effectiveness.

Preparing a Presentation
(course description)

Managing Nervousness & Engaging Listeners
(course description)

The Comprehensive Presentation Skills Course
(course description)

Need to train your entire team?  Check out the Multi-user License here.

Why is it so hard to speak to big groups!?

February 4, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation

This question came from Manny D.

QUESTION: Why is it so hard to speak to big groups!?
I am terrible at giving presentations. I’m okay when explaining things to a few people, but put me in front of more than 15 people, and I start bumbling and stuttering, and I can’t focus. Why is this, and what can I do? I have a series of presentations to give to groups of 30+ people starting in a month or so, and I’m terrified.

ANSWER: You’re not alone. What we’ve discovered while delivering our Presentation Skills Workshops is that nervousness can be managed. It takes time and practice, and it may never go away completely, but there are techniques and skills you can hone, which will lower your nervous reactions to presenting to groups.

  1. You say you’re okay presenting to small groups. That’s great. So what’s the difference between a group of say 5 and one of 30? If you’re like most people, it’s your perception. A large group is no different than a small group. You just have more people to engage in the process.
  2. Adjust your expectations. It’s common for people to think of presentations as performances that must be perfect. Presentations should be thought of as “Orderly Conversations.” “Orderly” because they are carefully structured. “Conversations” because they need to be spontaneous and interactive right from the start. Thinking in this way can relieve a lot of pressure. You no longer need to be a whiz-bang performer; you simply need to engage people in a thoughtful, two-way conversation, which by its nature is imperfect and unpredictable. And participating in conversations is something you do every day.
  3. Work to engage individuals, one at a time. Do this through solid eye contact. Think of it as connecting with a person for a full thought, then moving on to the next. This will feel more like a series of one-on-one conversations rather than a stress-inducing one-way speech. And because you’re really connecting with people, everyone else in the room will feel engaged too.
  4. You say that when you‘re nervous you can’t focus. This too is common. You need to give yourself time to think. Pausing is key. Pause often and for longer durations than you think is necessary.

We have an online course called Managing Nervousness & Engaging Listeners that you may want to check out. http://www.onlinepresentationskillstraining.com/managing-nervousness-engaging-listeners.php

Hope this helps.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication